Letting Go of my Kids

At one point in our premarital relationship, my current husband and I were both searching for employment. We extended our search to a neighboring state. My kids told their father that we were looking for jobs in an area about a two hour drive from where we currently lived. I received an angry phone call from him. He ranted for awhile and then finished with, “Over my dead body!” His rancor was wasted, we didn’t find employment out of state. I stuck with working as a substitute. My husband found another local maintenance job.

Fast forward … my ex remarried in June of ’09, shortly after my MIT graduation. In order to expediate bonding with their new stepmom I agreed to lengthier visits. They spent full weeks with she and their dad. I knew that she owned a house that was in a rural community — a two hour drive away. My ex also still owned the house we had lived in. Since I had custody of the kids I wasn’t concerned about the distance between our homes.

Unbeknownst to me, my ex had already put his plans into motion.

2009 was the worst summer of my life. I was without employment, having just graduated with my teaching certification. My current husband was looking for work. My ex had stopped paying child support several months earlier. We were renting a large, beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood and we had to leave it. Fast. Our only decent option was to go live at my mother’s house. Not what I wanted to do. I knew how difficult it would be. I cried and cried about it. Not only is my mother a very challenging person, but she lives 6 blocks from my ex. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I had lived with chaos and abuse. But go, we did.

My ex and I had a telephoned child support hearing during this transitional period. He was livid and put down the phone more than once to walk around and rant to his wife. He specifically told the attorney that if I got the support order he would make my life “shit” and would take the kids from me. Well, guess what?

I bawled my eyes out after that phone call. I knew what he was capable of. I knew how he was about money. Within a month he had brainwashed the kids by telling them that they would have more money and more things if they lived with him. He fabricated abuse and sent CPS to my home. But the worst of it was that he took my kids. I got my youngest son from him. He tried to take him back, but I was vigilant about not letting that happen.

I soon found out that I was powerless to get my children home. We didn’t have a parenting plan. Under our state’s laws there is nothing to protect one parent from taking the children from the other. You simply cannot “kidnap” your own children. There is nothing in the law that requires one parent to allow the children to see the other — in the absence of a parenting plan, that is.

Sigh …

I think it is time to make a long story a bit shorter.

At the time when my ex took my kids we were living only 6 blocks away from each other. It seemed like it could be ok. The kids would be nearby, I could see them after school. I had already enrolled them in school before their dad announced that they would not be returning to me. But he took them to live at his wife’s house. Two hours away. And I was powerless to stop him.

I had to let go of my children. Physically and emotionally. Far earlier than a mother should have to. My son was 13 and my daughter was 9. I didn’t see them or speak to them for more than 3 months. I was utterly heartbroken. I spent many of my days lying in bed, reading and watching tv. And sleeping. I did a lot of sleeping.

I found that the only way to get through it and go on living was to let them go. I had to stop worrying about them. I had to let go of my attachment to them. Part of me had to stop loving them.

I know that all of this seems farfetched and unreal. The sad fact is that it happens. It happens to good parents. It happens to loving moms. It is all too common.


Loneliness

If you have read my previous blog posts you know that although we have six children in our family only our infant daughter lives us. It’s been very disconcerting to go from having an active home, full of children, to the quiet home we have now. While I relish the quiet time, I am also very lonely.

Yes, my baby keeps me busy. So does housework, but I miss social interaction. My husband asked me if I am depressed, but I’m not really. I’m just lonely. It’s the occupational hazard of being an at-home mom. Especially one with an infant who does not enjoy riding in the van. She cries. I cannot subject her to such misery.

I chose this topic today, not only because it is a common problem for moms with young children, but also because of what I learned yesterday.

My oldest bonus daughter had lived with us for about a year and a half. She became pregnant last year and left in the Fall to stay with her mom in Texas. At first she was only going to be gone for a couple of months. Then she decided to stay there until after her baby was born. Now, instead of returning to live with us, she is only going to visit with us for a month. I started to cry immediately when my husband told me the news. I was really looking forward to her return.

In all honesty, I was nervous about having another baby in the house. Our home is small, just two bedrooms, and I wasn’t sure how things would go with two infants who are only 9 months apart. I was concerned about extra stress on my husband’s part, which could lead to moodiness and arguments. Even with those concerns, I am so sad that she isn’t going to be here. That’s when I realized that my loneliness has reached a crisis point.

