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.