I don’t have any legal right to my son.
It’s a long and complicated story, but the basics are this: I didn’t adopt him while I was married to his mother. It was purely a logistical decision, based around money and time constraints, nothing more. While I started out as “Mister Steve” when I first met him when he was four, I quickly just became “Dad”, and have been for over a decade. His mom and I used powers of attorney and the like to ensure that I was always able to take care of him. I get angry when people say he’s not my “real child”. He is my son.
When my relationship with Aubrey Maples1 – my son’s mother – became so strained that it was impacting my mental health, I moved out. Obviously, his mother sees it differently. Not the point.
Before we divorced last year, I continued to support him (and, by extension, his mother) for nearly three years2. I made sure to move to a nearby apartment so that I could be sure to play an active role in his life. A role that, from what my son has told me, that he welcomed then and continues to welcome.
Then when the divorce actually happened, Aubrey suddenly moved herself – and my son – two states away to Tennessee. Because the courts wouldn’t let me pay child support (seriously), his mother and I arranged a “spousal support” agreement to reflect the child support I wanted to pay. Aubrey verbally agreed to let Chris visit, to help my son keep in contact with his father.
That’s not really been the case for a year now. He’s visited twice. Grand total of just over three weeks – ten days at Christmas and not quite two weeks earlier this month. She placed strict conditions on both times, changing plans at the last second, and making non-negotiable demands about the times and dates he could visit me. The first half of this year, she routinely kept him from the ways that he has to stay in touch with me. She justifies it by citing his grades or some other reason, but how Skype impacts his grades, I’m not sure. She told him that I don’t send any money to help support him, even though it’s right there in the court documents.
But it was worth the hassles she imposed. I was glad both times when he visited. I enjoy talking to him and hanging out with him. He’s a pretty cool kid. We had a lot of fun this last time he visited, even though his mother insisted that it be cut short, and forced him to miss the last two days of the Origins Game Fair and return the day before Father’s Day.
Again, despite Aubrey’s demands, I enjoyed having him here. We played games. We watched movies. I took him out to eat. We had an early birthday party for him, since I figured he wouldn’t be allowed to visit before his birthday came around. We listened to the Audible production of Death Troopers together in the car. He hung out at Origins, and did an awesome job manning my table there for a few hours. We sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the car, a la Wayne & Garth.
It was cool.
His mom insisted a friend of hers drive him back instead of me the day before Father’s Day. I had to say goodbye to him before I dropped him off there; I pulled over shortly after him dropping off to finish crying before driving back to Origins.
Today I got the letter where his mother revoked all the powers of attorney on the day he left – the day before Father’s Day. The letter where she asserted that if I even @ replied to her on Twitter that it would be considered “harassment”.
To me, that pretty much sounds like his mother is saying “I’m not going to let him visit you again.”
I call my son almost every night. He’s not answered the last few in a row. He’s not answered his text messages, either. Given that in the past she’s confiscated his phone and computer and any way to contact me, it’s not looking good. I hope I’m wrong – but I doubt it.
Whatever. That’s not the point. I’m not writing this to bitch about my ex-wife. That’s just background so my son knows the timeline of what has happened in case I don’t get a chance to tell him myself.
Because here’s the thing: My son’s relationship with his mother is his. It has nothing to do with me, or my relationship with her. I made damn sure to make that clear to him, and it’s still true. His relationship with her parents is his as well, regardless of what I think of them.
I figure that at some point he will read this. I figure at some point my son will find out that without asking him what he thought, she decided to cut him off from his father.
So here, Chris:
I love you. I want to spend as much time with you as possible. I think I showed that during the years your mom and I were separated and you spent practically every other day with me. I think I’ve shown that by doing everything I can to help you get up to visit me since she moved two states away. I want to be involved in your life – that’s why I keep calling, that’s why I keep playing games with you online. I’m going to continue sending that money every month so that you can have a better life down there, regardless of what your mom does. Because you are more important to me than being mad or upset at your mom. And that’s why I can say this:
If you’re mad at your mom about this, try to forgive her.
I have barely talked to your mother for months. You’ve seen practically all of it, when she took your phone to text me. You saw the last time I called to help you recover your password. I have no idea what she’s thinking.
But I know that I have done some pretty shitty things in my life. I’ve done some pretty shitty things to your mom, too. And no matter how shitty they were, I was doing the best I could at the time.
I figure she is too.
That doesn’t mean what she’s doing is right. It’s not. Using access to kids as a way to hurt your ex is a fucking horrible thing to do.
But here’s the thing, kiddo. It means her actions are understandable. If you’re mad, if you’re upset, that’s okay. But you’ve got to live with her for at least two more years. I imagine that she’s coming from a place of hurt and anger – and damn, that’s a horrible place to be.
Recognize your feelings. Recognize where she’s coming from. Feel the emotion – and let it go again. Live your life excellently. Try to be positive even when the people around you are being hateful. Focus on healing yourself, especially when the people around you are coming from places of anger and hurt.
I hope I’m wrong, and that your mom will let you visit again. I hope I’m wrong, and that you’ll be able to talk to me again soon. Or that we’ll play Minecraft or Warcraft or something else over the Internet.
And if it is as bad as I think – if she’s trying to completely cut you off from me – toss me a message when you can. I’m all over the freaking Internet, man. It’s easy to find me.
I’ll be waiting to hear from you. And if your mom is going to try to make that be a little over two years from now, well, that just means we’ll have a whole hell of a lot of catching up to do.
After you kick my ass in Metroid and I whup yours in Warcraft.
Love you, kiddo.
1 His last name is different than either of ours, FWIW.
2 Note for the curious: I mean “paid for the rent, gas, power, water, electric, phone, alarm system, vet visits for the animals, clothes, and medical and life insurance” when I say “support”.