Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is Parental Alienation actually what we think it is?

Last night, after yet another prayer for the ability to forgive and understand, which was brought on by something that reminded me of my youngest son, I had some interesting thoughts. We tend to think of parental alienation, or attempts at it as being personal attacks on the target parent. What if they're not? What if instead, they are bouts of insecurity from the alienating parent?

Think about this for a minute. Let it sink in. All too often, a parent who attempts to alienate their children from the other parent may do so because they fear they may lose their children completely. Somehow, they do not believe that their children are truly capable of loving both parents. Perhaps they have underestimated their children's capacity for love. Perhaps they are afraid if things they have done wrong are exposed, the children will hate them. Of course, these things are rarely true, and most of the time, even if they have done wrong, children are not only resilient, but also very forgiving. We all need to give them credit for being loving human beings for the most part. There is an unfortunate side effect to this alienation, and that is that they may assuage their own fears for a time, but they cause their fear to become the target parent's reality. This may not be a permanent thing, but it hurts nonetheless.

Speaking as a target parent however, I have to say that through everything, you just have to do the best that you can. As time passes, I'm starting to realize that my children would not have been so eager to go with their father had they not known that I will continue to love them no matter what. In a way, target parents are almost the lucky ones. If you can manage to keep or regain your self-esteem if you lose your children, even temporarily, you have the knowledge that your children can turn to you if they need you. Whether they choose to exercise that right when they have the opportunity, that will be completely up to them, but you know they can. Unfortunately, the alienating parent is so fearful of losing the children that even if they don't create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing the children away, they will always somehow feel as if they've lost.

After all is said and done, I feel sorry for my ex. The attempts to keep the children from me only show his own levels of insecurity. Ultimately, I know that our children are capable of loving both of us, and someday, they will understand the love that I have for them goes deeper than anything they could ever imagine (at least prior to having their own children). For that matter, I feel sorry for any parent that fears that their children are not capable of loving both parents, even in the face of adversity. I feel sorry for those who are afraid for their children to remember the good times with their other parent, and highlight the bad times. Truthfully, no parent is perfect. We are all subject to mistakes. I've made my share, and I've seen others make their share of mistakes as well. As long as those mistakes are used to learn and grow, then it's not up to us to judge whether a person is a good or bad parent. If a parent regularly makes mistakes that endanger their children's health and welfare to the exclusion of doing anything good or worthwhile for their children, that's when there may be a problem. However, we must all keep in mind whether we are a target parent, an alienating parent, or just a parent, that the ones who truly don't care about their children are so few and far between as to be negligible. Most of us are trying the best we can to be the best we can be. We make mistakes, even big ones, and learn and move on.

If you are a target parent, just remember that you are still doing the best you know how for your children, and even though it's hard, this too shall pass, and someday you may even have a good relationship with your children again.

If you have alienated or are thinking that your children should be alienated from the other parent, think hard about this. Is there a good purpose for this? Is the other parent truly an imminent danger to your child, or is the danger in your mind, and are you any better as a parent, or just different? You also have to think about whether you are doing it for your child's benefit or for your own. If you are feeling insecure in your children's love for you, seek counseling for yourself, and know that your children are not likely to stop loving you no matter how much they love and want to spend time with their other parent.

Ultimately, children tend to love both parents just as much, and there's no reason to be insecure that they will stop loving you.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

I'm feeling stronger than before

Today I saw a picture of my ex husband's wife. It was through a link that someone posted to my Facebook page, and wasn't intentional. She's never been very nice to me, and has always scared me because of her ability to push my buttons. She's almost as much a master of that as my ex is. As a result, every time I have seen so much as a picture of her or even one of her screen names, I have felt a fight or flight instinct. My heart would literally race in fear just seeing her name, and it's been a difficult thing to overcome. Eventually the fear would often turn to anger as I would see yet another thing that she said against me (pushing my buttons, yet again).

