Today marks the start of my children’s new school year. Ridgely is starting middle school, Trafford is in eight grade and Dashiell is a senior! Here in Maryland, our county is 100% virtual through the end of January. Sadly, I continue to be excluded from my children’s education. And at this point it’s because I have such limited visitation. Two weekends a month and two Wednesday overnights. This summer in our court negotiations I campaigned hard to have the virtual learning days attached to my visits. I so desperately missed being a part of their education and having the chance to actually see their work, not just a grade on a website. Because that’s all I’ve gotten to be for four school years, a parent who exists outside the biggest part of their life – school. But when one parent has been handed full custody, as well as all decision making, and that dynamic has now existed for since 2017…you have to make peace with the scraps you are given.
It’s the fourth school year I am sober. Thankfully, our July consent order finally took away the public places only visitation. A condition that meant that I was not allowed in my children’s schools. And I support the decision of Baltimore County schools. They have to look to someone to make the rules, and if the court system decides that a parent can only see their children in public, the schools have to assume that parent is not someone they cannot safely allow in their schools.
So for the past three years I was not allowed in school except for an event open to the public, which meant about one school concert a year. No field trips, no back to school nights, no class parties and no volunteering. Such a painful change from volunteering weekly and never missing an event. My children missed out on having me there for three full school years – and for Ridgely that was third, fourth and fifth grade. And we all know how many special events and celebrations happen in elementary school. I even had to get special permission to attend Trafford’s fifth grade graduation.
Thank goodness for FaceTime. While the boys aren’t interested in going into too much detail, Ridgely has done long calls with me where she shows me her notebooks for each subject and walks me through the minutiae of her day. So special to see how excited she is for middle school and how focused she is on being ready for her first day. And that she wants to talk about all of it with me!
I am grateful for the trust my children have in me. That trust has been hard won in my sobriety and depends on the sense of safety, consistency and honesty they know they can count on. Trafford and Ridgely both had lots to talk about. My super consistent T was worried about how he was going to handle eight grade and Ridgely had questions about starting middle school. Having them this past weekend meant lots of time to talk.
Not sure if the ache in my heart every day they’re not with me will ever stop. The grief over all the time we have lost. The sadness of knowing there’s so much I am still missing. I know that so much parents are wiped out from virtual school and I get that. I remember the non-stop days, the tiredness, the patience trying moments. I would do anything to have some of those moments again.