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Before I say anything else, let me state clearly that I am a firm believer in the idea that once one reaches adulthood, one can no longer blame things (the state of one’s life, the quality of one’s life, how one “turned out” or damn near anything else) on one’s parents and one’s upbringing.

That was then, this is now – you’re an adult, you make your own (and where required, different) choices now.

Having said that, I am now only beginning to see the repercussions of having chosen badly (not once, but three times) where fathers for my Oldest Son were concerned.

Oldest Son’s father and I divorced when Oldest Son was two, but to his credit, Ex#1 paid his child support on time and exercised his every-other-weekend visitation like clockwork. Major points, in my book, for consistency. However, it appears that is where the points accumulation ends. He has, over the years, predominantly bungled blended family dynamics at the expense of our son. (Not that Oldest Son is the only one paying that price – no – but Ex#1’s other children are not my problem.) Oldest Son told me the other day he no longer speaks to his father. Lovely.

Second Son’s father was no improvement. Riddled with alcohol and drug addictions, Ex#2 was a fine example of how and who NOT to be when you grew into manhood. His good deed was disappearing from our lives when Second Son was two months old and he’s yet to be seen since. Second Son is now 14, so that’s been awhile.

Then along comes Completely Clueless, Prima-Donna-Daughter’s father. No better an example of adult manhood than Ex#2 (but a fine role model if you’re looking to be a con artist), Completely Clueless showed both my sons that the way to be a man was to talk shit to your woman, drink yourself into oblivion on a daily basis, respond with rage to all who question you and blame everyone and everything else for your behavior.

Fast forward to the night before last, when at 11:45pm, a strange car pulled up in front of my house and deposited upon my front lawn Oldest Son, drunk beyond coherence and crying. A kind stranger who recognized him as having lived in the neighborhood years before rescued him from impending arrest and brought him to me.

Slobbering and snotty, he hung all over Second Son, all the while imploring Second Son “not to turn out like your dumb-ass older brother. Finish school so you can have a life.” When he laid eyes on me, the crying swelled in volume and he was “so ashamed. I’m sorry I turned out like this, Mom. I just want to die. I hate my life. Everyone hates me and I can’t do anything right.”

I sat on my front porch steps with my 6’4″ baby boy in my lap, rocking him back and forth, back and forth, with the words, “I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be” running through my head, just like in the book I used to read to him when he was little.

And oh, how I wish for those diaper days now and then. Whoever said kids got easier as they got older was FULL OF IT. They get harder. You love them more and more each day, yet you have less and less influence over their lives and the decisions they make. Once they leave home, it’s like watching pieces of your own life being played out before your eyes.

Second Son and I got Oldest Son stripped and into the bathtub where he promptly passed out. I let him sleep awhile so I could regroup, constantly checking him to make sure he wasn’t slipping down into the water to drown.

He slept through me washing his hair and bathing him, but could not get coherent enough to help me get him dressed, so I fireman carried him – naked – to a bed, plopped him down, covered him up, kissed his now-clean cheek and whispered goodnight.

Yesterday morning we had the “you’re grown now – time to choose differently than the examples you’ve had” conversation.

The sins of the fathers have definitely been visited upon Oldest Son. I just pray he soon realizes they don’t have to be his fate, too.