Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I called the Judge's chambers today and got word that my divorce was signed yesterday, just-the-way-I-wrote-it. Which means, I have full custody and I control the visitation of my children. According to New York State, having full custody means that I am responsible for the decisions in my children's lives. This includes spiritual/moral ones, which have been my biggest battle with John lately.
The inconsistency in seeing the kids, asking about them, and talking to them is something I can deal with. I sobbed all day after he told me he was going to be spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend and her children, not including his own (and then didn't call or ask about his kids for two days after Thanksgiving). Somehow, walking out of their life for two weeks hurt me more than them. In fact, I think they're young enough that not seeing daddy more than once or twice to sleep at his house wasn't even noticed. He has since apologized and apparently (I hope?) realized how wrong it was to neglect them like that. Now, all of the sudden, he demands a visitation schedule. But herein is where the problem lies.
I found out about another woman spending the night while the children were there not through John, but through Amara. Not cool. This has become a problem that he and his girlfriend are very rigid about. However, I am morally opposed to cohabitation before marriage, especially when you have only known the other person 1 week, this is the first time your children meet her, and your children cannot access your bed if they should need to during the night (I believe they are physically safe, since apparently the gate is placed near John's door and he says he gets up if he hears Amara at it). However. What does this say to a 3-year-old about importance and who is more important to Daddy? What kind of message does this give about our bodies and sexuality? What does this say about using good judgement and being patient and relationships?
Prior to this, John was opposed to anyone spending the night while the kids were present. Now, not only is this happening, but I am in trouble for being opposed to it still. And not only this, but I am also told that there is talk of John moving in with his girlfriend and her kids and cohabiting for at least 6 years before she is done with school. BUT, "don't worry," I am told--my children will have their own bedroom at her house! Oh, great, I feel all fuzzy and warm inside now...
The visitation problems, the demanding a schedule so he "can be free every other weekend," etc. (but I am told at the same time that he does in fact want to see his children, and this is not about wanting to see them--ok...)...I can deal with these things. I cannot, and will not, tolerate modeling sin to my children though. None of us are perfect, but it is totally unacceptable to continually and habitually model inappropriate and unhealthy things--and to know you are doing it, on top of everything else!
It has broken this mama's heart the last two weeks to see these things transpire. I have cried many, many tears over my children and their souls that I so deeply want to protect and help to grow in the image of Christ. But...I have full custody now. My hands are tied no longer. In the eyes of the state of New York, I am responsible for my children. I believe this also means I will be held to a higher standard than John before God for the upbringing of my children. So with all of that said, I am making a few changes.
Let it be known that this mama will raise her children right. Their father can and should be involved--if it is healthy. I will go to supervised visits only if need be. This means, that there will be no drugs even not around the children (which I do NOT believe he is partaking in at this time), there will be no women spending the night while the kids are there (what you do in your own time is your own business), my children will not be spending the night at someone else's house without my express permission. Also, I will have the contact information of anyone who may care for my children, and I will also get to know that person before they care for my children. You will not be swearing or yelling at or in front of my children. You will not break things, throw things, or hurt them or anyone else when they are around. You will model no sexual behavior in front of them if you cannot do so healthily and appropriately. If you profess Christianity, I will hold you to that standard when it comes to my children. I also expect that you will put my children's interest before your own or anyone else's when they are with you.
That's all. It's simple, really. My children are going to be raised right, and with Godly principles. If you aren't on board with this idea, then you had better find another ship.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Dear Single Mom,
You have rights, too. Don't forget it. God entrusted you with those beautiful children. You are going to answer for yourself and how YOU parented, not how your ex-husband did or does. Be gracious, but do not allow yourself to lose things that your child would have had you be part of if you were still married to their father.
You. Are. Still. The. Mama. Hold on to those babies, raise them right, be a good role model, don't sin in your loneliness or anger, and remember that you aren't helpless. Your kids want you as much as you want them. Don't let yourself get pushed out of their lives.
Bill of Rights for Divorced Mothers
- I have the right to be involved in any and every aspect of my children's lives. I can attend any event I want to and be part of any normal thing that may occur, including all Holidays and events of particular significance.
- I should not be made to feel like I can't or shouldn't ask questions about where my children are or who they are with.
- I have the right to meet and get to know people that will become significant in the life of my children. This is not me approving or disapproving--it is simply me wanting to understand and relate to the things that affect and are important to my children.
- If my children ever want me, I have the right to come.
