“Grandma, Dad wants to know if we can stay a few more days“…Grandboy asked on Easter Sunday.
SIGH.. this is exactly the kind of thing I never had to deal with before.. visitation. I’ve been blessed with a good husband and never imagined that I would have to share my children’s holidays with someone else, let alone work out the logistics and angst that go along with it. My stepdaughters were older when my husband and I got together. We had a few hiccups, but they were old enough to say when they wanted to come and when they wanted to go. We worked hard to be agreeable because it was good for the girls. I agreed to let the littles start seeing their fathers again because I believed it was in their best interest.
I forgot for a while that there was a reason Social Services placed the children with us. I forgot there were two sides to the littles’ stories. They have a mother who made poor choices and went down the wrong path, but they also have a father who made choices just as poor. He says he is clean and sober now, and he probably is, but it hasn’t been that long since he was living in a motel and steady work is not something is known for.
After the two youngest had been with Bio-dad for a week, they want to stay longer. I get it, they miss him and life hanging out watching TV on vacation is super. I suspected there were other ulterior motives, but the claim was to visit with a distant uncle who is dying, and to see an older half sister who wanted to spend time with them.
Gently I explained that they couldn’t, they had school and soccer and scouts and commitments. Plus, I missed them and needed them to come home. They asked again, just in case, but I let them down gently. Inside, I was seething. I hate when parents put kids in the middle of stuff. I hate when people manipulate kids to make themselves look better. I had to be the bad guy and remind them that school is important. When my ex-son-in-law got on the phone, I tried to be cordial. I had to reexplain that they had to come home on the day he promised he would bring them home. He began to hem and haw about the drive, the schedule, the cost of gas. I sighed, my peaceful quiet Easter afternoon was shot. I offered to meet him halfway.. 2 1/2 hours away from my house. 3 hours away from his. I hung up and sulked for the rest of the afternoon. I was angry at him, but I was more angry at myself.
I was angry because I allowed myself to be conned into believing that he would stand by his word. He promised if I let him visit with the kids, he would bring them all the way back without a problem. If I left them in North Carolina for the two extra days (my original plan was to pick them up on Friday evening as I drove north from GA) he would drive them home the day after Easter.
So, instead, I put on my Good Grandma the savior hat and agreed to drive halfway to get them. In order to make sure the kids got home early enough to shower and get prepared for the next day, I took a half day off from work and headed south to get my little people back. I’m going to confess it didn’t go well. I was not the patient loving person I know I can be. I had the 2 1/2 hour drive alone to be angry and to get angrier. The result was an ugly confrontation of reality TV show proportions.
When they pulled into the parking lot of our meeting place (15 minutes late of course) I sent the kids to the bathroom with their stepmother and I turned on the bio-dad with a vengeance. He stood half a foot taller, greying in his beard stretching from his long card ride, smiling at me. Until I started in, then he stopped smiling. I scolded him for putting the children in the middle. (he denied ever telling them to ask, but later both kids confirmed that he had told them to ask me) I reminded him that he gets to see the children at my convenience and with my discretion and if he pulled any “punk crap” like that again, he would not get to see them. As he tried to argue with me and stomp away, my voice got louder.
I railed against his poor parenting skills. I told him that he needed to support his children and be involved in their lives on a regular basis or he didn’t need to be in their lives at all. He stormed off, ranting that I couldn’t do it. (I can) and I had no right to say that (I totally do) He threatened legal action. I told him he either called his children once a week from now on on a schedule they can count on, or he wouldn’t talk to them again. I was like a pittbull momma, ready to go into the fight to protect these kids.
I drove away with sobbing children. I was feeling very much the ridiculous Jerry Springer guest. I couldn’t believe I acted like that, but I guess I had finally had enough of his empty promises to these kids. As we drove I offered snacks and drinks and let them have quiet time. About half way home we started talking about dinner. Grandgirl was hungry but boy wouldn’t talk to me. I reminded my heartbroken 12 year old grandson that I love him and we were going to our home, I wasn’t an enemy set out to ruin his life.
I apologized for yelling at his dad in front of them, I told him I was yelling at his dad because I want his Dad to do more for them. They deserved to hear from their Dad at least once a week. (but Grandma”, he defended “he works so much, he doesn’t have time time to call us”.) I told him that sometimes adults need a kick in the behind a little to get back on the right track. (wise little man made the connection to when his father was drinking and on drugs and had to find Jesus to get off)
I later received a very angry email the next day. I was called controlling , there were threats to hire a lawyer and get full custody. Unfortunately, they forget that supporting a child is more than having money taken out of your pay check. Its checking the online grades, calling your children on a regular basis. Keeping in touch and keeping up to date on activities and events. In this digital age, there is no reason a far-away parent can’t be part of his child’s life. If they make the effort that is.
Being called controlling is nothing new to me. I am a total control freak, I know this and I accept it as a personality trait. Most people let me have my way, because, after all, it is the right way and they enjoy not having to take responsibility for something. (like uuuuh, I dunno.. THEIR KIDS) I plan and control large group events, small outings and family gatherings.. its what I do best. I do have to take extra steps to ensure the safety and well being of these children who were placed in my care, which may seem like controlling, but is really more protection.
Now, let’s just forget for a moment that they couldn’t afford the gas money to drive from NC to MD and back and that DSS decided the kids were better off being permanently placed with us rather than with either one of their biological parents. Once upon a time, we had hoped the parents would pull it together enough to have custody. We had hoped that he would choose to raise these two children along with his new baby. Sadly, his threat seems a little hollow after all that time. It seems like a hollow statement for someone who is too busy to call his kids once a week. It seems hollow to someone who spells his daughter’s name wrong. It seems hollow for someone who knew his children were first in danger at home with their mother and then placed in foster care, but never acted.
For the safety and well being of these children, I will be a bad guy. I will insist they go to school and wear helmets and use good manners. I will be the controlling person who gets them to bed on time and keeps up with their doctor’s appointments and shots. I will take them to church every week and pray with them at dinner every night. I will check their homework, their practice schedules and their play dates with friends as long as I am physically able to do it. I will even put their parents on a phone schedule and hold them to it. God put these children in my life as a blessing. I will do everything in my power to keep them happy and safe, even if that means keeping them away from people promise them the moon.