Category Archives: parenting

Update

It’s been a long spring and summer so far and I haven’t kept up on this…

Sam Sr. passed away this spring. Sam sent an e-mail telling me to tell Max that his grandfather died. Nothing else: nothing about if it was peacefully in his sleep, if he’d been ill, when the services were; he didn’t include a “Tell Max I love him” or words of sympathy for our son.

I felt it was important for Max to go to his Grandfather’s funeral, but I also didn’t want to run the risk of taking the focus off of Sam Sr. by attending myself. I was worried that if I went, Sam and Francine might start in on why Max hadn’t seen their family in years. I also didn’t want to have to defend myself and the court’s decision to pull Sam’s visitation rights or explain that just because Sam couldn’t see Max, it didn’t mean Sam Sr. couldn’t. My sister and I talked about the situation and possible complications, and she and her husband agreed to take Max to the funeral.

Max got new slacks, and he got to pick out a new dress shirt and a new tie along with a tie bar. We researched tie knots and how to tie them so we’d get it right. It was the first time he’s pulled together a more formal outfit on his own and he was nervous about making sure he looked nice enough to make Grandpa Sam proud. He did. He would have no matter what, but he did a good job.

The day of the funeral, my sister and her husband arrived and accompanied Max to the funeral and they walked back afterwards so they could talk about anything Max wanted to talk about. Max kept talking about his Grandpa Sam and the funeral when they got back to our apartment. Max found new connections with his Grandpa: “He was a trickster, just like me, Mom.” “You know that one song I like, about the ring of fire? Well, that singer, Johnny Cash, was Grandpa Sam’s favorite.” He also found out new things about his Dad. “He has a new girlfriend. She was more upset about Grandpa being dead that Dad was, or at least, she looked sadder. She cried more.” “She looks like Grandma S,” (my mom). “He looks different and I must look different, Mom.” And then he stopped talking.

I spoke with my sister about a week later while Max was at a friend’s house. It turns out she had to introduce Max to Sam three times before Sam realized Max was his son. That broke my heart more than a lot of the other things Sam has done. I know he hadn’t seen Max in years; I know that Sam’s addictions have probably hurt his memory retention, but I can’t even imagine how much this hurt Max. Three years. Max hasn’t changed THAT much. He generally looks the same at 10 as he did at 7, a little taller, his hair is longer, but he’s still Max. The same coloring, same facial structure, same eyes, same walk. Max.

I guess to be fair, I should also mention that Sam then introduced Max to his aunt, uncle and cousin as if they’d never met before (even though they have and each of them recognized Max right away). He also repeatedly made the mistake of telling Max that his cousin was his Aunt. I don’t know if Sam’s cognitive abilities have declined that much, or if he was on something to get through the funeral, but I’m finding it really hard to forgive Sam for hurting our son this way. I know it’s not rational, my anger and hurt on Max’s behalf, but it’s there.

I think one of the other hard things for me about losing Sam Sr. has been letting go of the guilt over Max not seeing him. When Sam lost visitation rights because of his relapse and events with Ingrid, both Sam Sr. and Francine stopped seeing Max also. I felt like in trying to protect Max from Sam’s addictions and abusive behavior, that I had also robbed Sam Sr. of time with Max, and Max time with his grandfather. I did try: invitations were sent to Sam Sr. for birthdays, Grandparent’s Day’s at Max’s school. Offers that we could arrange time for him to do stuff with Max were extended. Only one offer was accepted: a Grandparent’s Day tea right after Sam lost visitation. I recognize that it wasn’t my choice to keep Max away from Sam Sr., but it’s still easy, sometimes, to forget and let the guilt sneak back in.

Max still doesn’t want to talk about his father, but he will talk about his grandpa. I hope he knows he can talk to me about anything.

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It’s late…

and I can’t sleep.  That’s not really anything new.  I’m sitting here listening to the wind rattle my home, shaking it… Up to 50 mph tonight. Windy nights are my favorite.  If it was just me, I’d be walking in it, along paths through the woods, just to feel it rush along, to hear it push through the trees… But it’s not just me and Max is sick. Just a cold, but he’s mumbling and tossing in his sleep. So I sit here, not asleep, and just listen.