Today, however, I felt none of that as I saw her picture. I did feel a slight pang of sorrow as I looked upon the woman who has told me that my youngest child is better off without me. However, I did not feel that flight or flight response that I've so often felt at simply just seeing or hearing about her. I also found myself wondering why she finds it perfectly okay to be friends with 2 of my sisters, but has never even given me a chance to be the mother I want to be to my children. Maybe someday I'll be able to find that out, especially with the progress of not feeling that response again. I'm not saying that I'm ready for a face to face confrontation, but perhaps I'm just a little stronger than I was before. Perhaps I will someday be ready for that conversation if I can continue to grow in my strength.

I find it strange, really. She is friends on Facebook with at least two of my sisters, yet I am blocked from my own son's Facebook page. I'm not quite sure what to think. I suppose during the divorce, I may have just looked a little crazy, and in a way, I was. I was in the process of losing everything that was precious to me. I love my children more than they, or anyone will ever know. I'm not always great at showing it though. I have ADD, and that means that I often forget things. It also means that I'm not always the most patient person on the planet. At the time I divorced, my ADD was not diagnosed, which was often frustrating because I didn't understand why I was forgetful, impulsive and impatient. It's amazing what knowing the reason for something can do for your patience levels.

I also became frustrated with my ex's new wife due to the fact that she seemed to take everything he said as gospel, and didn't believe a word that I said regarding anything. While I understand to an extent, I believe you have to be going on more than that when you are trying to have someone declared an unfit parent. It took me having another child to truly realize that I am far from being unfit as a parent. She also would interfere in conversations I would have with my boys while they were crying instead of allowing me to be a mother and resolve those issues. These are just some of the buttons that were being pushed.

Eventually, all of this did push me away, mostly because I felt like it was always too much of a fight to be able to stay in my children's lives. Sadly, those fights were hurting my children more than anything, and weren't getting me anywhere. Everything I said or did became a reason to declare me an unfit parent, when, just like any other parent or person trying to adjust to a new situation, I was just trying to figure things out.

Nonetheless, perhaps, in time, I will find myself getting stronger yet and be able to move further and further forward in my life. I think that forgiveness is finally within reach, and while it may take a little longer to make it complete, it's happening, and I feel more at peace with each passing day. It may also help just a little bit that the end is in sight, and it's less than a year before my youngest son from that marriage turns 18, and I at least have a chance at reconnecting with him without interference.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Missed birthdays and heartache

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. It was my son's 17th birthday, and once again, I was unable to contact or be with him. I have met too many dead ends to even try anymore. If I call my ex or his wife directly, they have found excuses why I shouldn't talk to him, because he's supposedly better off without me. If I call the home number, I've gotten either an endlessly ringing phone or notice that it was shut off. Either way, it's only painful when I do get those messages so I avoid them altogether now. It was also the anniversary of my father's death, and the day before was my mother's birthday. All of this only served to remind me how alone I can sometimes feel.

This is not to say I truly am alone. I have a wonderful husband who loves me. I have a beautiful daughter, and my 17 year old is the only child with whom I'm still unable to be in contact. I really only get depressed when I'm faced with something like a birthday, because I don't ever want him to feel as if I don't love him or know that it is his birthday. On the good side, the last time that I saw him by chance, he did remind me that he knew I cared, even though I can't see him regularly. It was comforting to know that, and I hope he remembers it every day.

The saddest thing about yesterday however was that I didn't even realize how much I was struggling with this until my husband pointed out that I wasn't my usual self. I was forgetful. I was burying myself in games at the computer so that I didn't have to think about it. The only thing I came close to getting right was that I got dinner on the table on time.

After I put my daughter in bed, I went to my bedroom and all of my emotions suddenly came flooding to the surface. I cried that I couldn't see my son. I cried that my parents weren't there as they had once been to soften the blow. I cried about the time I spent in the hospital when he had been born, alone and afraid. I cried over everything that I'd been unable to cry about for so long.

Once upon a time, my ex had told me that I was weak if I cried. I've carried that with me for the past 25 years. Because of that statement, I have only really allowed myself to cry if I'm alone, which is not very often. Between caring for children most of my adult life, and the only time I'm alone being late at night when I should be sleeping, I don't really get much time to myself. I will admit to crying in front of my children at times, but even that I try to curb if I can, because they don't need to be comforting me when I should be comforting them.

