Jamie's Story: Love and Custody
CUSTODY. Another dreaded "c" word no one likes to talk about...
It’s a common occurrence in a lot of children's lives these days. There are usually one or two children in your child’s classroom who have two houses. These family dynamics are found down the street and more often than not, even within our own families. Kids are much more understanding when they explain "the situation" to their friends. To them they just have two houses, two birthdays, two Christmases. It sounds kinda cool! Adults on the other hand, don’t always know how to deal with it...we don't always know what to say.
My ex and I got pregnant after only a few months of being together and tried our hardest to make it work, but in the end we just weren't meant to be. We tried to work out a custody agreement that suited all three of us, and it "worked" for a bit, but it had its kinks.
In November of 2012 we decided to go to a legal mediation to work out an agreement that felt more comfortable to each of us. We both wanted our son all the time, but knew it wasn’t fair to keep him from one another.
Once Kindergarten hit everything became a mess. Custody is sticky. Add in school, two different houses, and four parents...things just get harder. My son’s father met my son’s stepmother very soon after we broke up. This created a lot of tension (and looking back, we all slightly created it). We had both moved on but shared the greatest thing that happened to us. We had to share him all while wanting to keep him to ourselves, heal, and move on.
Around Christmas time in 2014, I had had enough of doing all the school work, waking him up, and putting him to bed early. Yes, I know I signed up for those things when I became pregnant, but so did his father when we decided on 50/50 custody. Kindergarten homework is nothing (and can be fun) but when you can’t do any events as a family because every night is a school night, it takes a toll on you. Dad got to do all the fun weekend activities, and I felt like I was missing out. I still attended soccer on Saturday mornings, and they still showed up to soccer practice on nights that weren’t “theirs”, but after discussing schedules with other custody parents we decided to write up a new agreement that made more sense and established more balance.
Our son is a sensitive little boy and only knows this life. It makes ‘switch days’ much easier and when we make slight changes he can go with the flow. But, this change was a complete overhaul, a redo, so we decided to wait until June to have it go into effect so it didn’t affect his school work. I typed our agreement up, sent it over to dad and step mom for a once over, and printed it out with their approval. Dad and I met up one Sunday morning to have our new custody notarized. This would hold us both accountable, legally and morally, without costing us and the courts additional time and money. I can’t say this will work for everyone, but it was what worked for us. June 12th 2015 was a Saturday I will never forget. It was a day spent doing a whole lot of nothing, but I had my mini with me and that’s all that mattered.
This whole custody situation has changed a few times, and will be an ever-changing thing with us. Kids grow up, and families grow. Things happen. It’s taken a lot of swallowing pride, and holding in anger. I've dealt by crying on the way to work and relied on technology to help us along.
First grade and now second grade are so much easier now with this new agreement (thank goodness for teachers who have done this before because we haven’t!) We make sure (stepmom and I) to meet with the teachers early in the school year and explain our situation: two folders, two sets of everything, four parents. It’s a lot of extra work for them, but thankfully they make it work for all of us. It takes a big person, two people in our situation, to be a part of a child’s life that isn’t "yours" but to treat them like your own. It’s taken me a long time to accept that. It's forced me to grow. His stepmom loves him, wants what’s best for him, tucks him in, and cares for him all while I’m not there and that stings. I would love to be there fully for him, but it’s just not an option. So quite easily we could all lean into the "bad,"but the only person who would hurt from that is our son.
He's all four of ours. Our son.
There may have only been two of us in that delivery room, but families grow. In our family we all have the common goal of creating two happy, healthy homes with four loving parents, rather than one not so happy home with two parents who are only together for the sake of their child.
I still often get the urge to roll my eyes and sigh when I hear people complaining that their child peed the bed, or that they have watched the same movie for the millionth time, because so badly I wish I could have a child around 24/7. I want to have to clean up pee, or watch the same movie on repeat. It’s a lonely life not having your child around, I won’t lie about that. I would call myself almost a pro at this time after five years of custody, but there are so many days where I wish I could just scoop my son up and snuggle while hearing him tell me all about the Pokémon card powers.
I mentioned technology helping us earlier. My ex is the worst at communicating on the phone. The worst. I noticed this, and it drove me (and still does) up a wall. A LOT of our fighting stemmed from this but, out of the struggles have come growth. I've learned to talk to step mom and she is (thankfully) willing to communicate effectively with me. We both keep one another in the loop, and like magic, a lot of our problems seem to disappear. Stepmom, dad and I all have a shared group chat where EVERYTHING gets communicated so we all have recourse, all are told, and everything goes smoothly. School, cub scouts, sports, are all emailed out and discussed in our group chat. We have now hit the age where our son can text everyone through there if he misses anyone or wants them to know something mom forgot to mention. The number one rule is communication. He is encouraged to call/text all of us no matter what, at any time. There’s some things that can’t wait and there’s things that can wait but he has the choice and the parents who allow him to make that choice on his own.
A few Sundays ago we had family visiting, so I ran to grab my son (with permission) and we went to see my cousin in a hockey game. I brought him back to dad’s house and then they kept him Monday on “my day” since I had to work and they had off for Martin Luther King Day.
We ebb and we flow.
Communication and growing up (all of us growing) has helped a ton, but having our son see us all together and having his now little bother walk up to me (not just little brother’s mom) and my being able to hold him while in their house...us chatting for an hour...that makes our world. Those big, little details make us the role models he needs.