I find it amazing that being this long away from Sam I still wait. When will the other shoe drop? What will he do next that will have ramifications for Max and I? Is that why I’m up tonight? Habit? It winter, cold and dark this far north. This time of year life with Sam became more unpredictable. I remember lying awake at night listening for him walking back and forth to the fridge for another beer or glass of vodka, or listening for him to stumble back to the bedroom late, late at night. I remember that if i did doze off, waking up in a panic because I heard him stumbling his way back to the bedroom. Would he be coming back to pass out? Or to pick a fight over something I’d done, or not done, during the day, the week, the year? Did I put away his clean clothes or had I forgotten them in the dryer? Was I about to be harassed for ‘being frigid’ or for the affairs he imagined I was having? If I pretended to be asleep, would he decide the discussion could wait or would it make him madder?

It’s taking a lot of conscious thought to remember that I’m not back in that apartment, in that room tonight.

We, Max and I, haven’t heard from Sam since the end of July when he called Max. Max hasn’t seen Sam since the middle of April when he (Max) called me crying and in a panic saying he didnt feel good, please come get him, NOW, get him now. It’s not fair to Max that that’s the memory he has of his most recent visit with his father….

I filed a motion with the court in June. Asking that Sam’s visits be changed to a supervised dinner every other week, because of the last visit and because he was back to his pattern of no-showing for his visits with Max. After I filed, Ingrid kicked him out, again, and secured a protective order against Sam. Sam didn’t show for that hearing, or for the hearing on the custody modification. The court approved my proposed change and further ordered that Sam not see Max at all until he talks to the court to explain what steps he’s taken to address his addiction and compliance with the order to attend counseling for his abusive behaviors.

I don’t think we’ll hear from him. Not for a long time. And I think that when we do, it won’t be in compliance with the court’s orders. Because I don’t see him ever admitting his behavior towards me was wrong or agreeing to counseling, and he’d have to do that before filing anything with the court.

In October, the state sent a notice to Sam requesting the status of health care coverage for Max through his work. At the beginning of November, I received confirmation from Sam’s employer that Max is covered. At the end of November I received notice that Max is no longer covered. So Sam’s annual job shuffle has begun. One year, it was 3 jobs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (The year I filed for divorce, it was 8 jobs in… 7 (?) months. And according to Ingrid at our divorce hearing, that was my fault.)

I have no idea where Sam is living. I’m not sure I care. I hope we’re too far from town for Sam to bother driving out to our home. I hope that it’s been too long since he knew he could take out his…. disappointments, anger, frustrations, on me, that he forgets that he can try to do so.

Have we been gone long enough to be safe? I want to believe so. I really do. I’m waiting to see if it’s true.

R* and Attachment Parenting

It’s scary sometimes where searches for information on current political events can lead a person. I certainly didn’t expect to find the following link to two topics I never expected to see together in the same post. hisveganmama didn’t even go into the level of detail that other bloggers went into in response to Mr. Akin’s ignorant (to put it politely) statement back in August 2012, but it certainly triggered a strong response in me. I wasn’t looking for information on his statement, and I’m not certain I can re-create the path that got me from the 2012 presidential campaign to hisveganmama‘s post…

Here’s where I ended my search earlier in my lunch hour:

R* and Attachment Parenting

It caught my eye, because, well, because of what I went through with Sam and because I am strongly drawn to the parenting philosophy of attachment parenting. I don’t know why I was so surprised to see the two topics together, because my belief in attachment parenting and desire to raise Max under that philosophy was one of many topics that would result in an hours-long diatribe about my intelligence, suitability as a wife and/or mother, or other unacceptable behavior by Sam towards me.

Her description of what she struggled with as being a rape survivor and a mama is shedding light on issues that I have struggled with, but which I wasn’t even aware enough of to have attributed to being a survivor.

