Sunday, November 11, 2007

Going to be looking for answers...

Remember back when I was being all blog-lazy and taking, like, 3+ weeks to post and just ended up depressing myself with all my worry over the impending visit from IFKAMH? Yeah, well, that visit came as anticipated, and went surprisingly well. It was indeed awkward, but only for the adults. I'm certain we looked like a fully-functional family wandering the town those couple days.

I was able to meet with him and his mom without the boys the night they arrived. I walked out of the hotel feeling okay about the visit. While he still seemed to have a fantasy in his head of how the boys will someday feel like he is more their dad than NS, he acknowledged that he was nothing more than a tag-along visitor right now.

We (me, the boys, IFKAMH, his mom, my mom, my mom's husband...he's lucky I didn't try to drag in some other people since they offered, but like I said, the horrid dread had dissipated) went to breakfast and then to a local festival for a couple hours. The boys had a fabulous time getting pumpkins painted on their hand and arm and making hats and having mommy taking pictures of them the whole way until her battery died. We left with the mission to go shopping at the mall. On the way, NS sent me the text that told me he had gotten home. He met us at the mall. Oh my God! M and J became insanely happy and playful for him;> The shopping trip was followed with a disgusting dinner at one our favorite restaurants (flies, anyone?), and then we all went to our respective abodes.

The visit ended with a breakfast at the hotel; my mom was the only supplemental adult in attendance this time since NS had to work. It went fine until IFKAMH's mom decided she wanted to do a photo shoot. M was not too happy to have to take pictures on these other people's laps. It was just too early for him to be that unreserved.

So, all in all, we all agreed that with the exception of IFKAMH's mom trying to push M and J into contact with IFKAMH (she was encouraging hugs and kisses, which is just weird considering he is nothing more than an unknown guy in their eyes), the visit went much better than we'd all thought it would. No one completely overstepped their place, and no one screamed at or beat anyone else...what more could we have hoped for, right?

Well, I got a call from IFKAMH last Friday, the Friday before NS left for deployment. It started out alright enough, with him seemingly just wanting to see if the boys enjoyed Halloween. Then, the topic of his coming for another visit this month was brought up, and it was down a very steep hill from there.

He brought it up like this, "I hope I get to visit this month." My response, "When?" He wasn't actually bringing it up because he'd been making plans; he's just hoping he makes it back for another visit this month. That's when he said he thought he needed to come every month based on what I'd said about visits from him needing to be consistent. Oh, he means those conversations we had over 7 months ago. I simply said that while it would be good if he would be consistent, I don't think his visits are really that important. This is when the, "But, I'm their dad," argument began. I got so worked up during the phone calls (yes, plural, because I had to end a couple of them before I eventually had to put an end to the calls altogether) that evening, so I can't even remember everything he said that upset me. I do remember the first one that got him disconnected. It was shortly following my explanation that he is not their "dad" and that even a monthly weekend visit will not change that when there is someone in their lives that actually fulfills that role on a daily basis. He asked me what was wrong with me and if NS had brainwashed me. Yep, asked if I was brainwashed.

I chose to answer when he called back after that, advising that he should refrain from saying such idiotic things (I didn't use the adjective during the conversation, but we all know I certainly think it was an idiotic question). More heated arguments ensued, and I came to the conclusion that he is delusional; this is actually not a new conclusion for me, but I'd let up a little bit. He is delusional because he somehow recollects some moment (or maybe even moments?) where the boys knew who he was because they ran up to him with hugs and kisses. My breath escaped me for a second and rendered me speechless for another before I could ask if he was referring to the same visit for which I was present. Because, I think he is the only one that doesn't remember that they boys were obliging his mother's request for hugs and kisses on his behalf, and that there was even persistent and obvious resistance on Sunday, at least from M. That comment only demonstrates how little he knows of these boys. They are friendly and not likely to refuse requests from an adult, especially one whom is seemingly approved of by mommy and grandma.