All these years, I've been afraid to cry in front of others. Even when my mother died, I cried in my sister's bathroom, unbeknownst to anyone. When I was done crying, I composed myself and tried to pretend that I hadn't been crying. I cried again when my son was born, as I was in the hospital for 4 days and even my exhusband refused to visit. He actually pretty much refused to help me at all. I remember begging him to come into the delivery room with my other 3 children, but by the time the youngest was born, I told him not to, especially since with my first C-section, he decided to tell me how much worse it was for him than for me. He decided to anyway because he didn't want to look bad in front of the nurses, and made a point to let me know this was the only reason he was there with me. Afterward, he left and didn't even visit me most of the time I was there. My children didn't visit me. My family didn't visit me. I was alone, and hurting. When I came home from the hospital, he dropped me off with a newborn baby and 3 other children under the age of 8. He didn't seem to care. My sister did come over the first day, but she was mostly busy caring for my father, who had just lost my mother. I was an afterthought. I felt alone then, too.

Yesterday was the day that the floodgates came open. I cried about all of this. I let 18 years of pent up emotions out. I told my husband how much I missed my son and my parents. I told him that I was so used to keeping all my emotions bottled up that I didn't know how not to. He understood. He let me cry. He didn't tell me I was weak. I was finally free of all of that. It wasn't so long ago that he was able to help me unlock tears of joy. However, now I can cry my tears of sadness, too. Now I can let go when I'm hurting. I don't have to hold it in, or walk on eggshells anymore. Soon, I will be free to be with my son. It's only 364 days away, and I will be counting them. I love him more than he will ever know. He's the one who saw the tears I cried when I was otherwise alone. He was too young to remember, but he was there. Holding him comforted me, and I was able to comfort him with a book by Robert Munsch.

As I type this, I must remind you, my son, should you ever read this,

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always.
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.

Each of my children has grown to make me proud, and I feel joy at their milestones, heartache at their losses, and love for each and every one of them. They will grow up, go off on their own, but in my heart, they will always be my babies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why it's so hard to let go

My divorce happened about 10 years ago now. My life now is so different than it was then. At that time, I was frightened and I felt isolated and alone. My children, who had been a large part of my identity for a long time, were slowly being ripped away from me. I really didn't understand what was happening in many ways. I had realized that I could not stay with my ex, and I didn't want to leave my children behind, but the more he realized that I really was following through with my threat to leave, the closer he kept the children to him, so that I could not take them. No matter how hard I tried, I never was able to convince him that I never had any intention of keeping the children away from him. He seemed to believe that was my intent from the first time I mentioned divorce, and therefore, he prevented what he thought my intent was by keeping the children from me instead.

In the years that have followed, I have gone through so many different emotions. I held onto bitterness against him and his wife for a long time, and felt that I could not forgive them. While I finally did forgive them, I have still failed to forgive one person in all of this. I have not forgiven myself. How can I? I'm a mother with four children who are the world to me (five now, but that's beside the point), and I let them go. I feel like I abandoned them, although in my heart, I never have. This hurts a lot. My middle son, who is the child that makes the most effort to be a part of my life, reminds me on a regular basis that I did the best I knew how at the time. He forgives me, so why can't I forgive myself?

To know why I can't easily forgive myself, it's important to know why I feel I've been wrong. To start, I had no idea what on earth I was doing when I asked my ex for a divorce. I'd seen people divorce before. They split all property 50/50. They split time with the children according to what worked best with their schedules. The person who made more money paid child support. Of course, in order to get this perfect 50/50 split, the lawyers and everyone you spoke to would advise you to ask for everything, because if you asked for 50/50 and they asked for everything, they would get everything unless you also asked for everything. It doesn't make sense, but that's the way I was told that it was, and I didn't know any better.

Therefore, I filled out and signed divorce papers asking for everything, up to and including alimony, but, I chickened out at the last minute and didn't file them. Instead, I asked for 50/50, thinking that if my demands looked reasonable, the judge would lean my way. However, as it turned out, the advice I had previously received was correct. What I discovered is that when you ask for 50/50 in the beginning, there is no room for error. Therefore, if you are only asking for what you want in the first place, you suddenly seem stubborn when you won't settle for less. Now, I find myself wondering what would have happened if I'd filed those papers I signed in the first place. Would that have left more room for negotiation? Would it have left room for me to have my children in my life? I am left with those thoughts to ponder.