It seems my list of stuff I need to work through keeps growing, but I’m not really sure that I’ve truly addressed any of them, much less healed. I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away, either.

Alcohol Abuse – Alcoholism – Parenting.com

Sam’s alcoholism is such a huge part of…. the problem, the relationship, him (?)…. that I have a hard time separating it from the abuse that he subjected me, and Max, to. Support group friends that I talk to about this – regardless of which support group it is, Alanon or the group for DV survivors – usually respond with “Does it matter if his abusive behavior was because of his drinking or if it’s just the way he is?” They tend to lean towards the it-doesn’t-matter side.

I’m torn. Part of me believes that it doesn’t matter. He was abusive. That’s all that matters and all I need to know. I don’t know why, but there is another part of me that really wants to know: would he have started treating his family the way he did if he didn’t drink? Are they two completely separate issues or two closely entwined issues or part of the same one? I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel I need to understand.

I came across this article today. I’m still amazed how reading accounts like those in the article can bring me right back to those dark little apartments, hiding in the back room, trying to keep Max safe. I have to remind myself as I read: we’re gone from that last apartment; we live in a cozy little home of our own; we are safe from Sam.

Alcohol Abuse – Alcoholism – Parenting.com.

2009 Summit on the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (Photo credit: heraldpost)

I found the following interesting (I started searching after reading Claudine Dombrowski’s blog), mainly because I have felt so… alone, I guess, when trying to get safe visitation arrangements set up for Max and his father.  It didn’t seem like the court really understood what a risk Sam is.  The judge told Sam “This court is afraid you’ll teach your son to treat women like you did,” and then proceeded to laud him for voluntarily giving up legal custody, because “you get you’re not that kind of father.”

The following is from Eric Holder’s address to the National Summit on the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment in June 2009.

I hope you will especially discuss the most difficult issues I know many of you confront in your work:

  • Why are mothers who are the victims of domestic violence losing custody of their children to the courts and to the child protection system?
  • Why are children of color over-represented in the child protection system?
  • Do children need a relationship with their fathers even when their fathers have been abusive to them and their mothers in the past? If so, what does that relationship look like?

I ask that you explore all of these things while always remembering that the needs of children who are exposed to violence are inextricably linked to the needs of mothers who are the victims of domestic violence.

It kind of takes a little pressure off knowing that some one from the Justice system sees the damage that domestic violence does.  At the same time, I’m so sad, because this address was given in 2009, the only strides in change that I’ve seen are TV campaigns against DV…

It’s been a while…

It’s been a long while, over a month.  I’d like to say that I haven’t written because everything has been smooth sailing.  But it hasn’t.  It hasn’t been horrendous, but it hasn’t been exactly easy.

I’ve struggled through the self-defense class that I wrote about in my last post and it was incredibly rewarding.  However, I didn’t participate in the final scenarios as a student.  I couldn’t.  I knew I won’t be able to without freaking out.  I told one of the instructors a very general “I just got out of a very bad relationship, and I do not know how long I’ll be able to stay in class today.”  And he let me volunteer to hold a camera to video the scenarios for the other students so they could see where they did very well; he hoped I’d be able to see that I could handle it and should participate.  That was almost too much.  Because of the structure of the class, students are welcome to repeat the class as often as they like.  I will be doing the class again.

There have been incidents with Sam and Ingrid.  I hesitate to even post most of them here, because they should feel trivial.  Would they BE trivial if they didn’t involve an abusive alcoholic and his enabler?  I don’t know.  Would they be trivial if I were in better control of managing triggers that slide me right back to feeling stuck in the dark, threatening life that Sam kept us in?  I don’t know.  Would they be trivial if it wasn’t a constant barrage?  Most likely.  But they are – or I should say “were” now, more on that later – constant.  Never ending accusations of being a manipulative, b-tchy ex-wife who is taking all of Sam’s money.  Accusations of lying in court, of only wanting Sam back because he is such a good man and father…  I can laugh at them now, but at the time they were flying, not so much.  And the court wouldn’t do anything about it because the cr-p was coming from Ingrid, not Sam, and therefore not a continuation of his verbal assaults.