When I finally listened to a voicemail he left me that night in between hang-ups and before I answered simply to tell him I would not continue speaking with him that night, I was left with a sinking feeling about the whole situation. I had optimistically, perhaps too much so, thought he'd accepted his place in their lives; his mom even made the comment that he'd complimented NS the night after they'd met. Apparently, it is an act. The message he left was something along the lines of I'd better not think I can just up and move away with them anywhere I want. And, it wasn't just the words that bothered me (because he's really got no legs to stand on with my upcoming move...a plane trip to VA or a plane trip to WA; there's nothing about our move that would prove to be an obstacle for his continuing to visit); it was really the threatening and controlling way he said it.

While my original thoughts on his involvement have evolved since I originally starting writing about them here, I really think I need to make some legal changes for my own peace of mind. I don't want our custody to be joint, even on paper; I don't want him to have rights as a parent that he cannot properly exercise. The thought of something happening to me and the boys then ending up in his care, taken away from NS, away my mom, away from the life they know and love, because he is technically their father...well, it scares me more than anything else, especially as I see that he has no concept of what it's like to be the one person responsible for any child every single day. I need to know how to make sure that doesn't happen. I could care less anymore if he wants to hang out and tag along for a weekend every month, but I am sickened by his visions of how these visits will eventually wear away the boys' bond with NS and how these visits somehow entitle him to some decision-making power in their lives because he's "involved". The person I spoke to on the phone that night did not seem to be the person that came to visit that weekend. I spoke with his mom on Thursday, and with her assertion that she kept him on a short leash and in line while he was here and told him she would kill him if he didn't do as she said, while meant to calm and comfort me, did very little of either.


Nikki said...

You know I support you, but I have to say I'm confused (please don't be mad at me for being honest)

1. You were complaining abuot having the visit because you were afraid that he would not be consistent enough with them and that once the boys knew who he was it would matter to them.

2. The visit, at which time he rarely had time with the boys without 10 people around (I guess I always see supervised visits as the primary caregiver or one VERY trusted friend/family member accompanying the children to visit with other parent, not 5 or 6 others). He will never be able to build a relationship if there are 10 people around to distract from that building of relationship. I don't know if that was only your intention for the first visit, or all of them.

3. He expresses in his own words, without your prompting (since talking about it several months ago), that he feels his visits should be consistent and proposes that once a month would be reasonable.

4. You tell him that it's pointless and he'll never mean anything to the boys (even though that's not true if he's visiting them consistently).

5. You wonder why the conversation then went downhill?

I'm sorry, but it sounds to me that no matter what he does today on, even if he behaves like an ideal parent and does everything as he should, that you will never be able to let go of what he did X years ago to allow that to happen.

I understand that feeling, I really do. I also understand the feeling of wanting to be married to the new Dad and just pretend that that's their family and there never was a before. But unfortunately, that's not the complete and whole truth and your children will know that someday. Just as that doesn't work so well for adoptive parents who try to "pretend" that their family is only their family - that comes back to bite them in the butts later.

I know these are agonizing decisions, but it just seems so confusing - you say you want one thing (for him to be consistent) and then when he starts to go down that road, you say no.

Have you thought about maybe talking to a therapist, just you about your feelings about the past and how to best deal with them without having them impact others' futures in a negative way (namely the stupid ex and your children?).

I know I struggle with that every day and my therapist is a godsend. He asks the questions I don't want to answer and makes me answer them. He affirms me when I'm making good decisions and opens my eyes very often when my baggage is making me make bad decisions. (And lord knows I have a plane full).

Just my 2 cents. I hope I didn't overstep my boundaries. You want whats best for your kids and I"m confident that you'll do that.

Susan said...

I don't really know what to say but I do hope everything works out.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

nikki - Thank you for your comment; you're not overstepping at all. Your comments on this topic as well as others' helped me to think about my original position of eliminating him from their lives altogether.

