Mommy can’t play with you because Mommy is sad
I wanted to write this post two weeks ago, and I should have, but I was busy.
For the first time, I was able to get the custody matter before a judge and have fair representation here in a local court. A Monroe County judge finally seemed to be willing to discuss my case with the judge in Utah for the purpose of getting jurisdiction moved here so custody could be discussed. I also returned to Monroe County Child Support Collection for a new appointment on almost the 5-year anniversary of the first time I filed there. My child’s father pays no child support or alimony though he earns $10,000 a month while we struggle at the poverty line, and after years of lawyers in three states ripping me off, finally a court appointed me with some lawyers who were motivated to represent my child and me.
With a splitting headache, I had waited in the crowded lobby for 2 1/2 hours because my hearing is always scheduled last. The judge dismissed my case. He started speaking before I even sat down. He had not managed to get in touch with Judge Howard in Utah’s Fourth District, so he based his ruling on the court clerk telling him the case was pending. My ex-husband’s attorney never even spoke. The attorneys representing my child and myself were so shocked, they both delivered their arguments twice. In my petition filed in August, I had explained that I wasn’t able to get representation in Utah and that the clerk had prevented me from scheduling a hearing on my own behalf. I explained the financial hardship caused by my having to travel from New York to Utah and appear in person for every hearing, and the pointlessness of hearings in Utah when no one lived there, including the child’s father, who is an active duty Warrant Officer who can change his state of legal residence at will whenever he feels like it.
On the days I deal with the ongoing child custody and support issues in my life, I find myself climbing out of a scorched and smoking crater. Other days are hazy and unclear, leaving me feeling like I’ve been walking through mud without getting anywhere, as I try to push my unequal treatment in America’s legal system out of my mind in an effort to focus on being productive and happy. Going to court to try to get your bills paid and your basic needs met is not a joke, and when year after year goes by without help, your credit rating goes down, you lose assets, you get closer and closer to poverty. I was told that a child is legally entitled to support from both parents, and I finally found lawyers in my own town who believe that, too, but they can’t help me anymore. Once again, I am fighting that battle alone.
Everyone believes I am a good mother to my child. Her doctors, her teachers, her friends, my friends. Laying aside the financial pressures I’ve been feeling for the past 5 years, if that were possible, and my ex-husband’s human right to continue kicking me in the teeth after the divorce, I have to write about the confusing feelings I began to have when I first found out I might get a fair hearing.
I felt pain. Even though I was happy and encouraged, I began to feel like a quadriplegic does when the nerve endings are trying to knit themselves back together in his spine and he feels a tingling somewhere in the part of his body that was dead. Things are starting to wake up again and the pain is excruciating. That was the first thing I began to notice: the pain of healing. It hurts to feel human again after being treated like a worm for so long, after being numb for so long. The next feeling I felt was regret. I began to look around at my daughter’s toys, and I felt sad. In my marketing class last week, we talked about the concept of Perishability, how in the service economy, once a day is lost, it’s gone forever. My daughter has been here 5 years, and I looked at the gifts she got and the things I bought for her that we were supposed to play with together, the Legos and the dolls and the science kits and the butterfly hatchery, the journals and sticker books and calendars. She came to me when she was 5 and now she’s 10. When she played, she had to play by herself because Mommy couldn’t imagine and Mommy was tired. She’s used to playing by herself now so it’s not a big deal. We’re together doing things separately, and that’s how we spend quality time. All her toys are in boxes because I guess she didn’t feel like playing with them either, as days of playing alone drew into weeks and months and years.
But for that brief period I felt like a human being, we got out the dolls and we played, and it was fun. We had so much fun together. I look at their pretty faces now, and that’s all they are. Pretty things which lie around, waiting to be looked at or discarded. We keep them around hoping for good days when we can play with them again. I can’t think about the images of the happy Mormon family where mothers play with their children. Those images of smiling family don’t even make sense. In the past 5 years, my daughter and I have played with dolls three times. We don’t even play on Christmas, we just open the presents and then put them away.
To be a productive human being in a world where I am mistreated, I work hard to numb myself daily. The only thing that gets to me now is when her dad calls or takes her with him on a visit. He loves her and hates me, and he shows his love and hatred by opening his pockets to pay off lawyers and judges. Now and then, he’ll buy his daughter a bag of sugary syrupy candy or a toy. This is what he does with his money instead of paying child support and alimony, and the Family Court lawyers and judges are just fine with that.
What will my little girl be when she grows up? A doll with a pretty face, lying around waiting to be played with or discarded, maybe. In the United States we used to do things and make things, and we were notable for the things we did and made. I talk to my little girl daily about history and national pride and what it all means, and I try to share my sense of identity with her. As much as it hurts, identity never goes away, but one day I probably will. Maybe it’s better for her if it happens sooner than later. Maybe she will be angry and keep up the fight instead of watching me be slowly worn down until she herself loses hope. I’m always planning and thinking of her. Maybe I’m fighting this all the wrong way. Maybe I should let her father win custody when she’s 12 and focus on my own survival. Maybe I should just accept the fact that life is just no fun.