‘Just because someone is rude to you doesn’t mean you have to be rude to them’. I looked at him a bit surprised.

‘I learned that from you Mama’, continued Sage.

‘I’m glad I’ve taught you something useful’, I replied but knew there was a lot more that he has learned in the past few years and possibly more than any 10-year old should have to experience at such a young age.

Tonight’s topic of conversation turned into one of control and how we are unable to control the actions of others no matter how much we wish we could. I went on to explain to my son that although we cannot control how other people choose to live their lives, we do have the power to control how we react and what we choose to tolerate in another person when it comes to having a relationship.

The example I brought up was of smoking and the choice one has whether to be in the presence of someone who smokes. I explained to him that you are not able to make someone quit smoking but that you are able to distance yourself from it.

‘Quit smoking or I won’t marry you’, I heard my son reply. ‘No, that would be an ultimatum’ I went on to explain. ‘You would simply let it be known that they are able to continue with their habit but that you choose to distance yourself from something which makes you uncomfortable or goes against your beliefs’, I continued to explain. If they choose to change, that is then their decision, not an ultimatum.

Though there were other examples I could have brought up, there was no need as we’ve lived through them in the recent past. The result of why things are the way they are now with my raising the three as a single mother in a parallel-parenting arrangement. My desire to have a ‘normal’ family life after divorcing their father ended up backfiring on me and led to an enormous amount of stress for us all.

When I think how we survived these past two years, I am proud of my children and their patience and resilience. No child should have to see a parent in the midst of a sea of toxicity. Certainly no child should have to swim in one. But they did and stayed afloat waiting for the lifeboat to arrive. Waiting for their mother to finally realise that she had been living in an illusion.

The choice to grab on to that lifeboat and realise that things would not get better until we made the decision to save ourselves was the turning point towards an alternate path. Sometimes we want something to work out so much that we compromise our values and beliefs. We let the situation control us instead of us making the choice to take control of our own lives.

What you control is your future, your destiny. Nobody else has that power. People cannot guilt us into their belief that you destroyed their lives by making a choice with which they do not agree and one which they continue to battle.

A parent’s hope is that children live a life better than their life. That they take the lessons learned from childhood and make informed decisions as to how to go about changing the course of their future.

After my hour-long walk and run across the street, I returned home and kissed the children goodnight. As I was wishing my son sweet dreams, before going to his sisters’ room, I heard him say ‘Thank you for talking with me tonight’.

‘You’re welcome’ I replied and smiled as I realised that even when you think children are not paying attention, they are watching everything you do and say. What you do or don’t do can have an enormous effect on their future.