Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Supervised Visitation: Filling In The Gray

Most people assume that supervised visitation is for situations of abuse or child molestation. 

Not necessarily.

These kinds of programs are also appropriate when the non-custodial parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a psychiatric condition.  We opted for supervised visitation between W. and Jellybean to reduce the risk of neglect due to drug and alcohol abuse, and, as you know, I have always had concern for W.'s mental stability.

So every Wednesday I leave work early.  We drive downtown to the Safe House and sign in at 4:45 p.m.  We play in the Toddler Room until 5:00 p.m. when W. arrives.  I leave through the back, W. comes in through the front, and we never have to see each other.  They play and have dinner while under the supervision of a trained supervisor.  The supervisor is there to take notes on how well the parent interacts with the child, if he/she appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to make sure that he/she isn't discussing details of the case with the child--which really isn't a concern, being that she is only one year old.

W. is required to pay them $15 for their services that day.  He is also responsible for bringing all of the food, juice, diapers and wipes that Jellybean needs throughout the visit.  Add these expenses to the cost of gas it take for him to drive all the way downtown from his sister's house, and this is coming out to be a $30-40 endeavor each week, which sounds expensive.  Before you feel too sorry for him, let me remind you that it isn't exactly cheap to raise a child on one income--I have yet to receive child support.

Supervised visitation with W. is the only way that she can have him as an emotional figure in her life but without the negative effects of being left alone in a questionable environment.  I am sure this will all be reevaluated at our next court appointment in February.  But W. still has a Drug & Alcohol Evaluation in January a possible Psychiatric Evaluation in February, and plenty of time to screw up in between.  So for now, Safe House is filling in the gray area for us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gray Area

Apparently, in the State of Ohio if children are involved in a divorce case, the parents are required to take a parenting class. While everyone else was moaning and groaning about it, I couldn't help but be intrigued.

Yes, the class is two ridiculous hours long.

Yes, there are other things that I could be doing.

But this class is for the better of our children. So, really, who can complain?

This class forced me to hear some things that I really didn't want to hear.  And I can stick my fingers in my ears and shout, "La La La!" all day long, but the lesson still rings true. What children don't need is to be put in the middle of a divorce case. What children do need is a healthy relationship with both parents. Since W. has told me--on more than one occasion, and once in writing--that he wants nothing to do with Jellybean, I have been hell-bent on kicking him and his entire nut-job family out of our lives. As much as I hate to admit it, this might not be the best thing for Jellybean.

On one hand, Jellybean deserves a chance at having two parents no matter how good or bad those parents are. If her dad decides not to be a part of her life, then that is something that she we will have to deal with. But if I kick him out with no chance of reconciliation, then it might not be in her best interest.

On the other hand, allowing my Jellybean to be a part of the neglectful and abusive atmosphere that comes along with W.'s family is clearly not a good choice. I certainly wouldn't allow her to be friends with people who carry on in this manner!

I am frustrated because my problem is not deciding between the right option and the wrong option; it's trying to figure out which option is which. There is no black-and-white in this situation--it's pretty much all gray over here. I am frustrated that W. can ignore Jellybean for most of her existence and even say that he doesn't want anything to do with her, and yet thinks he can just come back in and pretend it never happened.  But the biggest frustration of all is that I cannot protect Jellybean from both ends. She will either experience God-knows-what abuse in that family, or lose them altogether.

So what else can I do but lay it all in God's hands?

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Summer, Fall, and Reason For Lack of Posting…

I have barely posted in the past few weeks, which can cause one to lose readers. So if all five of you who used to read this are still reading… it’s been hell, let me tell you.

When I began to open my eyes to exactly how bad things had become with W., a good friend advised me to keep a journal. I have been journaling my ass off since July, and I am going to share a very small portion of that with you. What I have written below may appear to be a short novel, but it doesn’t actually compare to the 30 pages of information I have written down.

You will also notice that I’m using nicknames now instead of real names. You never know how ugly a custody battle could get, and I don’t want any of his family members doing a Google search on our names.

The following week was a typical week in my household.

Monday, July 12, 2010
I got up with Jellybean in the morning. Even though W. doesn’t leave for work until 8-9:00 a.m., I still get her ready and take her to Babysitter’s home (across the street from us) by 7:30 a.m. every morning because he won’t get out of bed.

After work I picked up Jelly Bean, took care of her, the house, and the pets, and went to bed at 10:15 p.m., never hearing from W.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
My mom watches Jellybean on her days off, alternating Tuesdays and Fridays. Even though W. doesn’t leave for work until after I do, I still take her to M-ville once a week. I left at 7:00 a.m. and drove her to M-ville while he was still in bed.

