Friday, October 16, 2009

The Long View

Yesterday, I got a call from my ex while I was working with a patient in my clinical. When I was done working with my patient, I called her and got her voicemail. We phoned back and forth, missing one another sevearal times, and finally she left a message that told me that due to commitments to school (marching band and debate team), my son was booked all weekend. I.E. he would not be here at all this weekend.

Illinois' child custody practice is right out of the stone ages. Unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances, the mother gets physical custody. What this meant to me was that after spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer (and eventually bankrupting myself in the process), I ended up getting him every other weekend, on my birthday and some holidays, despite the fact that my ex was (and is) a screaming, abusive shrew.

Now that he's in high school, and has a busy schedule (as do I, having gone back to school and having to work full time), I'm missing some of the weekend days too.

A few weeks ago, my son and I were talking. We were talking about his mother-- how she seems to feel she was born with a right to be an ass to everyone around her. He talked about how she yells about everything, no matter how trivial. He told me that he's just started tuning her out.

I told him that she did the same thing to me when I lived with her. It was the reason I left her when he was two. I realized that one, it was not going to do him any good seeing it, and two, he needed another household that was stable-- and peaceful.

I agonized over the decision to leave her. I felt a lot better a few weeks ago when he told me that I'd made the right decision-- that one of the ways he's able to deal with her is knowing that he gets time at my house.

We talked about the future-- specifically, when he turns eighteen in a little over two years. He's already making plans to move out that day and move into my home-- his real home, I suspect he thinks of it as.

My wife and I have been talking up an idea we had-- only half-kiddingly-- of an "Advent Calender" for when he turns eighteen.

One day, about 7 or 8 years ago, I picked him up at my ex's home. He was obviously agitated. We began talking and he told me that he was "never gonna visit Mom when I get older. She makes me mad." I tried to tell him that he would probably feel differently when he was older. He replied that he didn't think he would.

As he's entered teenagehood, he's become remarkably proficient at dealing with her. One of my serious concerns was that he was going to develop an deep-seated anger-- one like I had for years due to my troubled relationship with my father. I had a horrible temper that erupted at the worst times. My son's birth was the major reason I worked hard to get it under control. Happily, he doesn't seem to have gone the route I did. He's still cheerful, friendly and gregarious. I get compliments on his demeanor and maturity all the time.

My father and I made our peace a long time ago now. He's been a great source of advice in this all. He's reminded me, since my son was little and the whole battle royale with my ex started, that I had to keep my eye on the long view. After dealing with this for over a decade, I'm exhausted; the end is so close, yet so far.

So as I sit here tonight missing him, I take solace in knowing that in the Spring of 2012, he'll turn 18, and he'll be free to spend as much time here as he wants. I'll be done with nursing school and he'll have a driver's license and a car (the one I'll give him). And undoubtedly his mother will be sitting there wondering why he's gone.

Hold on, son-- it's coming.


SkylersDad said...

What a beautiful tribute to your son, and to what you have given him JY.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

It's hard being around those kinds of angry all the time people. I know because I grew up around it and stayed in that environment way longer than I should have done. It's good that he's developed ways of dealing with things and that he's got you and your new wife to keep him grounded. My heart goes out to him and to you.

lulu said...

So why is he still living with her? Your original custody agreement is from when he was a baby. I was under the impression that those can be re-worked, particularly when the child in question wants something different and is old enough to have input.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

That was both heartbreaking and encouraging to read. I think you and your wife and your son are all being extremely levelheaded about this and I applaud your patience and your attitude. The karma will come back to you.

Erik Donald France said...

It's hard to keep the long view sometimes (ask misc. Obama supporters), but you've done it. And through quite a labyrinth, it seems. Good luck, man!

Churlita said...

I have the same issue with my ex.My youngest daughter refuses to go to his house anymore. He doesn't have the money to fight that in court.

My big worry is that my girls will date guys like their dad.

Anonymous said...

Johnny, you're an inspiration to me. As a man among men, I hope to learn to look at the "long view" like you have. Thanks.

bubbles said...

I've taken a lot of criticism for moving away from my kids' dad, and in some ways it is justified. However, the simplicity of their schedules is a real benefit to us all. Also, Mr. Ex really brought out the worst in me, so I think that my kids have a better mom because he isn't around. The only conflict / yelling that goes on around here is the sibling stuff they create, so hopefully they really are better off. I never envy my friends and relatives that have to deal with their Ex's on a weekly basis. Good luck getting through these last couple of years.

Distributorcap said...

despite not spending as much time with him as you would like to - you obviously have raised a terrific kid.

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