- I have the right to know about significant things going on in my children's life from YOU, their father, not from THEM. This means if some woman is spending the night at your house while they are there, you should probably tell me beforehand so I don't find out by way of our 3-year-old at dinner the next day.
- I have the right to interact with you and whomever your significant other is WITH our children present. It is important that they see the entire family unit interacting positively. This doesn't need to happen all of the time, but I should not be told I cannot be around if your significant other is.
- I have the right to be respected by you, the father. You will not speak poorly about me to our children, nor will disregard my boundaries and standards for our children. If you disagree with something, we will come to a compromise together. Consistency between the parents is important, as is the children seeing that we value each other as parents.
- I have the right to protect my children. From anyone and anything. They are my first priority, and I am allowed to unleash the mama bear within me if she is needed. God made me a mama.
Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce
- I have the right to love and be loved by both of my parents, without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
- I have the right to be protected from my parents' anger.
- I have the right to be kept out of the middle of my parents' conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
- I have the right to have a regular daily and weekly routine, one that is not filled with unpredictable disruptions, chaos, or unpleasant surprises.
- I have the right to not have to choose between my parents. It is my right to not be expected to choose with whom I will live. Having to make this kind of choice will always hurt someone, and therefore, me. I have this right even when I am a teenager. I CAN NEVER CHOOSE BETWEEN MY PARENTS.
- I have the right not to be responsible for the emotional needs of my parents.
- I have the right to know well in advance about any major changes that will affect my life.
- I have the right to reasonable financial support from my parents.
- I have the right to appropriately express my feelings to my parents and expect that they will listen to me.
- I have the right to not be expected to make adult decisions. I have the right to remain a child and not replace a parent in my duties, or to act as an adult companion, personal friend or comforter to my parents.
- I have the right to like and love as many people (such as stepparents and relatives) as I want to without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal.
- I have the right to a life as close as possible to what I would have had if my parents had stayed married to each other.
This composition is a widely circulated one. Sad that it had to be written in the first place, but good that it is available since I believe that divorce is always originally caused by selfish decisions--and selfish people tend to not change. A written set of guidelines for those people can be particularly valuable in advocating for the children, and for mediating between the adults about the children in a "broken family" sort of situation.
I challenge you to create a bill of rights for the children in your home, married or not. Keeping yourself accountable as a parent is the second step in being a good parent. The first step is true love--make sure you know how to do it correctly.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
The first time I went yesterday, I had to pick up papers at a judge's office, then had to go to the clerk's office and pay lots of money. Then the man tells me that I have to "re-serve" John, and that his signed, dated, and notarized copy of the Defendant's Affidavit doesn't count because it was done before today when things became "official." I clarify this about three times, attempt to negotiate my way into still being able to file it, and then choke back my tears when I realize it's futile and I will have to make another trip back. The emotional roller coaster of thinking I will be done and then being told that no, I'm still attached, is horrible. The first time I was sent away from the office with nothing of importance filed, I bawled for an hour. This time, I swallowed a lot of saliva and managed while I drove 45 minutes one way to where John was so he could get it re-notarized.
And then I went back to the clerk's office. This was the third time. I paid more money, signed more papers, and then...I walked out. Done. I have often wondered how I would react to things being finalized. While it's still not "finalized" until the judge has signed the papers, my part is finalized (hopefully, I really don't want a letter stating I need to come in again because I messed something up!). All I do now is wait and pray. And I thought that when I got to this point, I would cry and grieve the loss of being married to one person forever again. But...I'm not. When I walked out of that secured building and into the Autumn air, I looked around and it was just like the first time I ever wore contacts. Everything was crisper, brighter. The colors more intense, the details more noticeable.
Everything else ended a long time ago now. I had years to digest that my marriage was doomed (although right up until the moment I left, I hoped for something different), years to grieve the loss of my spouse as I saw him fade further and further away from myself and our relationship. The trauma of leaving (fear, uncertainty) ended shortly after we made that transition. The things that bound me to a relationship like that--subjugation and unrelenting standards--was my main focus after I felt safe after leaving, and those things were resolved after a few weeks of intense dedication. I am in a fantastic place now psychologically, emotionally, and mentally (come on, body! Get in shape and join the party!). And now, the last step is almost complete. Within three weeks, 10 months after we left, I will be legally married no longer.
There is so much more to sight than seeing, and it is so good to know that my entire self will get to be alive for the rest of my life now.
Thank you, Jesus. I like to see.