I'm sorry it's confusing, but I'll try to clarify. If he plans to come once a month (which is what he thought I said was needed, not that he thought it was what he thought was best...I just told him that I never told him he had to come every month, that was just one of the many suggestions for "consistent" that I offered at the time we were speaking on the topic and that I don't believe it is necessary and don't see how that will achieve the relationship he thinks can happen; in short, without his moving with his daughter, because she doesn't need to be abandoned, either, to within driving distance of the boys, his involvement will always be limited to that of a family visitor), then that is fine. It may or may not involve spending time with my mother and/or her husband. This is the least disruptive to the boys' lives right now. They are used to spending time each weekend with my mom, either with me or without me; the only exception has been if we have been out of town or if she has been sick. Since we're moving thousands of miles away next year, I am not about to take any time she and they have together away whether or not other people are visiting. He may have felt ganged up on, but it is purely from his guilty conscience because no one treated him as anything less than a family member; he did acknowledge this to some degree or another a few weeks ago after the visit was over. His mom also wants to see the boys, and whether or not her visits with them will always coincide with his are up to them. So, while there were a lot of other people present this time, I don't see that as always being the case; once we move to Washington, unless he mom comes with him, he will deal with only me and NS during visits.

I don't think he will never mean anything to the boys if he visits, but, from my own personal experience with multiple father figures, the one they will think of as their dad is the one that is there everyday, not once a month for a weekend. During the phone conversations that night, he did not seem to accept that NS is and will always be a dad to the boys. In order for our family (the one with NS, me, and the boys) to continue to be successful, IFKAMH cannot try to undermine the bond the boys formed with NS.

I don't really have a doubt as to why the conversation went downhill. I do not care to discuss IFKAMH's hopes for visits; I only want to hear about visits when he has actual plans to make them. We've been down a different road of "hope to visit" before. Then it was "soon", which took months and years; now it is "this month", which considering he complains about the amount of child support he has to pay, could very well turn out to be too much financial strain for him to make it happen. While he may be able to fly for free, he still has to have a place to stay and a means of transportation for the weekend he visits. Without being extravagent, that easily translates to a couple hundred dollars every month.

Finally, I no longer wish to prevent him from visiting...ever. I don't feel like we need to pretend that our little family unit is the only one that exists. He can visit whenever he decides to make plans to do so. I just no longer feel I should have to worry that he can challenge my parenting decisions when I'm the only one of the two of us who has proven capable of making them so that the boys are healthy, happy, and thriving; I have no problem sharing information with him if he wants to know something or if I think about it, and I certainly accept all kinds of opinions on child-rearing, but ultimately, it comes down to my decision. If something were to have happened to my mother before my stepdad had adopted me (3-ish years after he and my mom married), and I had been forced to live with a man that had not been acting as my father, it would been more devastation on top of crushing devastation for me. I want to ensure that is never a situation I'll have to worry about.

Eunice said...

Oh man. I can imagine what you are going through because you are living my worst nightmare. I hope that you are able to work things out legally so that the boys get what's best for them (we all know that the sperm donor is NOT it).

Jonathan said...

Whatever happens, remember some of us are here with open ears to listen to your thoughts - publicly or otherwise.

If you're anything like me, you figure an awful lot out for yourself while writing about it.

fringes said...

You are doing the right thing. I had a detailed comment telling you why, but Blogger ate it. Trust your instincts.

Sarah said...

Just please keep this in mind as you make decisions for the future of your sons. M and J may very well want to get to know their biological father one day. I am sure that they will love NS as a father, but in the end, it seems more times than not, that once children become adults they want to explore and define life on their terms...i.e....they will want to get to know their biological father on their own devoid the emotional baggage that you have. And if IFKAMH tells them that once he realized his mistake and came around, you refused his visits and kept him from getting to know them...that may not sit right with them.

If IFKAMH is abusive or an addict and a threat your sons...I would take away custody. But if his issues lie with commitment and honesty...why take custody away from him?

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to read and comment and offer support.

sarah - I don't see anywhere in what I've written in this post or the response to nikki that indicates I plan to refuse visitation. Custody and parental rights are not necessary for visits to be allowed; that is up to me, and I really have no problem with continuing visitation rights for IFKAMH. His continuing to visit would only serve to ease some of my responsibility to let M and J know about him. As long as he's visiting, they will eventually ask more about why he's coming and who he is. That would allow me to answer their questions as they come instead of having to pick some arbitrary point in their life to sit them down for a history lesson.

