Leading up the the 14 hour mediation my ex and I endured prior to our divorce being settled, I thought we had at least an agreement in principle. That was of course until I stepped into the conference room and began what ended up being one of the most difficult days of my life. It may have been less emotional had kids and money not been a big part of what drove every decision, but nevertheless it was a hard long day, and the biggest takeaway for me was that I never knew who I was married to until I divorced her. Money + kids + hurt = MPD.
You’ve heard the story before. I gave her virtually every free and clear asset I had; I kept all the debt, and she kept the kids. Literally. Because of some laws that need to change, and my own ignorance, she managed to keep the kids in her hometown, which is two hours from Houston, and coerced me into a ridiculous step-up program with my daughter which required me to spend a few hours at a time before I was able to get her overnight, and then later for the weekends, etc. It was as if I were a criminal. I certainly didn’t have to agree to any of that bullshit, but I did, because I was wrought with guilt, and emotional pain. Anyway, all of that’s over with now, but when I think about it, all that anger comes back. On to the point.
During the mediation, I unknowingly agreed to alternate Spring Breaks, although by law, I wasn’t required to do so. I caught the mistake the next day, called my ex, but she wasn’t budging. Over the next few years, my ex and I had many conversations about her “allowing” me to spend more time with the kids. I would propose every imaginable option, few to which she was agreeable to, and never to anything that included any multi-day or week long options, even when neither of the kids had school or any other restrictive reasons to keep them from spending a great deal more time with their Dad. If you are a parent, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult this has been, and for all those Fathers out there, and on some occasion Mother’s, who have restricted access to their children, I know you get it.
A few months ago, I took my ex back to court and managed to get the judge to grant my wife and I every spring break with the kids; a huge win for us and our kids. We were not successful in getting relief on spousal support, which ends in December, but frankly, I didn’t care one way or the other, and I felt we had a better chance with the judge if we had two things for him to decide on, kids and money. Her attorney put on some real theatrics too. He actually showed me drinking a beer as part of his “evidence.” What an idiot. The good news is, our judge is a fair, just, reasonable man, and he made the right decision. She keeps getting paid, and we get the kids; kind of.
My ex and I don’t get along very well, but things have progressed some, and I think over time, our relationship will continue to improve. It’s hard to forgive someone who’s kidnapped your kids, and then tells herself and everyone else that she did what was best for the kids. Good news is our kids are smart, and they’ll figure all that out when the time is right. In the meantime, I’m going to fight for every minute I can get with them.
I have always tried to write in a way that has an optimistic outlook on circumstance and life, but nearly all of my hurt and anger that lies just beneath the surface of my skin involves how I feel for my children. I’m thankful for the time I do have with our kids, but it’s never enough. I miss them before they leave, I miss them when their gone, and sometimes I miss them when they are here.
Two and a half years ago, my divorce was final. After more than 12 hours of mediation, we had a settlement. Very simply, she got everything we had that wasn’t levered, the kids, and I got all the debt, and a 2 hour drive one way anytime I wanted to see my kids. At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing, by buying her a house, not insisting on her and the kids coming back to Houston, etc. I was the one who had been unfaithful, so I “deserved” to be left with nothing but debt, and limited access to my kids, right? Since my divorce, I avoided bankruptcy, met an incredible woman, remarried, found peace, and in the process, discovered that I’m an incredible man, father, and friend. Most recently though, I decided to start fighting for my children.
Today, we are in court again. This makes the second time since we were divorced, and of course, over money and kids. It’s sad that two parents can’t compromise in order to avoid court intervention, but when two people truly believe that they are acting in the best interest of the child, it makes things quite difficult. I keep telling myself that to make it easier to process. It sucks.
Often, I want to sit down at my computer and write a blog that makes me look like a hero and my ex the villian, but honestly it would be a lie. I hurt her, she hurt me, we couldn’t reconcile, we got divorced, and now we have two incredible kids in the middle of what has always been a challenged relationship. Both of us are trying like hell to bring up our kids in a way that mitigates the deficiencies of our past and previous experiences. I constantly remind myself that the kids are alright.
So many times, children are the only victims of divorce, and with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I say to you, all who will listen, my kids will not become victims. We will surround them with lots of love, respect, and SHOW them how to forgive, demonstrate grace, even when it is not reciprocated. Yes, I get angry, and frustrated, but when I see their sweet faces, full of innocence and curiousity, I want to be the man they need me to be.
For those of you from broken homes, I want to challenge you with a thought. The only difference between broken homes and blended homes is love, and remember, the kids are alright.