About 3 years ago, after Papa and I had been split up for 5 years, he filed a petition to amend parenting time asking for joint custody. I hired an attorney, we went to mediation, and my proposal was refused. It was decided that the matter would go to court.
For whatever reason, Papa decided to withdraw the petition. My kids haven’t seen or talked to him since.
About 6 months ago, he refiled the petition. Due to the long absence and Zion’s autism, I went full gusto this time and hired a law firm. And after spending close to $10,000, our mediation was scheduled for yesterday.
I was heading west on Washington Street, near the intersection of Sherman, heading downtown when I was broadsided.
But not by a car, by an epiphany.
Something deep within me said, “You need to go in here with an open heart and mind today. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, or how much money you have spent, or how giant the chasm is between the kids and their dad. Look at your own role in this. How have you widened that chasm? Are you teaching your children to forgive, or hold a grudge? Yes, he has messed up a thousand times, but so have you. Your feelings about your past with him are irrelevant. If he is unable to afford the kind of autism training you are suggesting, be open to another solution. Just listen. If it is within your own power to bridge that chasm and foster a relationship with your kids and their father, you must do that for them.”
I drove the rest of the way with tears streaming down my face.
In my mind I contrived an alternative parenting scenario that might work for everyone. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but perhaps it was feasible.
I arrived early. God, I love downtown Indianapolis. The buildings, the smells, the weirdos. I love it all. I walked around a bit, stopped at Starbucks, and people-watched for a few minutes. I admit I was feeling a bit sassy in my new fitted coat and knee-high boots. I damn near broke into a Mary Tyler Moore moment and slow-mo threw my hat into the air. I can’t explain it, but somehow I just knew that everything was going to turn out okay.
Mediation started promptly at 9 a.m. Papa and I were in different rooms, each with our own attorney. I looked at my attorney and said, “Please help me make good decisions today.” She smiled and said, “The decisions are yours. I’m just here to advise.”
The mediator went into Papa’s room first. Thirty minutes later, she came in with his opening offer.
I was stunned.
His opening offer was shockingly close to the scenario I had just thought of in the car, not an hour earlier. I had to bite my lip to fight back tears.
It still took us many more hours to iron out the details. But we came to an agreement that involves cooperation, communication, and even child support. And sharing of the medical bills for Zion.
Time will of course tell. But I am extremely hopeful.
Regardless of pain, grudges, and pride…at the end of the day the ones who have suffered the most from an absent Papa are Zoë and Zion.
Sure, there is still a tiny wounded voice inside me, trying to stay mad.
What about all the money you’ve spent? (Money is just paper.)
What about all the years of work you’ve done alone? (The years of work I have done have made me a fighter.)
What about Zoë’s Starfish and your community of fundraisers? (Zoë’s Starfish is on course to become a non-profit organization to benefit other families with autism.)
Shouldn’t he be punished for his absence? (Haven’t my kids been punished enough?)
He doesn’t deserve another chance! (Maybe not, but my kids do.)
So tomorrow, Papa and his wife are coming to our home at noon. We will prepare a meal for them, and spend 2 hours reacquainting them with their kids…as well as beginning the training process of how to handle and properly care for Zion.
No more attorneys. No more money. No more courtrooms or arguing or waiting. But most importantly, no more separation. So long as he is willing to show up, I am willing to shut up.
Looks like I am going to be doing a little mediating of my own.