“Mommy, I got bullied on the bus going back to daycare yesterday.”
This was the opening line of a story that would break me as a parent. I didn’t know it, then, but the words that followed, from the mouth of my tiny human, would change my outlook on not only my ex-husband, but on my ideas of co-parenting in the future.
“Who did you tell? Your teacher?” I asked, knowing we have discussed verbalizing “big” problems to adults.
“They were talking to each other.”
“Then when you get off the bus, you need to ask to speak with a teacher and tell them you got bullied,” I said, reiterating my former coaching strategies in terms of bullying. I remembered he’d been with his father the night before, as he was every Thursday, and asked, “Did you tell Daddy?”
What an innocent question from what I now understand to be a completely obtuse woman. Yes, I was obtuse. I was naive, and innocent, and lived with optimistic, rose-colored glasses. What my tiny tot said next, however, shattered all of my illusions forever.
“No,” he replied. “I didn’t want to get beat with a belt.”
My child wouldn’t announce a bullying problem to his dad, because he didn’t want to be placed in a more harmful situation when visiting his father?
“What?” I mustered, flabbergasted. I couldn’t have heard him correctly.
“When we get in trouble, Daddy hits us with a belt. It hurts so bad, tears fall onto my shirt, and my butt turns into a cherry. And when Daddy gets mad because you send a text message, he hits me with a belt, too. Please don’t tell Daddy. He has so many belts, like 200 belts. And he yells at Brother that he’s never going to allow Brother to see him, and then Brother rocks back and forth saying he doesn’t have a home.”
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe the words that had just stumbled out of my child’s mouth. Belt. Tears. Cherry. Text Messages. Brother.
“Does Grandma know about this? Is Ms. Kim okay with Daddy hitting you?” I asked, wondering whom else I could hate in that moment. Because, right then, I hated my ex-husband.
“No,” Tiny replied. “Daddy only hits us when no one else is in the house.”
Oh my God, … what could I do?
I spent the entire night Googling. That’s all I could do. The next day, as soon as I mustered the courage, I called CPS, who asked me to speak with a police officer. When the police officer came to my home, I was a mess. He spoke to Conner, and told me he was convinced enough that he would keep my ex’s name in his files. What he asked me to do next, what everyone asked me to do next, was to invade my child’s privacy and look for evidence of these beatings.
Unbeknownst to my ex, this was my breaking point. This was the last straw in the shit storm of poor and dangerous parenting decisions he willingly inflicted upon my son’s well-being during our six years of divorce.
Since 2012, I have known my ex has left my son in a hot car to go into stores to shop. He has not only left my son, but Brother and his cousin as well. The latter have been diagnosed with autism and verbal problems, making them unfit to care for my two to seven year old son, which prompted me to write this post about leaving children in hot cars. My words and my pleadings never mattered to my ex-husband.
Even after admitting to the court that he has left them, … but only twice that he recollected, his nephew flung open a car door in front of my home, bright red, sweating, and gasping for air. That was over a month ago.
Another event happened around the time that I learned of the belts, as well, compounding on my tolerance levels in dealing with my ex. After three years of listening to promises that my ex “would raise child support as soon as” he got a job–I have text message proof of his lies, to boot!–I filed for an increase in support with the courts. When the increase was denied, I called the Child Support Division, and I was told by the agent that he had no proof of my ex having any income.
He had been working as a teacher for well over a year at that point.
It was at that point that I realized he was not only willing to lie to me when it came to his financial requirements for Tiny, but he was willing to lie to the courts to further shirk his duty to his son.
The Monday after I learned about the belt beatings, I hired a lawyer. If my ex couldn’t be the dad that Tiny needed him to be, then I would ask the court to force him into being a semi-decent father. A father who wouldn’t beat his child with a belt. A father who was so ashamed of his own shitty, not-abuse-in-the-state-of-Texas-without-a-mark discipline, that he hadn’t told the woman he lived with that he prefers to beat autistic children and defenseless children with a belt.
Sorry, Tiny won, and I’m still not over the images that play through my head. Especially the one where Tiny told me he walked into the bathroom after a particularly bad beating, stared at the red welts on his butt, and wondered why his daddy did that to him.
The fact that I am a Christian should say a lot about the size of my character right now.
When I walked into my lawyer’s office, she asked me what I wanted.
What I wanted was for my child to be safe at the hands of a man I never considered to be abusive until about 72 hours prior to our meeting.
“What do I want?” I asked. “I want for my ex to stop hitting my child with a belt, and I want for my ex to stop leaving him in a hot car.”
She asked me to think about it, saying she could add those as mutual injunctions–which my ex said he didn’t want because they might “implement him” in his own disgusting behavior until the mediator defined what mutual meant. She told me that I needed something concrete in order to modify the original documents.
My ex made that easier by moving into his girlfriend’s house a week or two later, and uprooting Tiny’s stability without telling Tiny, myself, or the courts.
At that point, I knew my case was solid.
I later amended what I wanted to include a myriad of items, including an increase in child support, along with retroactive support to the date of filing.
Why did I go after money? Because I have the need to be a greedy ex-wife?
No. I wanted my ex to pull his fair financial weight in supporting our child. I have worked two jobs for four years. I have worked days and nights for four years, and even lost an entire summer to pay for most of this case. I have lost night-night stories, bedtime kisses, prayers, story times, homework, practices, games, and fun family events because I was working.
Because I’ve had to work. I’ve had to work to keep the only stable home Tiny has known since birth over his head. I’ve had to work so that my child could see what it looked like for a parent to financially support him without complaint.
Mediation happened last week. I walked in praying, and I walked in assured of several things: my ex didn’t want his family seeing my proof in court, and there was nothing I wanted more than to talk to a judge and let her hear and see my evidence against him.
Because, boy, I have evidence. What’s that saying? “There’s your story, and then there’re my text messages?”
I have evidence that measured over 7 inches tall. Six years has been a long time to worry and fret over the welfare of my son at his dad’s house.
Luckily, I had a child amicus fighting for my child throughout mediation. She was phenomenal, and she was outraged over the exact same things that outraged me–which made me feel justified in the tens of thousands I spent fighting for Tiny. There was a moment when she said, “He has been complaining that you micromanage Tiny’s time with him, but after spending time with him, I can see why you might need to.”
Can I LOL hard enough? The one thing that has always astounded me has been the fact that, regardless of my worries that my ex will fool everyone he meets, he’s never been able to fool the people I need to fight for my tiny human.
Those have been the people who matter, and those are the only people I need in my corner.
I won’t lie, though. It was a difficult decision to look at my bank account and hire a lawyer. At one point, I broke down, and told my lawyer that I didn’t know if it was worth it to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a piece of paper that said my ex couldn’t hit my child with an object or leave him in a hot car for convenience.
Was it worth it? Yes. Because the very next time I learn of an incident regarding my son’s safety, my butt will be parked in front of a judge. I will spend every last dime I have fighting for the most important thing in my world–the safety and well-being of the tiny human I gave life to.
It was tough. I cried more than I laughed during the last year. It took a year for this battle to be won, and I’ll spend as many years as it takes to fight for my child’s right to feel physically and emotionally safe with his father.
This time, though?