The other night my ten-year old told me that a fifth grader pushed him while they were in the lunch line in the school cafeteria. I asked him how he responded and told him that he had my permission to defend himself from bullies. He said, “Mom, I walked away.” That wasn’t the response I expected but I said, “Ok.” Then, the next thing he said took me by surprise. “Mom, it takes more courage, especially when you are a kid, to walk away than it does to fight back.” Of course, as usual, he is right.
As adults, we often lose sight of the big picture. We have a tendency to believe that walking away, no matter the circumstance, is not the way to go. We believe that staying is the more courageous approach, but in fact, it takes more courage and strength to walk away. I remember how many years I spent in an abusive marriage and so many people told me I was strong for staying and keeping my family together but in hindsight, I know now how weak I was for staying as long as I did. There was many times where I would make it the front door and then turned around. Other times, I’d leave and I would return. The further I walked away, the easier it became to walk away. Finally, I didn’t look back and I kept going, and for me, that took a lot more courage than staying.
I come from a culture and a family with strong religious beliefs about marriage. In their view, a wife stood by her marriage and her husband no matter what. I was commended for staying in an abusive marriage and shunned for leaving. For many years, I wondered whether I did the right thing by walking away and taking my son away from his father. My ex-husband was abusive and aggressive with everyone he came across. If I had stayed in that marriage, that is exactly what my son would have become. Instead, he turned into the kind and decent person I raised him to be.
The days that I wonder whether having his biological father in his life would be good for him are also the days I am reminded that it would not be good. My son doesn’t really bring up his father because his father has never really asked about him. His “dad” is his stepfather and yes, they have their moments, but he is his “dad” and he is also the dad that “wanted” him. My ten year old is wise beyond his years and I and I am sure that one day he may want to meet his biological father, but for today, he is content with the “dad” that he has.
I look at the changes that RA and FMS have brought into my life. I look at the changes that are not a result of RA and FMS. I also look at the choices that my husband and I have made that led to a lot of those changes. Last, there are the things that happened that we had no control over. All of this change took a toll on our marriage but what I have learned is that sometimes finding the courage to walk away is just as important and honorable as having the courage to stay and figure things out. We just have to figure out what the right way is.
My son would have known if he needed to defend himself as he knew when to walk away. After he told me that it takes courage to walk away, he added “that it just wasn’t worth it” and that he refused to “get in trouble because of some jerk.” Finally, I said to him, “It is never okay to fight. The adult thing to do is to always walk away.” I am very proud of him for turning the other cheek even though I understand how much it took out of him, in front of his peers, to walk away. Even though I have always told him he had my permission to defend himself, he chose to walk away.
Our actions bear more weight than do our words in the eyes of our children and I am glad that my actions have had such a profound and positive effect on my son. Whether I like it or not, he is growing up and he is turning into someone I am very proud of which means that, I did the right thing when I took him out of his father’s life. It was necessary to walk away from my first marriage, but the second time around when a different set of cards was dealt, it was necessary to stay and work things out.