Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Sideways world of our own

There is a post on singlemommyhood, about a mother of two leaving her addict husband (um...yeah, I can relate) and the question is that the father has offered to terminate his parental rights if she won't go after him for child support.

A few months after we moved to Los Angeles, and X had been calling the girls regularly for a while, he stopped calling. I found out he was in jail, and then that he'd moved to Colorado, but he continued not to call. In more than a moment of rage (because I took the time to consult others, and then overnight the letter to him), I offered X the chance to be absolved of all parental rights and responsbilities to the girls, including child support, in exchange for never bothering us again.

Because we're Lost fans, I'm calling this my Sideways post; an indulgence of "what if." What if he had agreed?

First of all, our second of many moves to come would not have been necessary since the only reason we moved was because he not only knew where we lived, but his fellow addicts knew where we lived, and one of them had called our home with a veiled threat against the girls. Home was no longer a safe haven anymore. The girls would've stayed in their fairly good elementary school for at least a few more years, and had a more stable home-life.

While Sylvia would surely have missed her dad, and would still be hopeful for a reunion, the longer life without Dad would've continued, the more that fantasy would have some semblance of childhood innocence to it; like wishing she could fly. I could have told her openly and honestly that X had realized that he could not live up to the responsibilities of fatherhood, and believed that she was better off without him. Riley, all of 3 at the time, would only know her father from some pictures and stories from her sister and me of his better qualities: he could juggle, he was funny. She never would've had to be told on her birthday that Daddy was in jail. Again.

While they might remember some of the time we all spent under the same roof, there would be no new memories: no memories of a bad Mother's Day, no visits canceled at the last minute, no more broken promises.

It goes without saying that there would have been no money lost, since he never has paid child support, other than a few hundred here or there. I'm sure I would've gotten by without that spare change since I've never counted on it anyway. But maybe I would also stop torturing myself every summer, thinking how ironic it is that almost exactly the extra money I spend on child care during the summer is how much I should be getting from X. I would not torture myself with the irony of the fact that MY tax dollars is what is giving him food and shelter every time he's in jail. That MY tax dollars paid for the transportation that puts him mere minutes away from us now. And hey, if he had never come back to California, then it wouldn't even be MY tax dollars!

Of course, in Sideways world, one cannot know all of the unintended effects of such different decisions. It is entirely possible that cutting off all ties to his children might have been just what he needed to get his life together. And if that were a consequence, he might have been able to someday meet the requirements of visitation, and actually be a stable figure in their lives. He would have had to fight for the right, but really, what would have been so wrong with that? He absolutely should have to earn that right.

But of course, this is not our reality. And while I can maintain control over physical visitation, he still might call Sylvia. He doesn't see how selfish and short-sighted that is. Sure, it might make her happy in the immediate, but if he disappears again, it'll devastate her. Again. He doesn't understand at all the effect he has on her. Or maybe he does, and just soaks it all in to make him feel better about himself that he can make her happy. Until he disappears, and she's left to worry about him. He puts her in the position of having to be the adult in their relationship; where she has to manage her expectations. Even worse, as the most important male in her life, he's teaching her to take what she can get from the man she loves. That's what I hate most about this. She needs to know she deserves so much better. Had he forfeited the right to call himself her father, he just might have given her that.


Tara R. said...

It's those 'what ifs' that can get you every time. Some parents, mine included, can be too self-centered to do what is right for their child, whether that may be.

MindyMom said...

I've yet to encounter someone in a situation like yours or mine that doesn't wish for that sideways world. I thought about asking DBD to sign away his rights while I was pregnant with LO and now really wish I had. Our lives would be SO much better since his mission is to make mine as much of a living hell as he possibly can. Why? Because I gave birth to our daughter "against his wishes" instead of aborting her. He would rather punish me for making that decision than be a father any day of the week.

Danielle said...

My daughters sperm donar wants to sign his rights away, but in Colorado you can't just do that. So instead, we pretend. He has only seen her once, never paid a dime and I don't have to deal with any of his crap. I think I am very lucky!
Sorry you have to deal with this and think about the "what if's"

Singlemommyhood said...

The "what-ifs" can be terribly painful. I'm so sorry for everything you have experienced. You're a terrific and brave mom.

Zoeyjane said...

The what ifs. I'm currently living in them, having suspended visitation a month ago. I've just recently heard from Zoƫ's dad that he's going to begin alcohol counselling, so maybe this sideways world you've mapped out really does work out. Or. I'm about to be disappointed again, and in turn, she'll grow up without him, a little more every day, as his addiction is more of a priority than his sobriety requirements for visits.

It's such a pile of bull some of us have to deal with, a.

Erin said...

Sideways world may not have given you such a beautiful insight, though. Thank you for sharing your wisdom - I am always happy to read your thoughts, and the beauty behind them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so insightful, and sharing your story. Until I reached out to Singlemommyhood, I felt very alone in my situation. Now I feel more empowered.

Cat said...

I begged my ex to terminate his rights. He wanted to but his parents wouldn't let him (ironically, they would see much more of my son if I could be sure they wouldn't expose him to my ex without appropriate supervision).

Life is full of what ifs and alternate paths. They're good for making you reflect, but if you looked at everything that could've happened differently, you'd go nuts.

Unknown said...

Keep your head up love. The what ifs hurt like hell....this I know...


jenn said...

What-ifs drive me crazy sometimes. I wonder what would have happened if I had done this or that. But for me, I think I'm (mostly) happy where I'm at. Because if I had changed the past, I wouldn't have my daughter.

I can understand you thinking of how it would be if your ex had given up his rights. I think you know that I terminated my ex's rights about a year ago, and it was a good decision for us. I feel safer knowing that he has no say in anything.