How does one explain to the court that the words may be coming out of the girlfriend’s mouth, but she was wound up and the words given to her by Sam?  You don’t.  It wouldn’t do any good.  This is the person who was supposed to be the unbiased 3rd party making sure Max is safe while with his father.  This is the ‘unbiased’ 3rd party who was supposed to report to the court if he was drinking or using, or being angry – not just in front of Max, but at all.  Maybe I misunderstood, though, I don’t know.  I don’t see how the court could honestly expect that of her when she has / had a very vested interest in Sam NOT being an alcoholic or abusive rapist or abusive father.  (After all, what would that say about the self-styled “overprotective mama” who let him move in with her the month they met?)

Any way, I think I handled my responses back to Ingrid well, without devolving into the childish name calling that she resorted to.  But am I really a good judge of that? Hmmm…

The night of Saturday, October 29, 2011, Ingrid and Sam both showed up to pick up Max.  (I can’t even remember the last time Sam got off his bottom to help pick up his son.)  I head out to spend the evening with a friend and his son; try to call Max to say good night.  No answer, but at least the phone was on – which wasn’t the case the previous weekend.  Max called back about an hour later and all is cool.

Except that it wasn’t.  Ingrid called my phone twice, left no messages, at least none that came through that night.  Then she called using Max’s phone.  She had left her home and was at a friend’s house because Sam “was in a mood.”  She took Max with her, thank god.  After hanging up the phone, I was shaking, because I know what Sam’s “moods” are like.  My friend was able to calm my panic enough so I could make the long drive back into town; I called my sister and I picked her up before we went to pick up Max.

To Ingrid’s credit, Max did not know why he was at Ingrid’s friend’s house and was asleep by the time we got there.  She kept him shielded from Sam.

On Halloween, after trick-or-treating, I get an e-mail from Sam saying he left Ingrid because of how she treated me (*riiiiiiiigght*).  In the following days, I get e-mails from Ingrid (to me, Francine and Sam Sr.) saying she kicked Sam out.  Had the final melt-down not started when Max was there, it would have been funny.  Ingrid’s e-mails pointed out that Sam is a liar, that she’s never known any one who can lie like Sam can.  That the reason she kicked him out had nothing to do with me, which is what she’s certain Sam is telling every one.  She laid it all out like it was a news flash.  Breaking news: Sam’s a liar! Don’t believe anything he says! Don’t be swayed!  (*insert warning beep noises here*)

Oh_my_goodness. Say it ain’t so! Never! Sam lie? Pfffft!  (I’m being completely facetious here.  Maybe hard to hear through text, so I thought I’d just be clear.)

She ended the e-mail saying he’s a lost cause – she can’t help him.  Next e-mail was asking us to never mention her to Sam again, because she has enough fear in her life.

Which was weird.  I think.  Just saying.  Because if I was fortunate enough to NEVER have to deal with Sam again, I’d have no fear in my life.  Worries, yes.  Fear, no.  But whatever.

Short side of that long story is: Ingrid is gone – out of the picture – no longer spewing Sam’s hateful diatribes at me.

Sometimes I am so happy about that fact that I feel like dancing.  And other times, I’m crushed, because it means we’ll back to Sam no-showing and failures to comply with the schedules and Max will be crushed.

By the way, I think it’s just sick that I’m sad that Ingrid will no longer be around to make sure Sam sees his son and by extension, will no longer be around to manage / deflect some of Sam’s abuse.

Where are my rosy glasses?

My psychiatrist told me that the more I let my sister and brother-in-law handle the pick ups for Max’s visits with his father, the worse my fear of Sam and general anxiety will get.  Oookaaaay. It kind of makes sense.

