I take in the heady smell of a fig-tree, the morning sun on the dusty streets, its delicious warmth on my skin, and the look of a driver lingering on my little red dress. I am making headway into the light morning traffic, and into my tortuous path to recovery this week.
Some things are slowly, painfully, clicking into place, such as the fact that T’s desertion shook me to the core by raising the possibility that perhaps, he left because I wasn’t worthy enough. Ok, the idea is preposterous to an adult mind, but makes perfect sense to a scared and wounded child who, I realised, still lives within me (Ooh, hello there, shall we play hop-scotch in the school yard today?).
I have seen this at work in my son, who will be turning eight tomorrow and keeps thinking that if he was good enough, he would not have been abandoned by the two men who by rights (his dad) and by choice (his step-dad) were supposed to want to bring him up.
The idea of not being good enough to deserve love scares the crap out of me (to be honest I’m pretty sure it would even scare say… Batman), and explains my violent yet totally sterile anger against T for making me feel that way. Meanwhile, T doesn’t give a hoot about my existential turmoil, he is way too busy trying to save his own skin, and probably destroying our past as fast as possible so he can pretend it never existed. It’s a bit like putting fingers in his ears, and singing lalalala so he can stop hearing his own guilt.
In terms of thinking about custody for our daughter, things are also becoming clearer after discussing what may constitute a child’s best interests with various professionals. Here are the take-home messages:
- Children need the opportunity to form a significant relationship with both their parents (there are some exceptions to this but they are very, very rare.
Thinking your ex is a raving loonydistrusting your ex and their new squeeze is not one of them)
- The single most important interest of children is that their parents are happy and get-on well (ouch, wrist-rap here, not doing terribly well, are we?)
- There is no universal recipe for child custody, and there are as many solutions as there are families (think chocolate: Quality, not quantity)
- For children under the age of 6, most specialists do not recommend shared custody unless both parents are happy with it and get-on really well.
Since our daughter is well under 6, and I cannot see myself either agreeing to shared custody, or getting-on really well with her dad in the near future (unless I smoked something really, really good perhaps), it’s a serious blow against it. I support the fact that she does need to see her dad to continue being close to him, but think that the current arrangement of every other weekend and half of school holidays is ample.
While my daughter’s relationship with her dad is important, I have to consider other important relationships which get affected by her custody arrangement. In practice, I find that my children missing each other, and my missing one of them every other weekend, while the other stays behind all the time is a horror to manage in terms of parenting, and this affects the quality of all relationships between both my children and me (try imagining this with your kids, it’s a nightmare!). Just thinking about expanding that to every other week makes my hair raise in horror, which would make me look like a vintage fan of The Cure, and that, I’m sure you will agree, is simply not acceptable.
T may be tempted to think that’s not his problem, and granted, legally, his only responsibility is towards our daughter’s well-being, not my hair, but I am the other half of the decision-making and need to take into account both my children. When we decided to have a baby together, we both knew that baby would have a big brother, and while this adds another layer of complexity to an already mightily difficult equation, it cannot be ignored.