What follows is the second instalment of a story a father shared with in a previous blog.
He shares the care of his children who are now split between two households, his ex having moved hundreds of miles away with her boyfriend, having simply abducted them from school one day.
He still has primary care for the two youngest after an acrimonious legal struggle to return them to the former family home. Out of principle, he continues to co-parent, but every time the kids go to his former partner’s house, the drama deepens. The alienation process has a hold and, like a constrictor, is tightening its grip……….
I wrote last time about how scared I was. My fears in a way were all well founded…
When they are away I am meant to have a Skype call every Wednesday at 6.30pm. This did not happen. I tried to call, there was no answer. I could have tried my 14 year old on FaceTime but she never answers when I do.
I just left it.
I went to pick them up on the Sunday. It is a long drive and not fun. The way that the court order is and the intimidation that takes place I don’t get a hug or a kiss – not that my 14 year old does that anyway.
My youngest now said the obligatory “I didn’t miss you.”
My 14 year old was clearly distressed when she got in the car. Within 5 minutes it all came pouring out. I had a three hour drive. My 6 year old fell asleep almost straight away after which my 14 year old started talking and basically never stopped. I find it very difficult the different emotions. I drive there every time with this fear that she will not return them to me. She has done that so many times before. She hasn’t since the judge threatened her with arrest when she did it in the summer of 2016 but its still a fear. Then I get the children back and for want of a better phrase they are disturbed.
She started talking about how her big sister had new friends and they were all really nice. She said that her big sister had two sleepovers whilst they were there. She wasn’t allowed to join in. There is less than 18 months between them and only one school year. She said she barely saw her sister (it had emerged later that her sister went to the cinema with friends and she was excluded; my mum took her and two friends instead). The only contact I had whilst they were away was a text asking to have friends for a sleepover. My mum sorted this out for her.
She had gone to an RAF dinner with her aunt and uncle the Saturday before and so I tried to talk about that. I was trying to be positive.
For some reason like a mug I always encourage the children to go their mum’s. I understand that many reading this are unfairly cut out of their children’s lives as I am with my eldest. That’s part of why I try to keep the contact going. Its not even for their mum. Its for all 3 children. It may sound like an excuse. But who am I to decide they shouldn’t see the other parent?
I also know the pain of not seeing my eldest and I know it’s the fault of my ex and her partner (I have made mistakes but that was her plan from the start) but I can’t in good conscience put another human being through that.
Having said all that after the latest visit I seriously considered not sending them back. I have actually reached the point where I think the ramifications of them not going are worse than them going. The one thing that has stopped me is that like it or not I am in a strong position I have something to lose. I open myself up to court or stop sending them I could end up worse off. I always win in court, if there is such a thing as winning in these situations, but I’m painfully aware its an expensive roll of the dice. I have been fully committed to co parenting but I’m afraid I get counter parented.
This time it appears that her sister has gone from a shy retiring bright child with no friends to a girl wearing short skirts and knee high boots. My 14 year old has always stayed away from that. I think it shocked her when her mum was like that. For the same reason she has stayed away from alcohol. She has seen the impact of her mum being very drunk. I don’t really like alcohol but for that reason I never drink in front of her. I let my family show how you can drink sensibly but I don’t drink to show her that its also okay not drink if you don’t want to.
As I drove home the stories gradually got worse. She started by saying the walls are really thin at mum’s. I can hear them every night. She then quickly went on to say everybody treats me like I’m stupid at mum’s. They think because I don’t talk much I can’t hear but I can hear everything. She said her mum and her step dad spend their time plotting and talking about her and her little sister. So I asked what she meant. So she said that I was never going to get that call on Wednesday as they planned it so I didn’t. They discussed the best way to stop it happening. They decided upon a film that would be half way through when I called. She said they did not bother to even open their laptop. At the end they pretended to remember that the call should have happened and said it was too late now.
I think the worst part for me was the end though. She suddenly blurted out mum said you quit your job so that you wouldn’t have to pay her any money. I was so shocked that I just laughed. It was out of the blue. I had lost my job because my ex kept on making me late for work by not turning up when she should. The she would call me on my desk phone, my work mobile and my personal mobile. I managed to get it stopped in court but by then it was too late for my job. Me quitting my job at that point made no sense. I was in the process of buying her out of the family home and this through all that into doubt. I explained all this to my 14 year old. I also explained I had another job 3 days later anyway – I contracted for 2 years after losing my job. It worked out okay but it did fit the unstable nature of my life at the time.
She explained that her mum had talked to her before she left that morning. This when she said that. She said her mum had wanted to come and live with her again. She just sat there feeling uncomfortable. Its not written in my court order but she has in the past been told to stop doing this by a judge and has promised not to do so. As many of you know court orders let alone promises mean very little in these situations. Her mum proceeded to tell her how to make sure she could come and live with me and there would be nothing that I could do about it. All she needed to do was to tell her teachers and she should do anyway because her little sister would soon want to live with just her mum because of her half sister.
So now I feel like a mug AND angry.
I try to play by the rules. I try to put the children first at every turn. She has used the children at every turn to hurt me. She has put her wants and needs first at every turn.
Then she tells a 14 year old girl how to make sure she does not see her dad again. In the end I just said she is right you can just say that but the same applies the other way round. I said I was very sorry that she had been put in that situation and I hoped that when she was an adult that she would know that despite the fact that I get things wrong a lot of the time and she has to experience things like this that when she is an adult she will understand that I have tried my best with both of them. When I write it down it all sounds so pathetic but I just don’t know what to do against that. I can’t protect them and I feel so useless.
Mu 6 year old said she didn’t miss me but has spent every moment she has hugging me and following me around. When we are home I can’t get away from her for more than 5 minutes. I can’t get her to sleep until late at night. She won’t sleep without me there to hug her.
On Monday night she thought that her grandma was going to have her friends over for tea. I had to explain that she was going to her mum’s this weekend. Tuesday morning and she had a tantrum and fought me for an hour. I was trying to dress her and she was hitting me, kicking me and punching me in the face. She kept taking her shoes off and throwing them at me. She refused breakfast.
My 14 year old has not gone. I didn’t try to push her. She said it was because it was the last home game of the season fir our football team but really she goes because of me. She is not that keen. But I think it’s a good thing I think she needed a break from her mum. That makes me really sad to say but I hope that those of you who do not see your children can understand why I think it’s the best thing. She will go back for half term in May.
Lastly I was told via my 14 year old that I had to do 2 pick ups in a row because my ex did drop offs in a row. I tried to confirm this by email I have got no response. I therefore have had to arrange for backup at home in case my 6 year old gets dropped off there instead of me picking up.
This is how alienation happens. It isn’t usually one big thing.
It is the result of a morally ambiguous person tightening their grip, day by day, week by week, interaction by interaction.
And the worst part is, there is no easy antidote.
Whatever I do next, the children suffer.
And she knows that…..