My dad brought Jellybean home when I got home from work to save me the trip. My cousin JP came to visit with me and gave me the phone number of her psychiatrist to call and make an appointment for W. He finally agreed (last weekend) to see a psychiatrist for his issues. He agreed that he has a lot of mental problems to work out.

JP left when I was putting Jellybean to bed. W. came home around 9:30 p.m. I didn’t ask where he was or if/why he was working late because that usually just causes him to blow up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I got up with Jellybean at 6:00 a.m. and dropped her off at Babysitter’s by 7:30 a.m. while W. was still in bed. After work I picked up Jellybean. When we came home there was porn left playing on the television. Even though she is still too young to know what is going on, I was disgusted that she had to see this as we entered the living room. I took care of her, the house, and the pets for the rest of the evening. W. came home around 9:30 p.m. again. I did not ask where he was or why he was home late. He was extremely grumpy and irritable when he first came home but after he ate was very friendly and we had a good evening together.

Thursday, July 15, 2010
I woke up late and had to rush to get Jellybean and myself ready while W. was in bed, so that I could get to work only a little late. He woke up enough to tell me that he needed gas money.

After work I picked up Jellybean, came home, took care of her, the house, and the pets. I took the dog outside sometime between 8:30 – 9:00 p.m. W. came home during this time. We talked for a while about nothing in particular and then Babysitter came out and we talked with her. While we were talking to Babysitter, W. started complaining about how our home is a “shit hole” and that my allergies make his life miserable, and he hopes that Jellybean doesn’t have them because it is so difficult for him to live with someone who has allergies.

Friday, July 16, 2010
I got up with Jellybean at 7:00 a.m. and got her to Babysitter’s at 7:30 a.m. while W. was still in bed.

I made an appointment for W. to see the psychiatrist for Monday, August 9, 2010. I made this appointment weeks advance so that he would have plenty of time to inform work that he would be off that morning.

I picked up Jellybean, came home, took care of her, the pets and the house, and went to bed at 10:00 p.m., never hearing from W. I woke up when he came home at 2:00 a.m. He told me that he ran into his ex-step-brother and was with him all night. I told him that I made his psychiatrist appointment. He expressed that he is afraid they will admit him into a mental hospital. I assured them that there is no way they will admit him unless he becomes dangerous.

Saturday, July 17, 2010
I got up at 7:00 a.m. and spent time with Jellybean. W. still wasn’t up at 8:00 a.m. and when I woke him up he freaked out because he was going to be late for work again. Jellybean and I spent the day at my parents’ house, had dinner there and Jellybean got her bath there. I rocked her to sleep and she slept during the car ride home. We arrived home around 9:30 p.m. I went to bed around 11:00 p.m., having never received a phone call from W., just a note saying that he was with his friend B.

I do remember him coming home sometime in the middle of the night, but I was half asleep and don’t remember much.

Sunday, July 18, 2010
W. was grumpy today but he did play with Jellybean for about half an hour before she went down for her afternoon nap. After we ate lunch, he fell asleep on the living room floor and would not get up until around dinnertime.

Monday, July 19, 2010
Jellybean woke up screaming at 3:30 a.m., so I got her a bottle and comforted her in the living room (so we wouldn’t interrupt W’s sleeping) while she fussed off and on until 7:10 a.m. At this time, I needed to get a shower for work so I asked W. if he would watch Jellybean and comfort her while I showered. He sat up but didn’t do anything for a few minutes, so I brought Jellybean to him. He said that he couldn’t take her right that moment; he needed more time to wake up. So I put her in the playpen and took my shower. When I got out of the shower, she was still crying in her playpen while he was sleeping in bed.

I didn’t say a word and just left him there to sleep. I took Jellybean to Babysitter’s. I got to work five minutes late.

After work, I ran errands and got groceries with Jellybean. We got home at 7:30 p.m. I unloaded groceries and put them all away. Fed, bathed, and rocked Jellybean to sleep. She was in bed at 8:30 p.m. I went outside and W. came home with his buddy and beer to drink. They drank their beer in the driveway. I went in at 9:00 p.m. W. came in at 10:00 p.m. and we went to bed at 11:00 p.m.

Over the next couple of weeks it was pretty much the same pattern. After he missed his psychiatrist appointment, it became very clear just how bitter things had become between us.

Monday, August 9, 2010
W. bailed on his psychiatrist appointment.