I also find myself wondering why I was always so afraid to stand up for myself. I was always so fearful that I would look unreasonable if I did not give in to each and every one of his demands. I never did stand up for my rights. I didn't even know what my rights were, let alone how to stand up for them. The few times I tried to, I was so rusty at it that I came of sounding like a crazed maniac, when in reality, I was simply a mother, grieving at the perceived loss of her children.

Eventually, I found an outlet for all this anger, grief, and frustration in this blog. I called it forgotten parents, because I felt forgotten. I felt as if my ex and his wife had both forgotten that I was also a parent of those children. When my son was pulled out of school and homeschooled, I questioned it, and now his wife blames me for her being unable to homeschool the children. The problem is that it was not homeschooling so much that bothered me as the lack of input that I was allowed in this decision. I was never consulted about it, but simply told after the fact. Yet, at the same time, when my son had an emergency because he broke a bone, suddenly they called to ask permission, when my only thought was that my son's in pain, get him to a doctor immediately, especially since you have your own insurance.

Throughout my children's lives, there has been no rhyme or reason as to what they are willing to get permission for, and what they think they can do unilaterally without my consent or even knowledge in some cases. Yet, every decision I make and everything I say or do regarding my children is picked apart with a fine tooth comb and thought to be something horrible. If I don't have any money with me on a three hour visit that should be between meals, I'm accused of starving them. When I kept them longer than I should have because I desperately wanted to take them to Disneyland, I was "teaching them to lie." When I called and asked if I could keep them a little bit longer because the youngest fell asleep, they knocked on the door within seconds almost as if they'd been following me and accused me of kidnapping. Even just meeting my son by chance while I was going in to sign the papers on my new home resulted in accusations of kidnapping and "going behind their backs."

I have to say that with all of that bubbling to the surface, perhaps I have not forgiven them as much a I thought I had. I know for a fact that I haven't forgiven myself. Even with all of those things that I can point to that they have done, I still wonder what I could have done to keep the peace and to keep it all from getting so out of hand. Is there anything? I know, as my son tells me, as my sister tells me, and as I keep telling myself, that I did the best I could with the knowledge and tools I had at the time. In many ways, I probably could have done better now, but that's with the confidence of years away from what I survived. It's with the knowledge that I am actually a very good mother after all, and in spite of what I've been told by those who disagree. I'm not perfect, nobody is, but I'm the best I know how to be and I make an effort to get better every day.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Respect

Respect is a term that is thrown around a lot. It's something that I asked my children for when they were young and that I still expect from them when they are in my presence. Certain other entities think that it must be earned, although I tend to wonder if those people define respect in the same way I do.

To be very honest, I did not really think about what I was asking when I wanted respect from my older children. I knew that it was what I expected of them, but I had a difficult time defining what that really meant. When asked directly, I would often stumble into what was basically common courtesy, which was about as close as I could articulate to what I was asking for. However, that didn't exactly define it.

It was only today, when my youngest daughter turned on something that I felt she was too young to watch that I was able to define exactly what it is I expected. In that moment, something clicked and I realized that although the kind of respect I was asking for certainly involved common courtesy, that was not all of it. What I was asking for was her trust. I was asking for her to trust me that I will take care of her to the best of my abilities. I was asking her to trust me that I'm not taking away something that is fun for her for no reason other than my own gratification. I'm asking her to trust me to teach her what I think is right, even if she does not agree at the moment.

Of course, teaching your children this kind of respect in a happy home with two parents who agree with one another is pretty easy. I have a husband who will back me up if I need it. He will make sure that she listens to me and obeys me, because he also knows that I have her best interest in mind.

What happens, however, in a high conflict divorce situation where the other parent will take anything and everything you do to use against you? What do you do when it is implied that your best intentions have malicious ulterior motives? That is when it becomes difficult for your children to respect you. It's not really their fault, but in situations such as this, even if you don't personally put them in the middle, they still end up there. It creates a difficult situation, because the only effective way to take them out of the middle is to remove yourself from their lives, but that goes against every instinct you have as a parent. At the same time, removing yourself from their lives gives your ex more ammunition to use against you, because suddenly you don't seem interested, even though you are. You just know that you cannot force your children into the middle of the conflict.