So how does this tie into blended family issues? Well, the main issue at hand is the mess that is created when a parent decides to move several states away. The mother of my bonus daughters moved them away two years ago this month. The oldest daughter returned within a month and lived with us. The youngest we see only during the summer.

I hate their mother. Truly despise her. I think she is selfish. Selfish to the extreme. I think that she has many of the same qualities of my ex. I think that she is a neglectful mother who puts her children low on her priority list. I blame her for not helping her daughter to make better choices in life. The only good thing about her moving 6 states away is that I no longer have to see her every week.

I miss my bonus daughters. I miss my three older bio kids. I am blessed to have my infant daughter. I am looking forward to meeting our grandson.

**~*

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

(This is the verse I need to keep in mind)


Growing pains

Building relationships in the blended family

While watching the movie “Timer” this morning I was reminded of the main theme of my blog. Blending families, blending cultures. In this little gem of a movie was a subplot where the son of a semi-wealthy Caucasian family is matched with a Hispanic girl. The Hispanic family reacted with revulsion, while the Caucasian family desired to immediately unite as a family.

This reminded me of my experience with my blended family. I was bewildered when my husband’s family members were taken aback because I am white. Racism? Really? I was not anticipating it. And yet it seems that perhaps it is a common theme.

What I am grappling with is the concept of a population that is marginalized in the U.S. being racist towards the traditionally dominant group. Why would my new boyfriend’s family dislike me because of my race? They acted welcoming, but in reality they just wanted me to go away.

Their attitude persisted and the false friendliness turned into open dislike. One male family member crossed the line at the family Christmas celebration. He actually said that even though we were together, it would only last for a little while. My husband, being the amazing man that he is, immediately stood up and we said our goodbyes. He has since terminated his relationship with that group of the family.

I find it sad that people make presumptions about others.  How can they dislike people without first attempting to get to know them?


Second marriage, second chance

I stand in awe of my husband. Sometimes I stand in frustration. At all times I stand in love.

My husband is an immigrant to the U.S. He is bilingual. He is biliteral. He is bicultural. He has overcome more difficulties than I can imagine. He truly comes from a world that is foreign to me.

Most of the time he seems just like me. White, middle class, educated …   and then I see him interact with people from his home country, in their native language, and I am struck by the fact that he lives a dual life of sorts — and that with it he possesses a skill far beyond my understanding. He’s had experiences that I cannot fathom.

Sometimes that duality feels like a wall between us. Other times, I think that maybe I will never run out of things to learn about him.

Embarking  on a second marriage is a huge risk. It is scary. Throw six kids into the mix and it is downright terrifying. There is so much at stake in creating a blended family. For those of us who have always dreamed of having a large loving family, but watched that dream die on our first attempt, it is a risk we have to take. I, for one, cannot let that dream slip away without giving my best effort to creating a successful marriage.

~*~~

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”   Ephesians 4:2 New International Version

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8 New International Version

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18 New International Version


My Faith Carries Me Through

I have spent the past 15 years engaging in discussion and sharing ideas online. During that time I have set rules for myself. The two most important being: don’t talk politics, don’t talk religion. There is one caveat to those rules, I may discuss them if I’m “preaching to the choir.”

I am breaking that rule on my blog. I’m going to talk about my faith. If it were not for my faith in God, I would not be where I am today and I don’t know where I would be tomorrow.

I became a Christian late in life. I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic. I dabbled in Eastern philosophy and considered myself a Hindu for awhile. In my early twenties I developed rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. These debilitating diseases caused me to frequently ask, “why?”  In the midst of this questioning phase I attended a weekend workshop with Ram Dass (google him). During a meditation we were directed to visualize the person who was our greatest spiritual teacher. Who popped into my head? Buddha? No. Krishna? No. Bhagwan Rajneesh? lol  No. Jesus. Jesus appeared in my mind’s eye. Glowing, hippie-like, dressed in robe and sandals.

“No! What is he doing there?!” I relaxed, cleared my mind again and Bam! he was back. Sigh.

