Custody Belief Battles: The Struggle to Establish New Ground Rules

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A pattern is beginning to emerge between the homes of Tiny, and I’m finding myself seeing it as nothing short of egregious. I’ve stated before that I’m of the opinion that minimum custody arrangements should be just that–minimum custody arrangements. Children should be allowed to spend time with their fathers, and sometimes more time with their fathers, should special things arise. Sometimes a kid just needs his dad–and sometimes I understand that, and will allow for the extra, “special” moments to occur.

But now? Now something is changing. Either my ex has started reading my blogs and articles, or he’s taking me for the sap that I am, and abusing this basic tenet. I’m left feeling frustrated, slammed against a wall, needing to scream out, “I don’t want to continue losing time with my child!”

That, in itself, has forced me to sit back today, and think through my former claim.

Almost every other Monday, I’m informed that Tiny is not in school, but with his dad. Sometimes he’s sick. Sometimes his tummy hurts. Sometimes he didn’t sleep well. But, out of the last three months, Tiny regularly misses preschool every other Monday, and I’m not informed until mid-afternoon. Therefore I spend my entire day believing my child to have been dropped off–per custody agreements–at school. Instead, he’s been staying with his dad, and I am asked to pick him up.

I do not like that I’m not told at a decent hour. I don’t like that I’m not involved in the decision, or informed late that my child may be sick. Not like I can change anything.

It’s always funny, though, how those every other Monday tummy bugs only last until Mommy picks him up.

Wednesdays are Special Daddy Days. Well, the days fluctuate according to my ex’s schedule. They’ve been every day of the week in the past four years. I accommodate the ex-husband on this, because he finally decided to get his college degree in his forties, in order to better himself. Although the custody papers state that Tiny’s dad can pick him up at 6:30 PM, he picks him up anywhere from 1 PM to 4 PM. So, that in itself is extra time, but I don’t think he realizes that fact.

However, Thursday mornings usually follow the every other Monday model, with one exception. Sometimes, anywhere from 9 AM until noon (the custody papers state 8:30 AM drop-off, BTW), I’m asked to give up the day. Occasionally it’s an asked question, occasionally it’s a statement of fact.

Today, it was, “Do you mind if I keep Tiny Tot for one more day? If not, I can drop him off at preschool once we finish breakfast.”

That text came at 9:19 AM.

Again, back against the wall. Yesterday I started my day at 5 AM. I dressed a slumbering tiny human, packed him up for the Wednesday visit with his dad, swung by Starbucks so he could tell the barista that he wanted a drink with “absolutely no straw,” and brought him to school. His preschool teacher remarked how he was so tired in the mornings this week, and I laughingly told her that he hated being woken up at 5 AM–almost as much as his mommy did. We giggled. I went into work, and worked from 7-11. Then I left the hospital to go run supplies. I do several jobs in my company, running supplies to six hospitals is one of those tasks.

My boss hadn’t brought supplies in, so I chatted shop, ate lunch, and then got called out for an emergent case at 1 PM. The case wasn’t emergent, but it did seem like a lost cause, and I left the hospital around 7 PM.

So, after an eleven hour work day (yay, it was shorter than some of the longer days!), I finally got home and called my beautiful Tiny Tot. Do you know the first thing I did? I asked if he went to preschool that morning.

My day had been so long that I’d forgotten the first half–the 5 AM half.

Then I went to sleep missing my child, which is what I do every time he’s not in the house.

When 9:19 rolled around this morning, and I got that text (having not been properly caffeinated), all I could do was stare. I felt crushed. I felt anger. I felt an overwhelming sense of being ripped in two.

Why?

Because minimum custody agreements are just that–a minimum amount of time a child gets to spend with his dad.

However, GEEZ! This is getting out of hand! This cannot happen every week. I cannot agree every time these situations come up. They’re not special; they’re whim. It’s not because Tiny just wants more time, it’s not because Tiny’s dad wants more time–it’s because Tiny’s dad is too lazy to drive him the forty-five minutes it takes to bring him to school.

And I know that.

He’s not substitute teaching today (which happens maybe once or twice a week), he’s not going to school today. So, due to those two things, he doesn’t want to leave the house. He also knows that I do not particularly like driving to pick up Tiny–which I have been doing more of, because of these whim days. And, it’s not because I don’t like driving the extra thirty minutes to pick up Tiny at my ex’s mother’s house. It’s because I freaking drive over sixty miles in a day for work-related reasons alone, and I’d like to drive the five minutes it takes to  pick up my child from preschool, where he should have been at 8:30 AM, per the custody paperwork.

Today I said enough. I didn’t say what I usually say, which is, “Sure, that’s fine. I know Tiny Tot will appreciate the extra time.”

Instead, I told him that when he asks me for extra time at the last minute–on a whim–that it sounds like he’s saying, “Hey, do you mind not seeing your child, and just eating that time with him?”

That’s what it feels like, to me, when I get those frequent text messages every other Monday, and every Thursday morning. It’s beginning to feel–well, it’s felt like this for years now–that although I value Tiny’s time with his dad, his dad does not value Tiny’s time with me.

Today I didn’t say no, but I did say that from here on out, when he asks for days like this, on whim–at the last minute–he gets to swap out another day. I also told him that I don’t like this habit; I don’t like being asked to decide, in moments, a decision I should be allowed to deliberate.

A decision that affects my time with my child.

This is a hard concept for me. I feel like I’m constantly asked to straddle lines of preconceived beliefs, and establish new ground rules.

But, it looks like I’ll be doing that for the next eighteen years, so I’d better start getting used to this battle of parental wills.

 

 

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1 comment posted on January 22, 2015 in Life, Winging It, Mom Style
  • nicolevulcan@gmail.com says:

    So many details to work through! Totally been there. I just checked out this new book about a dad on the brink because he’s doesn’t have custody and things aren’t going well — The Poor Man’s Guide to Suicide. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937327442 So basically, things could be worse! Check it out — you might enjoy the read and the perspective.

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