For so long I was convinced the children would come home because it was right. Because they would be safe. Could heal. But now we are in our new normal and I can barely stand it. And can’t stop thinking about all the time we lost. Or looking ahead and realizing this way of life is our future. Staying in the present, I am struggling to stay in the present.
I have been fighting for so many years to bring my children home. Now they’re finally here, and while I’m ecstatic to have them home, I’m struggling. I can’t believe I laid it all out there – all the abuse, the trauma – and it did not matter. I am horrified that my children had the courage to tell the truth to their attorney, to talk about how scared they were at times in their house, about the damaging things said to them, the horrible things they witnessed. And yet, they are still living with him. And I’m the weekend parent.
It only took a few days after the consent order was signed for me to see so many things we forgot to ask for. Most importantly, that between our Wednesday overnight and the next time I see my children is 8 days. 8 days where I can’t hug them, talk in person, just be with them. And I have asked their dad – repeatedly via email and text – if I can have a quick visit. He’s clever, he won’t say no, he will just ignore me. Because the truth is, he’s in the driver’s seat. He makes the decisions. And the sad reality is that a consent order is just a framework. It depends on the parents to be able to put the children first.
And this behavior from a man who left Atlanta after his first divorce, choosing to move away from his one year old daughter, because it angered him that he could only see her on the weekends. Settling in Baltimore and only seeing her a few times a year. The hypocrisy and selfishness is astounding.
Last month my daughter got braces on a Wednesday, which happened to be her father’s weekly golf night. Several days before I had emailed, asking to have them for a few hours for dinner. My email was ignored, my children were left at home by themselves and my precious baby girl spent the evening crying to me on the phone. Through two Facetime and one regular call she cried – about how much her mouth hurt, how she couldn’t think of anything to eat that didn’t hurt, how having braces was going to be one more thing she could get in trouble for – and I had to mother my baby over the phone.
Yesterday the kids had their first Monday off of school. I emailed over the weekend with a request to take the kids hiking. It was going to be a beautiful day, so I planned a waterfall hike planned at a park we had never visited. I asked for a specific pick up time that morning, and offered to get them lunch on the way home. I received a response, “They will be home.” Instead my kids spent the day inside, arguing with each other and bored, while their father worked.
Definitely parenting with their best interests in mind.
This week we are in a lull, everything quiet at home for them, things calm with their dad. But all of us are always on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I spend so much time reading and learning about self-care. How to manage stress and anxiety. All of that knowledge inside me so I can stay strong and support the kids. Teach them coping skills for when the environment at their dad’s is just too much for them to manage. Reminding them that just because their dad uses words to shame and hurt, they are not allowed – ever – to repeat those words to try and hurt their siblings.
The more this way of life is starting to feel like the new normal, the sicker I am feeling. My migraines are back, my anxiety is tugging at the corners of my mind daily, and I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that this is how life is, how life is going to be.
I started this writing journey a month ago because I could feel myself struggling. It was only a little more that a month into the consent order but already evidence was pilling up that the struggle would continue. To keep the kids safe, to try and counterbalance the damage that their father does to them, to try and fit our lives together into a weekend, all of it. Writing keeps me sane, allows me to share my thoughts and gives me a purpose. A purpose and hope I cling to, that my struggles will have meaning, that I can help someone else. Because isn’t that what we all seek? To find our “why”?