The Ex-Mother

To protect my heart, I would say that I never loved them, 

if it weren’t for the melancholy that follows whenever I think of the kids.

I hurt knowing that they are now to grow up in conditions that I had worked so hard to free them from.

I thought their freedom depended on my ability to support high standards in their education and behavior. 

Just as I thought we would always be together. 

Where before I was their mother who loved them as if they were my own, 

I am now an awkward acquaintance

 – the ex-mother.

Now I only get glimpses into their lives through gossip

and small talk with their father, my ex-husband. 

The glimpses usually bring me some level of despair knowing that they are lost to me.

I fought for them. 

I loved them. 

I nurtured them. 

And I broke my back teaching them manners 

and the value of responsibility 

in the face of their parents’ disdain for “better than”. 

All those years…for nothing.

Now they wear hand-me-downs. 

Failing classes, bragging about suspensions from school. 

All too happy to be a failure. 

The children are left to their demise. 

Swallowed up by the mentality that consumed their own mother and father at an early age. 

Never wanting to do better than just. 

Always coming up short and assuming others will pick up the pieces 

because surely the victim persona is the snare that guarantees 

help is on the way in the form of spare bedrooms, open couches, borrowed vehicles, 

and food stamps.

It is over for them before it really ever began, the poor breeding the poor. 

And I, the ex-mother, the ex-wife, go on raising my own son, their half-brother.

I raise him in the light, with the sun reigning down on his happy smile,

Wearing the clothes I worked hard for, 

Eating the food I worked hard for,

Smelling the roses that I have helped him plant.

Knowing that my child is saved

From the cycle that consumes his siblings. 

Knowing my son has a chance

At “better than”. 

And though I look forward to the future, 

With my son’s small hand clasped in mine,

My heart breaks for those children that I have left behind.