That wasn’t the turning point that led me to Christianity. It wasn’t until about 9 years later that I claimed my faith. Like many people, I actively sought God after losing a loved one. What I didn’t realize was that I desperately needed God to carry me through an abusive marriage. He did just that. At times I was nearly drowning in despair and feelings of helplessness, but I would call out to the Lord to help me and He was faithful. And I made it through another day.

God has worked miracles in my life. At one time during my first marriage I had requested information on teacher certification and a Masters degree from a local university. I looked it over, stuffed it in a drawer and thought, maybe later, when my kids were older. While decluttering my cabinets I grabbed that folder, ready to toss it in recycling. A voice in my head rang out, “No. Keep it. You may need it.” I stuck it back in the drawer.

Two days later my ex went sideways, ranted at my children and I. He was absolutely terrifying. He scared our children, he threatened my life. Within a week my kids and I were out of our house and in an apartment away from him. I took that folder with me. I applied to the program and earned that Masters degree. God had warned me on that June morning in 2006. I am so very grateful to Him.

During those early days, weeks, and months of being a single mom I spoke with God daily. I prayed for strength. I prayed for the well being of my children. I prayed for our safety. Taking care of three rambunctious children on my own was not easy. Being alone was hard. I constantly leaned on God. He frequently gave me tangible evidence that He was there for me and working for good in my life.

About three months after I left my ex he called in the middle of the night. He was drunk and in Las Vegas. I think it may have been his birthday. (He called in the middle of the night on several occasions, always intoxicated. I learned to turn off my phone at night.) He decided to unburden himself to me. He cried and whined about how sad he was. He went on and on, drunk and rambling. I only listened because our relationship was horribly  co-dependent.

The next day he called back and then he dropped his bombshell. He had been having an affair while we were together. For the last three years of our marriage. Before our third child was conceived he had been cheating on me. My life had been a lie.

I hung up on him and went outside. I was crying. I had just walked down the pathway towards my van — I always cried in the van back then — when the orange maintenance cart pulled up next to me. There was the maintenance man, looking at me with a concerned look and then saying, “You’re too pretty to cry.” What a cheesy line! lol  But it broke through my tears. He asked what was wrong and I told him. He then shared that his ex-wife had cheated on him and he understood how it felt. We spoke for a few minutes, sharing briefly some of the pain that betrayal brings. He gave me a little pep talk and smiled at me, told me that my ex must be really stupid. His words made me chuckle and smile ruefully.

I went back into my apartment and prayed. My pain was lifted. I knew that whatever my ex had done didn’t matter. I am a child of God. As a child of God my life is important to Him and He will make all things work for the best for me, my children, and everyone.

What a strange and wonderful blessing God gave me that day.


Finding My Parenting Niche ~ part one

I am an attachment parenting mom. Always have been, always will be. I first stumbled upon the idea of attachment during my English 101 class when I had to choose a topic for a research paper. I don’t know how I found Attachment Behavior in Infants. This was back in the late 80s when the internet was in its infancy and I’m not sure if Windows existed. I consulted the enormous wooden cabinets with file drawers which contained thousands upon thousands of index cards. Research took forever!

Armed with my knowledge that baby monkeys thrive with a flesh mommy and fail to thrive with a robot mommy I made a vow to not give my future babies over to the robots.

No, not really. I did however go to a “bohemian” type college, volunteered at the domestic violence shelter and chose working with the children of abused women as my specialty area. I was introduced to baby slings during our play therapy group. There was a seasoned mom volunteering and she brought an extra sling in case there were any babies. When we were asked if we wanted to use it and carry a little baby, the other young volunteers looked at her like she had two heads. Not me! I thought the sling was the most amazing thing!

A few years later, I was thrilled to see baby slings at our local food co-op along with the reusable flannel pads. When my mom was shopping for a baby gift, I told her that she had to buy a sling for the mom. We picked out a lovely black Guatemalan style fabric. I thought it looked chic. The mom wasn’t sold. However, when I babysat her daughter I used it all the time!

When I was expecting my firstborn in 1996, the internet was a bit beyond its infancy. I searched online for baby slings. I was so thrilled about having one for my baby. It would be blissful. We would snuggle all day, breastfeed, my arthritis wouldn’t bother me …  dreams die hard.