I hope that perhaps someday, the family court system will recognize that high conflict divorces are usually the result of abusive marriages, and act accordingly. Until then, I hope that my children, and other children in similar situations will be able to cope, knowing that even the absent parent still loves them.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Admin Fees for garnished wages?

Just when I thought I understood and was okay with the child support system, I was thrown for another loop. For the past few years I have paying child support faithfully each month, learning to keep from the resentment I feel for my ex by thinking of my son as I pay and not my ex. I continue to pray that the money is doing him some good, and is not being used foolishly, although I know I have no control over it if it is.

The time has finally come, however, for me to resume work outside my home. I was able to find a part time job that would work around my husband's schedule, so that one of us is always home with our daughter. Everything was seeming pretty good. After all, it's a good job and I have a little bit of extra spending money, which is nice to have.

The loop that I was thrown for came along with my second paycheck. In spite of paying my child support every month as ordered, my wages were garnished. Now, in a way, that's kind of a convenience, as I no longer have to actually worry about paying the child support, since it's taken directly from my check. What threw me was the fact that I am being charged an administrative fee for them to do this to my check, when I was paying voluntarily before and not being charged the extra fees. Actually, I was preparing to make a payment when I discovered that money had been taken out of my check to pay it. While I understand the need for garnishing the paychecks if someone is not paying, I don't understand the need for it when someone has been paying faithfully for quite some time. Rather, I don't understand the need to charge someone extra for paying a bill involuntarily that they've been paying voluntarily.

Either way, however, I'm enjoying working outside the home again. I do wish that I wasn't being charged any extra fees, although they're not that bad. They're just a little bit of a surprise is all.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

About my oldest daughter

I must apologize for this post being so much later than I had anticipated. The past few weeks have been somewhat crazy for me.

My relationship with my oldest daughter has been somewhat estranged since I divorced her father. We both did and said things that cannot be taken back. Some things that I said were just plain stupid to say. Others were not meant for her but were taken that way. None of this, however means that I don't love her, and I hope that she realizes this.

When I found out that she was on the way, she was the first and I was scared, but also excited to be having a child of my own. I wasn't disappointed when she was born either. To my eyes, she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She didn't have much hair, just a bit of black peach fuzz on her head, but she was perfect to me. Even at that, it didn't take long for her hair to start growing in, and when it did, it was beautiful. I remember calling my mother on vacation when she was six months old and her first little curls started to come in.

She was also fiercely independent from the start. Her first day home from the hospital, she scooted her entire body length across her crib. She was quite a child. As she grew, she went from scooting to crawling, which made me laugh as I watched her. Being young and not quite realizing that children need redirection when they are getting themselves into trouble, I would tell her "no" only to have her smile at me and go right back to the trouble she was getting herself into. I did get up at that point and redirect her, but it was cute to see that smile every time, so I always started with the "no" so that I could see it.

As time passed, she grew up and became more and more beautiful with each passing day. Those first little curls grew into beautiful black ringlets that bounced with every step. She was helpful to me around the house, even once telling her teacher that part of being in a family means that everybody helps. I was proud of her for that. When we went through hard times, she got the worst of it, because she knew better than the boys what was going on. She was more aware than they were the year we almost didn't have a Christmas, because she was older. She knew when there was discord and disharmony in our home, because she was there. She may not have always known the cause, but she knew it was there, and it took a toll on her in ways that even I can't imagine as her mother.

She also helped me through some of the toughest times. When my ex and I were going through our divorce, he did a lot of things that frustrated me to no end, like breaking agreements that we had previously made in a way that put me at a disadvantage. One such time, I was crying in my room, and she brought in a bag of chocolate hearts and a glass of milk for me. I don't think I ever thanked her enough for that. Just one little gesture made my day that much better. She did little things like that often, and I remember those things. I hope she does, too. I hope that my relationship with her can truly heal all the way someday, but it's going to take forgiveness and understanding on both sides. Nonetheless, I will always love her more than she will ever know, and I hope that she knows just how much she means to me.