A friend of mine has recently just been through a very emotional and bitter child custody battle with her ex. They share a 6 year old son together. It’s been a very traumatic time for her – she became very depressed and withdrawn. One morning I bumped into her, and very visibly shaken, she said to me, “I received an affidavit from him. And he said such horrible things about me.” I asked her to email it to me.
So I got the email that evening, with her saying (tongue in cheek), “Want a bit of light reading?” There were over 50 pages to read. And wow. The sledging. The accusations. Some things said were true, and some were things that I knew were just absolute rubbish.
It brought back memories of the hatred I had for my ex, and the hatred he had (or still has) for me. During our time at the Family Court, we had nothing but loathe towards each other. I let all my anger and hatred spill onto our kids. I’ll admit, I bad-mouthed him to our kids. We both said awful things about each other to them. Why? Because we had hopes that they would see one parent in a better light than the other. Did that work? Obviously not.
They say “Hindsight is always 20/20”.
If I knew the damage it did to my children, I wouldn’t have done it. But, my excuse was… I was angry and hurt. And I felt he was being unfair to ME. And he was bad-mouthing me too. So it’s tit for tat.
At the time I couldn’t understand how my children, the children that I loved so much, and loved me back, could also love the very same man I hated to the very core of my soul? I just couldn’t understand why. Couldn’t they see how he was hurting me? They were 9 and 7 years old at the time. Of course they couldn’t understand. All they were experiencing at the time, was being stuck in the middle of their parents’ endless fighting.
I read in plenty of articles, and through the advise of my lawyer, that children of divorces needed to be with one parent majority of the time, to provide them stability in their lives. So I hung on to that and I fought.
Sadly, I fought, not just for the best interests of our children, but I fought because I hated him. I used my hatred to justify why they needed to be with me more, instead of with him.
The Family Court finally ruled. I had them 9 days out of a fortnight, and he had them for the other 5 days. It devastated me for about 10 minutes. Then the feeling of relief came over me. The battle is over. It was bittersweet. But no more court dates. No more court fees. No more lawyers.
Last year, I got a soul-crushing email from my ex. He told me the kids, now 17 and 15, wanted to be with him 50/50 of the time. My current relationship with my ex still isn’t the greatest. So hearing that from him was hard. I spoke to the kids about it, and they explained it to me in a very different way to his email, which made me see it through THEIR eyes, and not his.
Did it mean they loved me less? No. It actually means they don’t love him less.
So back to my friend. After I read the affidavits that she emailed to me, I sent her a text to catch up. I needed to speak to her before her next court date. Pronto. I said to her, “…if we are gonna be friends, be prepared that not everything I say to you will be what you want to hear…” Her reply was, “And that’s what I need…”
I turned up at her house one morning, we sat out in her backyard and I told her, “You can’t stop (your son) from seeing his dad. It’s not fair on (your son). YOU may hate your ex, but your son doesn’t. They both have every right to see each other. I wish I had someone tell me this when I was going through the Family Court. I wish someone told me to put my anger aside and think about what’s best for my kids, not what’s best for me.” I’m not sure if I would’ve listened if someone DID say those things to me at the time, but at least I would’ve been made aware of my actions.
I told her I learnt things the hard way. I learnt that my kids, whatever their parent’s shortcomings were, that they still loved us both. Just like they would even if we were still married to each other. That’s what love is meant to be. Children, especially when they’re so little, do not understand adult problems. They only know what they can see. They see their parents hurt and sad, and all they want is to make them feel better. Children have an amazing strong sense of loyalty. They give the same level of loyalty to both parents, whether they’re together or apart.
Children will learn over the years, with positive support, that their parents aren’t superhuman beings. We fail at times. We make mistakes. We say and do the wrong things. But as long as they feel love from both parents, they’re halfway there. They’ll learn to be resilient. They’ll learn to make decisions on their own because they know their parents can’t sit down together and have a proper conversation. They’ll learn to be stronger, and more independent people. They’ll learn to trust in their own decision making processes.
Of course, everyone’s story is unique. Each story comes with its own issues. Substance abuse, domestic violence, cheating, child abuse etc. So what I’ve shared with you is through my eyes and my own experiences.
My friend has since been to court, and the court has decided on the amount of time their son gets to see each parent. The amount of time, while not what she would have liked, is in her favour. But, she is still happy with the outcome, and we will be catching up again to have a little celebration. To celebrate the end of a very painful chapter in her life, and hopefully she will start to write new chapters in her book, filled with happiness and new positive memories.
Here’s the link to my other blog: Divorce – The time I nearly lost my sanity, then gained strength I never knew I had.
One day, I’ll write about the ripple effect on my children’s lives after my divorce.
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