You know what's been the hardest for me so far?
I had an awful month. A horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten month. I let my emotions completely take the wheel and made some decisions that could have, potentially, destroyed the environment I've worked pretty hard to create for my son.
My son's dad drives me crazy. Not because he's a bad parent. Not because he's a bad person. And not because I hate him. He drives me crazy because he's not me. He doesn't see things the way I see them. He doesn't understand why certain things make me so angry or frustrated. He doesn't make life decisions the way I do and he doesn't live his life the way I live mine. As two separate human beings, these things would not normally be an issue. But as two separate human beings trying to raise a well-adjusted, polite, intelligent and kind smaller human being? It drives. Me. CRAZY.
I know details are the best to read. The gritty, grimy pieces of the story that make everything interesting and intense. But, I can't give them to you. I'm sorry... I've already done lots of damage and now am just trying to clean up my mess while I still can. I can, however, give you a pretty decent summary.
I was mad. I was very, very mad. It wasn't the first time he had slept past the time in which he was supposed to pick up our son. I had to drive him to his house and drop him off, crying, while his dad sleepily stumbled down the stairs. I was furious. I had been getting progressively more frustrated over the weeks with the fact that he was behind on child care money. He had changed jobs and I was working hard to be sympathetic but the voice in my head kept trying to convince me that he just didn't give a shit. I started to believe, deep down, that he wanted out of his parental responsibility. It really did seem to me, in my state of depression and anger, that it's what he wanted. So, I tried to give it to him.
I filed for full custody and child support. I knew that he would have to make some pretty grown up decisions in order to fight me on it. And I wanted him to. I wanted to know that he cared and that he was committed to our son and his well-being. I needed to know that he did not, in fact, favor sleep over being a dad. I needed him to prove it to me with his money and his actions, and not just his words.
I waited the full twenty days with no response. No counter-offer. I felt sad. I proved myself right. He doesn't even want him anymore. I heard from him one time in those twenty days and it was to ask if he could have him for the day. Because I had filed paperwork, I was - in my mind, justifiably - nervous for him to take our son away from me so I said he could come see him at my house whenever he wanted. He never replied.
So, on day twenty-one, I went for the third time to the wonderful government building that is Family Services, and prepared to submit the paperwork to finalize everything. This was it. From now on, we were going to be on our own. I walked up to the window, handed over my stack of papers and as the clerk started typing away, she looked up and said, "Oh no... I can't file your default. He filed a response yesterday and has also secured legal counsel. You should be receiving his counter-offer in the mail and then you'll get issued a court date."
I felt sick. A lawyer? Really? Geez, I couldn't even afford a lawyer. And how do you pay for legal counsel when you didn't pay for child care? Then I got angry. I went to my car and started thinking about the months ahead. The mediation. The judge. The courtroom. I felt nauseous. As I was driving home, however, I started to think, well, now wait a minute. This is what I wanted all along. I wanted him to care. I wanted him to fight for our son. I mean, I was hoping for more like a simple counteroffer asking for joint custody and less money each month. But then, maybe that's what he was doing through his lawyer? Maybe he just wanted to be sure he was doing everything right. After all, I'm sure getting served with the paperwork felt pretty awful.
Okay, this is good. We got this. We will get everything finalized legally and to both our likings and life will go on. I wasn't thrilled that it was going to drag on longer, but it was going to be good.
A few days went by before I got the letter in the mail from his lawyer. I took it to a friend's house and opened it there. I was, of course, thinking the worst. He was going to go for full custody. He was going to turn everything around on me. He was going to take my son away. All those thoughts creeped through my head as I looked at the unopened letter.
Then... I opened it. And it wasn't what I thought.
It was so, so much worse.
I write this now from the other side of this mess. I've since talked to my son's dad and we've worked things out. That's important to note. He told me that he didn't know what to do when he got served. He said he didn't even open the envelope for a week. When he finally did, all he saw was that I was trying to take his son away from him. He knew that he needed legal help to ensure that I didn't do that. So, he took his money, met with a few lawyers and finally settled on one that wasn't the most expensive. He explained to her that all he wanted was joint custody. He really didn't care about any details other than that. He just wanted to make sure he had our son half of the time. I imagine what happened was a conversation between he and his lawyer about when the last time he saw him was. I'm sure he answered honestly and simply. About a month is probably what he told her.
So, this bitch...
Against his wishes (he says the signed paperwork was not what he agreed to. Not much I can really say about that), this bitch comes after me for FELONY kidnapping and withholding a child from their parent. And abduction of a minor. She asks me to pay for all his legal fees up to this point and any future fees due to litigation. There was more... but this was the worst. I thought I was going to throw up.
Now, the intelligent side of my brain knew that she was wrong. I could've fought it. I probably would've won. However, I'm not positive that I could've done it on my own. And the amount of money it would've taken me to secure my own legal counsel was too much. It's why I filed on my own to begin with. And what if... what if I lost? I would be destroyed. And broke. And maybe I wouldn't have my son anymore.
It was all too much. I almost had a complete breakdown right there in my friend's living room.
However, as I've already indicated, my son's dad was not on board with any of this. We agreed to meet up the next morning and I told him about the charges she had included in the counter offer and he was surprised and angry and told me he was going to fire her that day. We then agreed to go down to Family Services together, dismiss our case and go back to handling things on our own. Which, even when that's not working out so great, it's still better than what we were both about to put ourselves, our families and our son through.
So in the end, it looks like both of us paid with our sanity, our money and our time to realize that we really weren't doing that bad of a job before trying to get the law involved. We realized that all we really have to do is talk to each other more often, try harder to understand where the other person is coming from and, ultimately, take turns loving our son more than anything else in our lives. He is never going to be exactly what I wish he was in a co-parent. But then again, I'm pretty sure I'm never going to be that person for him either. But I'm a good mom. He's a good dad. Everything else will just have to take a back seat to that.
Because boy oh boy could things be worse. And if nothing else, the awareness I have now about how poorly I was handling things has snapped me out of my blind fury. All I was doing was trying to control everything and now, I've been put back into a place of contentment and appreciation for what I do have.
I imagine not everyone is going to see things the way I do. I know there will be people who still think getting custody and support arranged legally is the way to go. But, I definitely need to listen to what I know to be true in my heart and quit letting my brain adjust to outside influences. Life is not black and white. And neither is parenting. And I'm reminded for SURE that neither is the law. I trust myself and my son's father a lot more than some money-hungry soul-sucker sitting behind a desk, not caring about the lives she's about to tear apart. That poor woman should be ashamed of herself for her role in destroying families.
Anyway, that's my story. Maybe not a happily-ever-after but at least I'm sleeping again.
Thank you to all who reached out, were concerned, or even just vaguely interested in what I was going through. It helped.
Hug your kids. They need you.