Monday, March 02, 2009

I tried, but I don't think it's working...

I know I've seemingly dropped off the face of the blogging planet. I've had some unfortunate luck with my laptops. Long stories short, I am without my personal and work laptops and have been for weeks. I have a currently non-functioning loaner laptop for work and an appointment with the repair tech tomorrow for the other one as well as a new power supply en route for mine. Hopefully, something starts working again soon.

Since I last posted, IFKAMH and I had our court hearing, which went basically as my lawyer said it would. The judge didn't throw the whole thing out but went with the suggested plan I submitted, allowing him one overnight visit per month with the boys for three months and then three months of two-night overnight visits at which point it is expected we will have reached an agreement for implementing a plan suitable for the boys as they enter school in the fall.

I was okay with this, really and truly was. Until it actually happened. The boys had their first overnight visit with him and his mom last month, the night before the hearing. While they seemed in good spirits when they were dropped off the morning of the hearing, they whined about having to go to school (a reason I said they shouldn't miss school for his visits even if it isn't "real" school...but, what do I know, right?), and when I took them to school, M clung to my leg and didn't want me to leave. He was nearly in tears as I convinced him to sit down and draw me a picture for when I came back in a few hours.

I'm going to offer some minimal background info since I haven't really blogged this drama as it's unfolded in the past year or so. When IFKAMH and his mom came to Virginia for the first visit with the boys, I met with them the night they arrived, before they saw the boys, to cover some "ground rules", for lack of a better term. I just wanted us to be on the same page, for them to understand my point of view and how much thought I'd given this situation, and I was pleasantly surprised by their reactions. Part of the ground rules was that we would introduce him to the boys by name since they have bonded with NS as a father-figure and no longer remember him as a father or as a part of their lives. He did not offer any other suggestion nor did he refute my reasoning.

We ended up going to mediation the following February at his insistence. The majority of the four hours we spent with this mediator focused on him wanting the boys to call him dad. We eventually "compromised" and said, in writing, we'd refer to him as father around the boys. Not that the boys are required to call him this, mind you, just that we are to refer to him as father. I have tried for more than a year to follow this, but I will not force the boys to call him anything, and they have continued to refer to him by name.

He (and his mother) have repeatedly ignored this aspect of the mediation agreement.

As they dropped the boys off at the conclusion of that January visit, they were referring to IFKAMH as dad. The boys didn't say anything about it, so I didn't ask them anything about it. The only response I got from IFKAMH when I expressed my concern (via email later that night since I don't think the boys should be exposed to our "discussions" about parenting or custody...a point he can't seem to get through his bull-headed skull) about how confusing this is likely to be for the boys was that he never had to agree to be called anything other than dad. While he may not have had to agree to be called father instead of dad, he did and should honor this. I still don't think he should be called anything other than his name since the boys do not have that type of relationship with him. I don't honestly care what they call him, but until they are old enough to understand how he is related to them and decide if they prefer to call him dad or father or pop or what-the-fuck-ever, then I think it should be a non-issue. If we're talking about best interests of the children, as we should be, his not being called dad or father or whatever he wants doesn't harm them and actually makes things less confusing for them at their age. If they don't care to know who he is in relation to them, then it's difficult to try to explain. And, without an explanation, I think calling him something they've called NS since before they have memories is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard.

My initial cause for upset was about what explanation he gave the boys for being called dad that he didn't clue me in on. I found out that wasn't the reason I should be concerned.

So, when the February visit this past Monday was about to begin, as I was driving the boys home from school, my heart broke as M confessed that IFKMAH had said they should call him dad. This conversation went on for most of the drive home, approximately 10 minutes. I asked them if he'd said why they should call him dad. They, both of them, said no. I asked if they wanted to know why. They didn't. I got more and more disturbed as this went on. I told them they could call him dad if they wanted to and felt comfortable with it but they didn't need to call him dad. This was countered by J, stating IFKAMH told them they had to call him dad. And, then it was M, saying he tried to call him dad but didn't always remember to. I told them to try not to worry about it and just call him IFKAMH (his name, not Idiot, I hope is obvious), father, or dad, whichever they were most comfortable saying. I tried to assure them they would not be in trouble for this and if they ever had any questions or wanted to know why he would suggest they call him dad that they could ask me, and I would answer them. They said they would try to do better this time about remembering to call him dad. I was so sad they had been made to feel so concerned about this.

It sounded as though they are constantly being corrected if they don't call him dad. And, while they may not be telling me the whole truth (maybe he did explain why they "should"), they are obviously telling me what they perceive to be the truth. And, it's a fucking awful, selfish thing to put a child through. Why the hell should they be so worried about this, about what he wants to be called?!? They shouldn't be bothered by that at all. Since he lives in his own version of reality, I presume he believes it's fine because the boys must magically remember him from their infancy and just know he is their father. In my version of reality, I think he's setting them up to be unreasonably submissive to adult males and leading them to believe it's acceptable to call any adult male in their lives dad, especially if told to do so. It is beyond idiocy now. Dad is a term of endearment that should come naturally to a child and should be reserved only for a man who genuinely cares about the child more than himself. No one forced the boys to call NS dad, and I am appalled at the thought of IFKAMH trying to force the children to call him dad when they are clearly not ready to do so naturally.

I have only grown more anxious about the boys' time with him and his mom since they returned from their visit. They were not as happy as they usually are, not as talkative about what they did, which may be because this is the first visit that didn't involve toy shopping, but I can't be sure. M was still actively trying to correct himself when he failed to call IFKAMH dad. J sat silently on the couch, playing with his Leapster. After talking with M, I tried to ask J if he'd had fun. It took me three tries, increasing the volume of my question each time, to get his attention and response, which was a "yes" that he shouted at me in an angry tone. That anger is not something I've ever experienced from him, and so I asked him if he was okay; I couldn't get him to say anything was wrong, and he returned to a relatively normal state about an hour later, so I had to let it go. I've started wondering if they actually enjoyed the visit or if they are saying they did because they think I expect them to.

The next morning, when I told them it was time to get ready for school, they said they weren't scared to go to school because it was still in Washington. They weren't afraid to be away from me when they're in Washington. Where the hell did that come from? I can only hope that it was some weird and random coincidence and not a result of an idiot and mother of an idiot suggesting they should go somewhere outside of Washington without me. They are definitely more intent on being in the same room with NS and me instead of spending countless hours playing in the basement family room with all their toys.

I don't know what to do or what I can do, but I'm seeking answers from a legal perspective and possibly from a family counselor as well in the next few weeks. I am trying not to ignore my mother's intuition and instinct this time since I am regretting more with each passing visit not going with my gut a couple years ago to take steps to keep him out of the boys' lives until they are much older.


Churlita said...

That's so frustrating and sad. I hope you can get it all worked out so you don't have to worry.

Belle - A Beauty livin with her Beast said...

this is a hard situation..when my oldest daughter was 7 her "real" dad felt the need to play daddy, and got visitation rights...they were supervised..but still..he was around along enough for her to know him as her friend, then he died in a car accident...i guess it happened this way for a no matter how much you know it is wrong..remember god has a plan..even tho we dont know it.

Pamela said...

wow... so sorry. and so very complicated...