What They Don’t See

Standard

“Our lives revolve around…this visitation.” One of the many frustrated conversations between Quentin and me had led him to this admission. As I stared at him, wide awake and cell phone beside me, I knew that this was more than true.
From the time that Quentin and I formed a relationship, Jesse was the center of it—along with my impending divorce and numerous attempts at settling some form of visits with his biological father. Having no children of his own, Quentin lovingly fell into the role of Jesse’s main male role model. Jesse was not even 2 when this all began, and Quentin was my rock through the nightmare of watching Jesse go away.
It started with visits with grandparents and the occasional visits with the biological father on his vacation time. Jesse was still only a baby to me, and my heart broke every time that he went out the door. Quentin and I were lost as a couple without a child around. Our relationship formed around a family unit that was randomly being flipped upside down when Jesse had to go. When we had our own biological child together, the heartbreak became worse. Our family was still broken each time Jesse left, and we counted down the hours until he would return. About a year later, when Jesse turned 4…The visits became every other weekend, with the splitting of holidays and time away during the summer. Jesse began to act out, angry that his brother was not coming along with him. The two were becoming close, only to be split apart time and time again.
Quentin and I were at a loss for how to handle this separation. Do we continue to take trips and do activities when Jesse isn’t around, or do we wait until he is available? We were split between continuing Kayden’s prime lifestyle and not wanting Jesse to feel like he was left out or missing anything. We were always waiting around by the phone, worrying that Jesse would try to call and we would miss the opportunity to hear his voice and know that he is okay. When we did go outside, we carried cell phones with us everywhere and avoided low service areas because we may miss his call.
When calls did not come, we were up at night worrying. Where was he? Was he okay? What if there was an accident? How long before we would hear? Kayden would ask when Jesse was coming back, and he hadn’t the concept for time yet to understand the length of a weekend…let alone the few days at a time during the summer. Kayden was restless, and I felt like a shitty mother for not planning activities with him when Jesse was gone. When I did, I felt like I was hurting Jesse because he was not here to enjoy them with us.
Eventually, we got Jesse his own cell phone. We thought that things would be better that way, knowing that he had a way to reach us whenever he needed to. It still has not healed the worry. Kayden and Jesse play together all the time so it is even more painful to us all when Jesse leaves. A piece of our household is missing. I know that I am not the same when he is gone, and Quentin and I are not the same either. We still plan activities around when Jesse is home, and it’s a constant struggle to find time to do all of the things that we would like to with him. Both our house phone and my cell phone remain by our bed at night, and I find myself waking countless times in the night to check and make sure that there are no missed calls or texts. When he does call, it is only a temporary relief. We still don’t know where he is, who he’s with, or if he’s okay.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s a sick world we live in, when passing a child back and forth from his home is considered the norm. We’re supposed to be okay with it. We’re supposed to go on with our lives. We can’t. Jesse is, and always has been, our glue. He has always been a part of our family.
Sadly, our lives do revolve around this visitation. How could they not? Thanks to the way that our family court system feels, our lives are in constant peril. My children are being separated, and a little boy is learning to live two separate lives. Everything that he ever knew is being constantly threatened. His stability goes out the window at each new court appearance, and our entire family is supposed to make up for those changes and be okay.
It’s more complicated than that. To the family court system, it’s black and white. Toss the child back and forth is what’s best. But, what the courts do not see is this: Cell phones at the hip. Missed family activities. Sleep deprivation. Two brothers hugging goodbye again. Phone calls to say I love you and goodnight. Stuffed animals tucked under the covers alone. An empty bedroom. Bags packed and unpacked. Tears. We’re not just another piece of paper or court proceeding; we are so much more than that! We are a family.

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