While my dreams didn’t pan out exactly as I had hoped, I was committed to attachment parenting (AP) and gentle discipline. I checked out all the books by Dr. Sears from my local library. I reread them, twice.

I had long been a subscriber to the Utne Reader. I visited their website and the early version of a message board. I posted in heated discussions about parenting. One that I remember fondly was about rushing our children towards independence. I don’t remember if I started the topic, but I sure relished the discussion.

 

part two will explore the addition of children through birth and remarriage


Evil Exes

When a divorce with children happens, there is always an ex to contend with. Whether the person is present or absent in the life of the child, they are forever intertwined with our lives. I always advise young women to be careful who they choose to have children with. We so often make poor choices and our children suffer for it.

My ex has done just about everything in his power to destroy me. Funny thing is, he’s the one who wanted out. Yes, a marriage is made by two people and I am not blameless. But vindictive? No. Desiring to deprive him of involvement with our children? No.

My evil ex has used our children as pawns. He has used them to get back at me. He has used them to entice a childless girlfriend and two childless wives. He succeeded in taking custody of all three children, simply because I obtained an official child support order. I am not making this up. He is on record at our child support hearing saying that he would, “make her life shit” if the order for support went through. It was no coincidence that abuse allegations were fabricated less than a month later.

I mention three relationships of my evil ex. The first, the girlfriend, was established before my kids and I were driven from our home. I was ignorant of her existence. She moved into our house a week after my kids and I left. Less than a year after our split, my ex married a woman he met online. That marriage lasted less than a year and then he was quickly remarried to a friend from high school. With each relationship he would threaten to take the kids from me. In each relationship the new woman was pronounced better able to care for our children than I was.

All of this was about money. All of it was about child support.

My evil ex is a dirtbag. I cannot count the number of times I have longed to turn back time and change my decisions. Run the other way when I met him.

Our exes can continue to abuse us long after we have removed ourselves from their daily lives. They abuse us with the courts, they abuse us by manipulating our children, they abuse us emotionally, verbally, and spiritually. Any small window of opportunity is thrown wide open and the abuse floods through. We think that by getting away physically we can escape. They don’t let us.

When we start new relationships, evil exes will do whatever they can to impede them. My ex tried threats, bad mouthed my husband to my children, spouted racist comments regarding my husband, and finally, when all of that failed, he fabricated wild stories of child abuse.

He won, in his way. He got the kids. I pay him child support. But he didn’t destroy me. My older children may not live with me, but they are still my children. He cannot take that away.


Losing “the Dream”

I don’t think that I can do this topic justice. There are so many feelings I have that are tied up in my dreams of family. I know that I will need to edit this later, but this is so essential to blended families that I want to get it off my chest and get it out there.

I had a dream of how our blended family would look. We were on our way, things looked beautiful, then it all came crashing down.

Valentine’s weekend 2009. My husband and I took a road trip to visit his family. We had a great weekend, bonded like crazy, enjoyed his family, talked marriage. The marriage thing was settled, we would marry before the end of the year. We had never felt closer or more in sync.

On Wednesday afternoon following our weekend of bliss … call from his older daughter … they are moving in less than two months … 6 states away …

There went my dream. My two bonus daughters were taken away by their mother. My husband didn’t fight it. He was depressed. He was frustrated. Our relationship took a turn. He became emotionally distant. I could not fix it.

Around this time my ex was fired. He stopped paying child support. My husband was able to carry the burden of our expenses. We lived in a big, expensive, rental house. It was ok, but then he lost his job. Boom.  It was summer. I’m a substitute teacher. We had to move.

With no work and no savings, we made a temporary move to my mother’s house. I was despondent. I cried daily while we were packing up. I did not want to live with my mom. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I lived with my ex. Nothing about it was ok for me. We had no choice.

Shortly after we vacated our rental house my ex and my children fabricated abuse allegations. I lost two of my kids. With no parenting plan in place I could not force my ex to return our two older children to me. In turn, he could not force me to give him our younger son. We lived in a state of extreme stress. I had my younger son, but had no idea where my two older children were living.

This was the beginning of the most painful year of my life. I did not anticipate the outcome. I don’t think anybody who knows me could have.


