Saturday, December 24, 2016

Maybe This Year Will Be Different; Christmas For An Alienated Dad


As you sit at home with your family on Christmas Eve, watching Miracle on 34th Street or wrapping your last few presents, there's a father out there who won't get to see his kid tomorrow. Sure, he put up the old Christmas tree given to him by a friend when they no longer needed it; he even put on the lights and ornaments purchased from a neighbor's garage sale. He scraped together what little money he had left after child support and other bills were paid, then skipped enough meals so that he could afford to buy a few small toys for that little boy or girl; just in case their mother had a sudden change in heart and let them come over.

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He begrudgingly picks up the court papers, hastily signed by some judge who never even met him. These papers supposedly granting him the “right” to be a father to his own kid for a few hours every other weekend and on some holidays; essentially robbing him of the right to be a full-time parent. All of this just because his ex decided to leave him for someone else with more earning potential. Re-reading the rambling legal terminology, copied and pasted from some other poor soul's orders, he searches for the heading of the section pertaining to Christmas visitation. Even though he has read it hundreds of times and could probably recite it word for word in his sleep, he reads it one more time to make sure of the time he's supposed to meet his ex tomorrow to get his child.

At this point, after so many denied visitations, he has all but lost hope of seeing that son or daughter again, much less on Christmas. But regardless, he trudges through the same routine he follows every evening before one of his court-ordered exchanges. After reading the court papers, he places them on the kitchen counter next to the door, along with the voice recorder he uses to document everything after his ex had accused him of hitting her at a previous exchange. He does the math in his head again, to make sure of exactly how much gas he needs tomorrow for the 73 mile drive to meet his ex for the exchange. He has a quick passing thought of how many meals he will have to skip next week in order to afford the gas for the drive, but he knows this will only depress him more. Now all that's left is to try and distract himself from the anxiety of tomorrow so he can get some sleep.

The next morning, waking up from tossing and turning on the couch most of the night, he readies himself for the one hour and 18 minute drive by getting dressed and popping one of those magic little pills given to him by his doctor to “make it a little easier to handle life.” Even though the pills don't seem to help, he was strongly cautioned against suddenly quitting. And frankly, he was a little scared to find out just how bad things might really be if he was already this depressed while taking the pills.

Unable to find any music that doesn't give him flashbacks to the last time he saw his child, he drives in silence; rehearsing in his head what he will say to the police officer when he calls to report that once again he is being denied his court ordered visitation. Knowing that even though his ex is breaking the law by refusing to allow him to see his child, it's unlikely the officer will want to do anything about it. At this point, considering his mental state, he just hopes he can make it through telling the officer his story and get back to his car before breaking down in tears.

Finally arriving at the house where his ex and his child live with her newest lover, he immediately notices the driveway is empty. Hoping for a miracle, he turns on the voice recorder, walks toward the house and rings the doorbell. Maybe this year will be different.

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Sadly, this is the life of many parents in America. Just because the relationship with their child's other parent didn't work out, for no wrong of their own, they are suddenly reduced to an every other weekend parent. A large amount of their income is then ordered to be redistributed to the other parent as “child support”, often rendering them unable to even pay their most basic bills, and certainly unable to afford the expense of taking that other parent back to court to fight for more time with their child.

Then just as they are beginning to recover, suddenly that other parent refuses to allow even the minimal time ordered by the judge in their custody papers. Many of these alienating parents, in an attempt to gain an upper hand in court, resort to false allegations of domestic violence and abuse both against them and against the child. Some of these parents end up in jail; either for false allegations or their inability to pay child support. Some of these parents just give up and walk away because the pain and helplessness is just too much to handle.

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