Thursday, August 10, 2010
W. came home on time from work, but brought two friends and a 24-pack of Bud Light with him. They drank in the driveway until Jellybean was in bed. When he came into the house we started arguing. He told me that he has changed for the better and wanted to know why I still had problems with him. I pointed out that he really hasn’t changed much, and while he may have stopped calling me names, he still stays out with his friends or drinking or smoking until Jellybean is in bed. He replied that he wants to spend time with Jellybean but doesn’t want to be around me. I am not stupid, I can plainly see (and so can our friends and family) that he is happy to spend time with me, but avoids any time—especially one-on-one time—with Jellybean, as I have tried on several occasions to get him to watch her or just spend time with her.

He told me that getting married to me and having a baby was a mistake. He started to go on about how if we didn’t have Jellybean then we wouldn’t have to “live poor” (meaning financially) and all of our relationship problems started when she came. He said that she didn’t help us in any way and that she was good for me but not good for him.

Friday, August 20, 2010
W. arrived home around 2:00 a.m., turned on the lights and demanded that we decide right now what we were going to do about Jellybean if we split up. I said that I assumed we would continue what we have been doing with Jellybean—me taking care of her by myself and him not participating. He told me that he wants her on weekends, to which I said “no” because not only do I work full-time and the weekends are my quality time with her, but I do not trust him to take quality care of her or to drive her safely. He suggested every other weekend or just a couple of days every week, and I questioned when this would be, since he doesn’t see her more than a couple of hours a week as it is now. He asked if I wanted him out of Jellybean’s life and I pointed out to him that I have been fighting to make him a part of her life since she has been born, to no avail.

Several times throughout this conversation I had to ask him to stop yelling so that he would not wake Jellybean. He said that we should get a divorce and stated several times that he “is not crazy,” although I have never called him that. He demanded that I sleep on the couch. I would not, so he slept on the couch. He has a very angry and violent attitude and I sat awake all night to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt Jellybean or me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010
He packed his things and moved out.

During the next two months, W. would go through the same cycle several times.

First, he would call or text me nonstop, telling me how much he loves me and misses Jellybean. It was during these times that, although I would not allow him to move back in, we would meet in a public place or allow him to come over for a visit with Jellybean and we would talk about possibly salvaging this relationship for her sake.

Then he would become very insecure, accusing me of not caring about him or finding another guy.

Shortly after the insecurity, he would become angry and irrational. This is when the random 1:00 a.m. knocks on my door would come or the phone calls in the middle of the night, demanding that I take him back right that minute or we would never see him again. When I refused, he would let me know that he would be out of Jellybean’s life forever and leave.

This “being out of our lives” phase would last MAYBE 24 hours. And that’s a stretch. It was never long before I was receiving the “I love you so much” texts. When I didn’t respond, phone calls would ensue. Then he would text me demanding to see Jellybean, and accusing me of hiding her from him, threatening to get a lawyer, etc.

Being that it is unfair to keep Jellybean from having two parents, this is when I would always give in and invite him over to spend time with her. Then the cycle would repeat. I am just as guilty for the repeat of this cycle as W. It’s difficult to read back through my journal and not want to reach back in time and slap my face. What the hell was I thinking?!?

The last and final straw is the weekend of her first birthday party. As if paying for and throwing a birthday party by yourself isn’t stressful enough, W. was fired that week. He found another job a couple of days later, but missed her first birthday party. Really. Who the fuck misses their child’s first birthday party? The only member of his family that attended the party was his sister, whom he is now living with. He didn’t even send a gift. Or a card. Or a note. Or call to wish her a happy birthday. Really. WTF?

When I informed him that whatever chances we had were absolutely over because he didn’t acknowledge her first birthday, he freaked. On Monday he told me that he didn’t want anything to do with her. Promised to pay child support but said (via text message, I have it in writing) that he never wants visitation.

The next day, he demanded to see her. Threatened to get a lawyer. Blah blah blah.

We went to court on October 26th and he refused the divorce, so now we have to wait until February for another court date. He agreed to pay child support, attend a drug and alcohol evaluation in January, and to only see Jellybean at supervised visitation at a “safe house” owned by the government where social workers can watch his every move. It sounds a little extreme, but I feel that when there are parents that don’t want to be parents, that is when things can go wrong.

Before and after court he called and texted me nonstop and even began calling and bothering my family members, until my lawyer sent him a letter asking him to stop.

So far I haven’t had to hear from him for two weeks and, let me tell you, it’s been wonderful.