Taking a single parent vacation as a family IS a luxury. It’s a luxury I work hard to be able to afford and so I don’t take the decision to go on a vacation very lightly. As a blogger I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to have parts of the vacation sponsored and it makes the whole ordeal much more palatable. This particular road trip has been a good metaphor for life. It was a trip that was emotionally filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, and laughter and stress. Physically I felt it in my body the toil of driving the Lincoln Navigator that Ford Motor company graciously allowed me to use on this trip. This particular trip was bittersweet for me. Grandma (my mom) went, along with my son and daughter all piled into the car to begin a journey that midway would be a bittersweet goodbye. We were returning my son to his dad which is always hard for me. His dad and I are in a custody battle that doesn’t seem like it will end anytime in the near future. We have joint managing conservatorship but his primary residence for now is in North Carolina. A decision that most in the courtroom at the time couldn’t believe was happening.
One can only imagine the tears that flowed down my face that day when the judge made the decision to send my son off with a man, his dad, whom he had never met. I understand my fault in all of this and took responsibility for it like salt in a wound. Afterward, I had to explain to my daughter, who I have full and sole custody of, that she will no longer be living with her brother, her playmate and best friend. My daughter suffered a lot with extreme sadness, pulling out her hair, lack of sleep and she was just 4 years old. We took her to therapy and she clung even more to my side. She manifested physically what I was feeling on the inside. The unknown has a way of haunting you with thoughts so unimaginable that the vice grip you have on who you are has no choice but to let go. If you try to hold on too tight, you will go insane and you must think about not just the other children you have to take care of but also yourself. It’s what allows you to have hope and faith. To put life in the current reality of your life – no matter how much you may not like it. There is man’s law and there is universal law.
Currently and temporarily my son is living with his dad in North Caroline while my daughters and I are here in Texas. It’s not the norm and it’s not ideal but custody battles never really are and I have often found that the people that suffer the most are the kids. What you think you know about family court, you really don’t know. There are no assumptions and no norms. I travel to visit my child monthly in North Carolina or fly him back home to Texas to visit. It’s unusual for a mom to not be the primary conservator and I firmly believe this is just a temporary situation. While not divulging details I have come to grips with the reality of the situation as it exists TODAY. Life is fluid and it changes quickly and I wouldn’t continue to fight for his return if I didn’t have HOPE for the best outcome for my son. I am also thankful that because of all of this my ex is involved where he wasn’t before. I can see the happiness in my son’s face with a man he didn’t know before but it also tears me up to see him emotionally torn between his two families. God will make things right on a timeline that is not ours to own.
I mention this experience because for anyone contemplating divorce with children, this is just a small sliver of my experience. I hope divorce is something you think about seriously rather than look at with rose colored glasses. This is not for the faint of heart. One bad decision could have you in the abyss of courts for a very long time. Most times divorce is just a result of a series of symptoms and bad decisions lacking in respect, loyalty, commitment and communication in the relationship. My son’s ex and I were never married but had a relationship after I was already divorced. I thought marriage was the problem and have vowed never to be married. I was wrong. Marriage is not the problem, people and their untamed egos are the problem – and then they procreate. Even if you are in family court battling it out for your children to a man you never married it is still a contentious experience. I think I’m in a better position to truly appreciate the concept of consequences.
Reserve the judgments for another time because I have heard it all so anything said now is old news the goal is to move forward. Argue less and accomplish more is what Pope Francis reiterates. So as we rolled through Arkansas, Tennessee and made our way to North Carolina our little family became more cognizant of each other’s habits. We hung on to the memories we were making along the way and we were preparing for my son’s departure. Something that still stings in my heart each time I have to let him go. The long ride back home was even tougher seeing his empty car seat without his sleeping face in it. This has become the routine and my daughter took his departure a lot easier than I did. We made our way back through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and back to Texas. We stopped at some Civil War sites along the way.
Unfortunately my grandmother in Hawaii also ended up in the hospital and my family and I got to FaceTime with her while making our way through Alabama. She eventually died this past Monday evening at 91 years old. She had lived a very long life and I can say without a doubt that the strong spirit she exhibited as a survivor has been passed down to my mother and now to me. I am sure she had regrets, just like I do but I can assure you that when it was time to be called home, those regrets didn’t matter to her anymore. While driving back home we played Broadway show tunes from the Amazon Prime Music playlist. Tomorrow from the broadway musical Annie began to play and it was so fitting for the mood of what was happening around us: “The sun will come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on til tomorrow, come what may . . . When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely I just stick up my chin and grin and say oh!”
Do you have a story about your own custody battles? How do you manage co-parenting with your ex?