My son will be graduating from kindergarten in a few days. This week we picked up his cap and gown, his yearbook, and special goodies for the end of the year. As the days have passed I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting pretty emotional – but not in a bad way. I am happy, so happy to see such a transformation in my child.

When he first stepped foot into kindergarten last September, I was an emotional wreck, both physically and mentally exhausted. Frankly, the first 3 weeks of school were hell. He cried all day, every day. I started getting calls from the school to pick him up earlier, and at that time the after school program was out of the question because he refused to go. That meant I had to start leaving work early to pick him up. Bringing him back to my office, the whole time my anxiety went through the roof. Each and every day it was the same thing. Not only were we both physically exhausted from getting up at 5:30 every morning but he was in school for 9 hours including the after school program. The anxiety began as soon as I woke him up and got him ready to go because we had to leave by 6:30 or we’d be late. It’s a lot for a 5-year-old – and a lot for me. Remember I am doing this alone. I have no support financially, emotionally, or physically from his biological father, so it is me and my son 24/7.

At the same time not only was I going through hell with my ex, I had to keep it together every day for my son and even that didn’t work. I constantly told myself “I am such a bad parent” because my son was the only one who would cry every day in school until mid-November. Though he still cried every morning he would stop when the class started. The afterschool program was awful – he would cry the entire time. 

In October I decided to put him in therapy because I didn’t know what else to do. People made comments about him being so young and in therapy, but this is my child and no one knows what’s best for him but me. Therapy turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for him. Never mind that it cost me $600 a month out of pocket, I would go without something if I didn’t have enough that week just so he could go to therapy. He started to carry a picture of me every day in school and no one was allowed to touch it. It stayed on his desk, and everywhere he went in school he held the picture. By the mid school year, teachers and employees of the school came up to me and said “You’re the famous mother of Vincenzo,” because he showed everyone the picture. It wasn’t until December that I started feeling good again, and so did he. But after Christmas, the crying and hysterics started all over again every day, so my anxiety came back and so did his.

In January I found out about the online revenge porn that my ex had posted and my life took a turn for the worse. Things were getting so bad that I would go days without showering because I was so physically exhausted. I don’t get home till 6:30 and by the time I would finish cooking, my son had fallen asleep so it was quick meals every day for him. Yes, I am that mom that gave her son mac n’ cheese every night, but why? Because it works. He wasn’t falling asleep before eating every night and that meal was easy for both of us. Some days he was too tired to even take a bath, so I would quickly clean his face and hands in the morning before school so that he looked presentable. Does that make me a bad mom? If it does, I don’t care – because it works. My life was bursting badly at the seams and when I descended into such a dark place, I still didn’t let my son know. Granted, there were many more days without a bath and a lot of McDonald’s, but we got through it.

At the time, I was not able to run any errands during the week because my son was too tired and if I really had to do something on a weeknight, he would fall asleep in the car. My food shopping trips were miserable. All you’d hear was me screaming “NO” and “Don’t do that!” It wasn’t my son’s fault that he was acting out, the kid was so overtired because of our schedule, so when the weekends came, that was the only time I had to clean the house, run errands, and do laundry. My son would ask me to do something with him and I just didn’t have the time. Trying to balance everything on my own with no breaks and no help takes a toll on you. Sometimes my house would go without cleaning for weeks but what did that matter? Especially while I going through everything with the courts, my ex, and those naked images of me on the Internet.

When I started to speak more about what was happening, it took so much anxiety out of my life. I knew I was doing the best thing by standing up for myself, and I wanted to be a good role model for my son. When I started to feel good again, so did he. Although it had taken a whole 8 months to get there, in May 2017 he was going into school easier and easier, and by the beginning of this month, he runs into class without even saying goodbye.

Now in less than a week, he is graduating with perfect grades. He’s heading to the 1st grade, is so excited about it, and I am so beyond proud of him. He stuck it out and exhausted as he was each and every day, he came out on top. In the last 10 months, we’ve had hard times, and life isn’t always perfect, but he is perfect. The strength in him is an inspiration to me. It shows me that even after countless days of no bathing and loads of mac n’ cheese, he is graduating and has advanced socially so much that I have never been more proud to be both his mother and father. When you sacrifice everything for your child and think you’re not doing anything right, think again. First, stop judging yourself. Then, ask yourself: Is your child okay? Are you okay? My son is at the top of his class. In spite of how hard it was he’s achieved so much and in a matter of days, he’s going to graduate. I said to myself of all things I thought I didn’t do right, here we are. We never stopped trying and we’ve succeeded.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 – and to my son Vincenzo! I love you more than the air I breathe.