Sunday, February 27, 2005

Journey through joint custody

This is my first try at starting a blog. Please bear with me through my mistakes. I will make many. Feel free to make suggestions. I am starting it with something I wrote for my son. It is a story I want to share in case there are others out there like I once was and still am.
Rachel

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My memory starts when I was seven, my mother would pack majority of my father’s clothes in a suitcase and leave them on the front porch usually when he had to work late or went out of town on business. I and my younger brother and sister were instructed not to let our father in when he tried the door only to find the locks changed once again. This happened so many times that my middle sister tells of times that my mother’s behavior frightened her and I would reassure her that this would pass, mom does it all the time. Things spiraled more and more out of control through the years. My mother taught me to think of my father as this horrible, zealously religious man who took advantage of his wife; as a child I never let him into my life. I never heard her say anything nice about him. Reality of what was going on hit me when I saw my mother recruiting the youngest two, then 7 and 9 to help throw (literally) my father’s things outside onto the lawn; underwear, clothing, contents of his office including the large desk. I knew my mom was wrong and I was wrong for going along with her. I realized maybe I should give my paternal grandparents, who I had been cut off from for 10 years, a chance and my father who lived in the same house as I grew up in but I never took time for, nor respected. My parents had five children in all and finally divorced after 23 years of marriage.

At 25 I found myself in a relationship that I knew wasn't working for either of us and unexpectedly pregnant. My largest fear was becoming my mother. I honestly believe life is too short to be so miserable and, though marriage is hard, requires work and will go through rough times, there are certain relationships that it is healthier to let go of then hang on. I hung on through the pregnancy hoping that things would get better and when I knew I had exhausted my options, and myself, and that I did not have a healthy home for my son, I filed for divorce.

Now, at two and a half years old (and two years later), my son Kevin, is a very well adjusted child and no one person can take full credit for it. It is all him and the people who love him so much, all of us. I believe that each of us, his step dad (who is just as much a dad as his biological father), his biological father, I, grandparents all play an imperative role in his life.  Mothers, just as fathers, are important. We all have important roles to play, and when there are holes, well... those are holes in the foundation. I have made decisions that have gone against what my family, attorney and counselors have advised me, not out of rebellion but life has taught me different lessons than what most people know. Mainly, I don’t want Kevin living through the hell I lived through as a child. Kevin’s dad surprised me when he requested joint custody as we were going through the process. I couldn’t take away from Kevin what my mother had taken away from me (my father and extended family). In the beginning I didn’t believe Eric, Kevin's father, wanted it truly from his heart. He had refused the first six months of Kevin’s life to change diapers when I was around and do the other tasks he considered ‘women’s work’ on top of me to working full time outside the home. He spent most of his time away from us and not because of work (he somehow is one of the lucky few who can work less than 36 hours a week and make a very good living) but because his social life is so much more important. When joint custody was surprisingly proposed by him, I was taken back, but realized that Kevin needed a father AND a mother. We agreed to joint custody, fifty/fifty straight down the line with the philosophy that if I saw he started to flake out I would go back to court and fight for full custody. In my mind Kevin had a right to have his father involved in his life as much as me and as long as his father wanted that role, and was a healthy parent to be around, I had no right to stand in the way. There were times it was really difficult to put my feelings aside and focus what was right for Kevin not just what was necessarily easy for me. Now we talk at least daily about Kevin’s activities and a little about what is going on in our own lives. We don’t always agree and I have had to bit my tongue many times and so does he; we try to comprise in order to give Kevin a firm foundation.

One person can raise a child well --but I think children are better off learning how to work through differences via a good examples of reasonable adults.

Copyright 2005