I simply don't feel it is in their ultimate best interest to be legally tied to him, not even if he really can commit to visiting every month. As clearly as I can possibly say it, should something happen to me that removes my ability to function as their mother (be it a medical condition, a debilitating accident, or death), the boys do not need to be forced to live with a stranger simply because they share his DNA, not when they have other family members that have been present, have known them, who actually have thought about the boys' needs before their own and acted accordingly.

Just as my mom, my grandparents, IFKAMH's mom, and any other extension of the boys' family have no legal right to visitation, they would never be denied that priviledge by me. This would be nothing different for IFKAMH if I am able to obtain sole custody and succeed in whatever measure is necessary to prevent from him being the next in line for guardianship, which may require a termination of his parental rights. I don't know for sure that termination is what is necessary, which ties in with the title of this post.

Both you and nikki have referred to baggage as being a negative influence. I'm not sure if you're referring to my own childhood, my separation and divorce from IFKAMH, or both, but I am quite happy with my life as it has turned out, so I am not holding any grudges. My childhood baggage gives me first-hand experience as a child with multiple fathers, one that was adopted by a step-parent. I know enough about my biological father (because I have a few random memories of him and because my mom shared some additional information with me without my asking) that I don't need to know more about him. The only thing I wouldn't mind finding out is medical history for him and his family as that could have an affect on me and my children. I have no longing to reconnect with him, to find out why he was the way he was. I would admire him if he voluntarily gave up his rights to me in order to allow my step-father to adopt me. He was not in a position to be all that a father should be, while my step-father was there and willing to be that person for me, so if he put my needs before his own "but I'm her father" stubborn attitude, then I'd say that was the best way to be a father to me. My more recent baggage is not a factor as far as I'm concerned. I am not trying to punish him; I've thought about this so much, researched so many points of view, and questioned my instincts to the extent that I can feel confident that my motives are not fueled by resentment.

Nikki said...

When I referred to baggage, I was only referring to the anger/resentment/disguist/whatever-you-want-to-label-it-as that you have towards the ex for not being in the boys' lives for the first 2 years. You are willing to judge the entirety of someone's worth to them and essentially change the other 98 years of life based on two bad ones. That's baggage.

Your response above shows more baggage. Baggage doesn't always mean you are upset - baggage only represents how our histories affect our decision now and sometimes can cloud our judgement. Your history, and the fact that you are well adjusted means you favor the option that you had as a child. It doesn't matter how many of the rest of us and other adoptees stand up and say it just doesn't always work out for roses, you will always first refer back to your own experience (because we all do, myself included).

But as a birthmother, I have to say this and say this clearly:

Any person who desires to know and have a place in their children's lives and is not a physical threat to them should NEVER EVER be FORCED to terminate their rights to that child - not by you, a court, or God himself.

It's wrong to do such a thing and I'm sorry, there's just no way around it. It's just wrong.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

nikki - It is clear that you and I have different experiences and see these issues from much different perspectives. Your story and those of other adoptees I've read through yours have only given me the point of view of the mother-child relationship, which I've commented before is vastly more biologically inherent than that of the father-child relationship. I have read study after study and analyses on even more that have concluded biological father visitation/involvement is not the most crucial factor in a child's well-being post-divorce. I am not determined to terminate his parental rights; I am determined to ensure that if something happens that prevents me from being able to be their primary caregiver that IFKAMH is not the one thrust into that role when he has not ever demonstrated the ability or willingness to accept that level of responsibility. It is one thing to have a desire for your children to know who you are and how they are connected to you and spend some time with them; it is completely another to understand and accept responsibility for them.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

As a follow-up, I shouldn't have even said the biological father's involvement wasn't the most crucial factor; the studies actually reveal it's not even a crucial factor.

fringes said...

I'm totally blogging about this tomorrow.

Celebrate Woo-Woo said...

fringes - I look forward to reading your thoughts tomorrow. I was disappointed to see blogger ate your original comment here.

Dixie said...

Well, I'm glad the meeting went well, but he does sound delusional. Coming by once a month to visit does not a "Dad" make.