The more you love them, the harder it is

… navigating the challenges of loving your bonus kids, but having no power to do what you feel is best …

As a mother who has given birth to four children, then lost custody of three of them, I understand on a deep level what it is like to not be involved in the daily life of my children. I feel intense grief over my distance from them. I feel anger towards their father over his neglectful parenting. I believe that my children are not receiving the loving attention that they deserve. I don’t think he makes the best choices for them. But I am powerless to do anything about it. That power was taken away by our broken family courts.

These feelings of dismay and frustration that I experience are the same as those I feel for my bonus daughters. They are currently both with their mother, several states away. One is an adult with a baby on the way. The other is a “tween” who is very sensitive. I love both of them. I’m sure that at times it is a burden they don’t want to carry. After all, what kid wants a second mom who is concerned about their safety, schooling, friends, etc? I know I can be a bit overbearing in my concern. I try to quell it.

What I struggle with most is akin to my current situation with my own bio kids. I love and care for them deeply, but have no influence in major decision making or even daily decision making. I watch from a distance as they are pushed aside by their mother, in favor of her social relationships. They are appeased by treats, but a genuine concern and investment in their well being seems absent. I know that my younger bonus daughter feels unloved and unwanted. I know from witness accounts that her mother yells, swears, and hits her when she seeks attention. This breaks my heart.

As an educator, I have felt so very frustrated watching the neglect of education in their household. Their school absences were shockingly high. Homework wasn’t completed. Regular reading and trips to the library were nonexistent. This is the polar opposite of how I raised my children. It is the opposite of what I know is best for assisting children in becoming successful. This breaks my heart.

As a mom, I hear reports of birthday parties and baby showers that revolve around the mother and her friends. I hear that the adults all get drunk, the parties last late into the night, and the center of attention is not the girls — it is their mother and how she can impress people. What is wrong with people? How can they use children as an excuse to further their personal interests? My heart aches for them. I nearly cried the other day when I heard about my bonus daughter not being the center of attention at her baby shower. I am starting to cry now.

The more you love them, the harder it is.


Challenge #2 Differing gender role expectations

I have been avoiding this topic for awhile. Even though it is one of the first things I thought of when pondering intercultural challenges in marriage, I really have not wanted to tackle it. Why? This issue is at the heart of all the conflicts or arguments in my relationship with my husband. It is intensely personal. I am taking the plunge now because I believe it is important to share, for those who are interested in such things.

Gender role expectations …  my background taught me that men and women should share the burden of household chores in some equitable manner. As an adult I have been a slacker with regard to household chores, in part because my ex was as well. I am a clutter-bug. I am not all that conscious of things — if something is out of place, I don’t notice it. I also don’t believe that it is my job to pick up after everyone in my household. This is regardless of whether or not I work outside the home.

My husband would beg to differ. He firmly believes that women need to cook, clean, serve, care for the children, and work. To him, a man’s responsibility is to earn money at a job (or two) and relax at home. He gets very bent out of shape if food is not served to him. He believes that moms who don’t work outside of the house should have immaculate homes because all they have to do take care of kids, clean and cook. Apparently, in his cultural background, the women do all of these things. They clean constantly, cook every meal of the day and give the children all of the attention they require.

But something must be falling through the cracks. I just don’t believe that it is possible to do all of those things to his high standards. My cultural background says that it just is not possible! Not only that, but I don’t believe that it is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like a clean and orderly home. Parts of my home can be that way, for a brief period of time. But I choose to pursue other interests and to spend a lot of time with my children. For instance, our infant daughter will not sleep by herself. That means that when she naps — as she is now — she does so on my lap. She is still primarily breastfed, which means that whenever she eats I sit with her to feed her. No handing her a bottle and getting busy with housework for me!

My attachment parenting style does get in the way of meeting the gender role expectations of my husband. We talk about it nearly every day. Sometimes he seems to accept  that caring for our baby really does take up most of my day. Other times he insists that the computer is the problem. Well, we were without internet at home for two days. The only additional thing I did was vacuuming. I did that while wearing our daughter in a carrier.

I keep hoping he will relent and allow me to be the slacker that I am accustomed to being. Whether this is truly a cultural issue, or merely his personal preference …  I am not sure. It is probably a bit of both. I am doing my best to compromise and improve my homemaking skills, but it is a hard road. I will continue to walk it.


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