So now, I’ve made it a point to go to each one. And yes, the anxiety is kind of abating, (the fear of Sam, not so much) but the little doubt I’ve been trying to get rid of (the one that tells me the abuse wasn’t that bad, he was my husband, maybe I’m crazy…. and other miscellaneous crock of poo) is getting louder and more insistent. So are those my options? Being terrified or thinking I’m crazy? I’ve gotta tell ya, if this is my path to recovery, I’m kind of wishing for a big dose denial and rosy glasses.

And I Fall

20110709-120933.jpg

Do you remember the saying/game from childhood Ring Around the Rosies?

Ring around the rosies, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down

This week, I feel like I’m constantly falling down. Like I’m stuck skipping in circles and falling down over and over. I’m trying so hard to get to where I feel like I can handle work, parenting, finances…. And turn around to another set back. Instead of being circles, it’s a spin with a step forward, one or two to the side and several backwards.

I don’t expect the world to stop while I try to process and deal with the rapes, the abuse and alcoholism that came with the ‘relationship’ with Sam, but d-mn, I’d like to be able to take a breath or 2. not feel like I need to look over my shoulder for Sam.

Sometime? Soon? I don’t think I can keep up with everything at it’s current pace without falling further down than I already am.

It’s not a good sign that I wish I’d never realized that my relationship with Sam was not “normal.” That I wish I could pull the wool back over my eyes.

I think it’s weird to wish that I could just become catatonic. (Does one ‘become’ catatonic? I don’t know.) To not feel anything. Just sit there, stare at nothing, in my own little world… To fall down the well of conciousness, lost to reality?

Sometimes, I just want to fall.

Introducing the new enabler….

20110704-111855.jpgI am seriously sick of dealing with Sam and his girlfriend, ah, let’s call her Ingrid.

I’m sick of what I think is going on and my lawyer saying there’s no proof. The last few pick up times I’m greeted with a crying little boy who is shying away from his father’s touch. Of hearing from friend’s that Max says he can’t go to birthday parties because it takes away from his Daddy’s time. (The parties his friends were talking about being on my time, actually.)

For the past month there has been issues with the stuff Max came home with or failed to come home with – every weekend. Snarky text messages from Ingrid saying Max took her son’s hoodie, when it was Sam who threw it into Max’s chest saying it was his. His sunglasses were lost, or wait here they are, come back and get them, oh, never mind, I’ll leave them in your mail box, please send the clothes back that Max wore home…

At pick up after Max’s visit yesterday, she swore up and down to both Max and I that Max did not bring his emergency cell phone. OK…. I fall for it and as we drive I play the pick up time over and over checking to see if I remembered wrong…. so we drive off, look at home, no dice, not here. So I called her and told her it’s not here and that I’m pretty sure I handed it to Max and she took it from him after taking his coat, and asked her to look again. Oh, it’s in the car. I offered to swing by and pick it up and she said she’d bring it by. Then texted me twice last night to say the same thing in two different ways: She’s out with her friends and will drop off Max’s emergency phone tomorrow while we (my Mom, Max and I) are gone by leaving it in the mailbox.

So, my options are to deal with the abusive Sam who scares the s— out of me or his enabling, manipulative girlfriend, Ingrid. I treat dealing with them as a business appointment, respond to texts only if there is a question directly related to Max…. But I’m not sure how much more of them I can take every weekend.

Why

I find it unerringly….sad… that I still find myself asking again and again one question with several iterations: Why?

And that I cannot think of an answer for a single one yet.

Why did he treat me like a piece of luggage?

Why did I stay?

Why does he continue to refuse to pay child support for our son when he insists he is such a great dad?

Why does he think it is OK to coerce and force sex?

Why does he think it was OK to do that with our son in the same room – the same bed when he was a baby?

Why didn’t I scream loud and long to get him to stop regardless of whether it would wake the baby up or not?

Why didn’t I call the police?

Why does his family think the way he treats me is OK?

Why do I care what his family thinks?

Why did I think this was normal behavior of a husband towards his wife?

Why did I become accustomed to verbal, mental, emotional and sexual abuse?

Why did I think that was love?

Why? Why? Why?