August 21, 2023

An Open Letter to my Son: If you See him, Tell him I Miss Him.

Dear Sam,

First off, I’d like to tell you that I love you. But I know you already know this. I have loved you since the very first kick in my stomach, the day you came into this world and made me a mom. When the nurse took you away to bathe you, my heart ached. I missed you being inside my belly. I sat by your side on the trip home, holding on to your tiny pinkie wrapped barely around mine, in awe of this little miracle that was you. Your birth was the happiest day of my life. Now, 18 years later, I’m the unhappiest.

“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, you are not the rain.” ~ Matt Haig

What happened to my little boy? The gorgeous child with honey-colored hair and ringlets dancing around your fleshy cheeks? Those baby blues are expressive and earnest, captivated by the world around you. So curious and ready to take everything in. What happened to you, my little boy? Who would hug and cuddle, hold on to me playful and sweet, legs around my hips, your two fingers in your mouth, blankie dangling from your grip? I can still smell your skin and the taste of bananas and milk. You tilt your face in my neck, a safe place. Time to nap; Mama’s here. Won’t let you go.

What happened to my little guy? Off and running, diving into the sofa, exuberant and wild, books, nerf guns, and army men blanketed around the room. Lego pieces floating around the drain, toy megalodons, and Kraken single field around the shower door. I’m in awe of your boyish mind, your fantasy play, pirate Sam, oh sweet boy, don’t ever let that go. Time for bed, all tucked in. Good night, dear boy, good night.

“You are not alone. You are seen. I am with you. You are not alone.” ~ Shonda Rhimes

What happened to my little boy? Hormones have taken over and welcomed ADHD in neon lights. Distant and brooding, hiding in the room, where did you go, Sam? Honey-colored hair now a drab brown, ringlets tightly clenched in tiny nests, teeth unbrushed and neglected. Depression comes out of every pore; can’t sleep, sleep too much. Anxiety rushes in, grabbing, forcefully shaking your every thought. The bullying starts, the weed laced in hidden tears, self-deprecating thoughts cloud your once joyful and intelligent mind. The friendless weekends; Netflix is your new BFF. Sleep too much, sleep too little. Mental illness has come out, and it’s here to stay.

What can I do, my son? How can I help? Now I have sleepless nights; the anxiety has come my way. Therapists, counselors, psychiatrists and more, we got this, we got this. Nothing is helping; you don’t care. You take off. You run; 36 hours and no son in sight. Where’d you go, Sam? Where are you? What happened to my little boy?

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” ~ Maya Angelou

Sent into treatment, number three, this is the last one; you’re 18. Scared of my phone, what unsettling news will come of it? I close my eyes, remember you smell bananas and milk, and I feel safe for a moment. Pass by your room, remnants of you still intact, your bed covered in unfinished laundry, your guitar neglected in the corner.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha (maybe)

I can’t think of anything I did to hurt you. Did I love you too much? Too many hugs and tickle kisses? Did I spoil you rotten? Take your side, not let you fall, give in too much? The age of helicopter parents, room mom, soccer mom, head of fall festival mom, rescue mom, french toast mom, take all the hurt away mom. Or is this just the way you are? The whole nurture versus nature debate.

Was I too stressed when pregnant with you? Yes, we were. Did that affect you? I think it played a part. I look at boys and their moms at the markets, on the streets, walking into schools, saying goodbye at the airport college bound with pride—the everyday normalcy of parenting. Envy circles around me like tiny flies. Why can’t I have that? I want to celebrate my son too. But I can’t; he’s run away again. He is lost; will he ever be back? What happened to my little boy? If you see him, tell him I miss him…


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