S is an online friend of mine from way back when our oldest children were just babies. Some people won’t understand that online friends can be just as close as real life friends, but I’m assuming that most of the people reading this post won’t roll their eyes at the concept.
We live a fair distance from each other, and in the past have communicated mainly through forums and email groups. These days we use Facebook to catch up with each other, and it was through Facebook that I began to get an idea of what her life was like after she separated from, then divorced, her ex. Things didn’t sound easy for her, but I didn’t want to pry so instead just watched out for updates.
When she contacted me this week and asked if she could write a Guest Post for me about her sons’ ‘First Day’ at school, of course I said yes.
That’s how I found out the true story behind those FB posts. I wish I’d had the courage to ask at the time, but the main thing is that there is a happy ending to this story. And although I’m pleased all mine are back at school today, it’s made me very grateful that I’m able to be there to take them.
Because, as you’ll read, not all parents can be there when school starts.
This isn’t just any first day. This is THE first day for me. Yes they have both already been to primary school. But this is the first time they have lived with me during the school week and that I have been able to drop them and pick them up every day of the week.
For reasons I no longer feel I have to justify to anyone, their Dad and I split up when our youngest was just 2. Its not how I had perceived my future and I certainly never had 2 children with him expecting to have to live apart from them. Its taken me 8 years to prove but on 8th May 2013 the Court recognised the abusive situation I was still having to deal with for what it really was and awarded me full residency. Nearly 4 months on I still can’t believe its true and silently offer my thanks every time I look at their now relaxed, laughing faces as they charge out the house to play with their friends.
I have done in excess of 180,000 miles to maintain a relationship with my children. I’ve attended most school events they have had, I’ve battled the elements to ensure we are together when it was my time with them, I’ve had to make the heartbreaking decision not to see them because it was too unsafe to travel them 150 miles in bad conditions. I have accepted the grief, the angst and others judgement of me because they believed the lies. The only recognition I wanted was that I was their Mum and they were my life.
I was told that I was unfit to be their mother, that they would be better off if I was dead. I was told I was too fat (at a size 10), too emotional, too work focused, too busy, too selfish, too old, too boring, too useless and many other things besides. My sons were often expected to join in with those comments. Why? Because I dared stand up to the man that decided I was a thing not a person. I refused to “be taught a lesson”. I refused to let my children grow up feeling unloved, unvalued and not allowed to have their own lives filled with friends, fun and laughter.
As the months roll on their father is taking less of an interest in them. Proving as we knew, he was only interested in controlling/hurting me. Alas he doesn’t seem to realise (or care) that in doing so his sons are now old enough to form their own opinions. The one thing I have always been adamant about is not running him down in front of them, because they should have the right to make their own opinions, not have mine force fed to them. They have a right to have a relationship with their Father and that relationship is between them and him. People often think I am mad when I say that but which is better; a child who was allowed to have a relationship of their own making with a parent, but understands that the parent is responsible for their own behaviours/choices or a child who is used as a weapon?
The Boys have to make a very hard choice that no child should ever have to make. They were asked to choose between two parents. They did this sensibly, compassionately and with well thought out reasoning well beyond their age. This wasn’t a latest toy or a justification for why they should stay up late, they realised, without coaching, that they were fighting to have a childhood and a future. When the verdict was read out at court, I couldn’t speak, actually at first I was just numb. The tears soon came, the knowledge that they had been listened to, that I had been listened to and finally believed as the boys were old enough to tell their own version of events was overwhelming and it still is.
So today I will be that proud Mum waving her kids through the gates, in their brand new uniforms, into their brand new schools, waiting tentatively for a backwards glance (but secretly hoping they are too engrossed with chatting with their friends to give me a second thought). I will probably be sobbing buckets in the car afterwards, partly because of what has gone before but mainly because today the sun is shining on a bright new morning for all of us and I am so very proud of my two sons.