She won’t let me see her. My own child. My own little girl. She won’t let me even talk to her on the phone. Let alone take her out to see a film, or Legoland, or anywhere. She’s stolen my baby girl. It’s like every day I know something has been taken away from me. Something’s missing that I can’t replace any other way. I tried moving away for a while, to forget. But it gnawed at me. I feel so angry. I’m going to fight. I’m going to get to see my daughter, no matter how long it takes. The Law must be on my side.
He’s nothing. He doesn’t deserve to see her. He gives us no money and even if he did I wouldn’t let him near my child. She’s my child. He cheated on me and he lied and she’s better off without him. I’m not having him go near her. Not even in one of those contact centres. He has no shame so he’ll even put up with that so I’m just going to ignore it all and if he keeps pestering us I’m going to go to Women’s Aid and say he hits us. He can just go to Hell.
I met a guy at the support group and he downloaded forms from online and stood up for himself in court. Did it himself. Took ages and he had to take time off work and travel to the court but he did it all himself. Except for some advice he did take from a solicitor which cost him a bit but otherwise he did it all. They ended up giving him LESS time with his kids. Can you believe that? Said it was ‘in their best interest’. But right now I have no access to my daughter at all so I’ve got nothing to lose, have I?
She keeps asking for her daddy but I just tell her he’s gone and good riddance. I tell her to forget him. It made her cry at first but now she just doesn’t talk about him anymore. She’s only 6 but she’s smart. I told her, “her dad’s a cheater and that she doesn’t need him”. We don’t need him. He’s taking us to court just to piss me off. I got the letter this morning. I put it straight in the bin.
I’ve been going to this support group for dads. Most of them are angry like me. But there was one who seemed calm, almost peaceful. Wearing a checked shirt and sitting quietly. He’s weird though. Listen to this: He told me after the group that “when the tide is pulling you in the wrong direction every time you jump into the river, you can always choose instead to stay on the bank”. “What for?” I asked him. “Your Ex won’t let you see your boy. What’s the point in just waiting? Why don’t you fight?” “Well, because I’m too busy to fight” he said. “Busy doing what?” “Standing on the bank of the river” he said. “Building a bridge”.
She’s been acting up at school. They seem to think it’s to do with home life. But she’s fine at home. Spends most of her time in her room. I’m doing the best I can. It’s not easy being a single mum. Especially when you have to go to court and defend your right to protect your own child from a bad influence. He’ll probably turn up with some girlfriend or someone and pretend he’s some really perfect man when he’s just a cheat and a liar. I wish he would just go way and leave us alone.
I wake up sometimes thinking I can hear her breathing. The cot used to be in the same room as we only had one room. And now I just get the snoring through the wall of my neighbour in this piss-poor bedsit. The ‘building the bridge guy’ – I don’t know what he was talking about but he was calm and I guess I was getting tired of all the angry stuff. I’m tired of feeling a victim. I just want to be connected to my daughter again. The bridge guy told me that when you start building, it seems impossible. How can you put something on one bank and then on another and then like some miracle, you fill in the gap. And it’s all connected and it’s like it’s always been like that. He told me that he was using other ways to stay in touch with his son. He was keeping a diary. I said that was pretty sad if his son couldn’t see it. He said his son would see it one day. And he would know that his dad never forgot about him and he thought about him every day. And just because he couldn’t send letters without them being returned, he still wrote and kept a record in the diary so his son could share that time with him. And he wrote about good stuff, positive, and he said it made him feel good doing it. He told me that when I went to court, I needed to change my mind first. To see things differently. “It’s about laying foundations for the bridge” he told me. I had nothing better to do, so I listened. I felt sorry for him.
We had the court case today and I just couldn’t believe it. He had the nerve to stand there in front of the judge and apologise for all those angry letters he had written to me last year. He said “I was trying to get her to listen to me but I did it the wrong way” – well, that was true enough! But then he said: “I apologise for fuelling her anger with me even though I only meant to see my child. I didn’t want to make her angry with me. I apologise to her and the court if that was what happened. It wasn’t my intention. I just want to see my child.” What’s going on? He’s never apologised for anything in his life. I’m not buying it. But the judge thanked him – can you believe it? Thanked him for being so ‘reasonable’. But it didn’t do him any good. He can see her in the contact centre as I’ve made it clear I don’t feel safe around him. Alright, he’s never actually hit me or anything. But I feel emotionally unsafe, you know what I mean? So I’m not going make this easy for the bastard. Didn’t see anyone with him. Just some bloke in a checked shirt who I haven’t seen before. Must be a new friend.
Sometimes it drives me crazy, not being able to talk to my own child. She’s too young to track down on Facebook, which some of the dads do, having secret conversations with their own children. I hate going to the contact centre. It feels so humiliating. I never harmed a hair on her head but just cause I had one fling she’s crucifying me now. Sometimes I hate her. “Don’t you hate your Ex?” I ask him, after the group. “She’s the mother of my child” he says to me. “I would be hating half my child.” Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with the stuff he says. “What can I do?” I asked him. “The next court date is months away and all I’ve got is some time in a contact centre, supervised, and she probably won’t even show up.” He smiled at me, and said: “Imagine you didn’t hate her. Imagine that every time you think of her, you see your child in the face of her mother. Then, imagine what you need to do to build trust.” “That’s blown” I tells him. I shagged her best mate after a party. What can you do? I’ve blown it.” But I thought about it that night, kept awake by the snoring from next door. I thought about it for a long time.
The stupid bastard, what’s he doing? Outside on my doorstep with a goldfish in a bowl? I told him where I wanted to shove that fish and that he wasn’t going to see her and to piss off or I’d call the police. What’s got into him? Then he comes back the next evening but he’s over the other side of the street. Still with that fish. I think he’s really lost it. I called the Police but they spoke to him and said he seemed really calm and he was just waiting until I accepted his gift. I don’t want a bloody gold fish! The police said they though it might be a present for our daughter but I told them she doesn’t need a pet and that he wasn’t allowed to see her. But I couldn’t prove that and they didn’t want a domestic but they said he wasn’t causing any trouble so they left him there.
It’s been a week. He’s still turns up every day. Him and the goldfish.
It’s quite therapeutic watching a fish go around and around in a bowl. I was looking at it in the shop window after our group outside having a smoke. I felt like the fish. Going round in circles, getting nowhere. At first I felt angry, but then I remembered – what if I think of her not as the bitch from hell, but as half my daughter? Didn’t want to at first. But when I did, I started to feel a bit different. I went back to the shop the next day and bought the fish. I knew it was stupid. That I wouldn’t be allowed to give the fish to my daughter. But somehow just believing in the impossible, made me feel less desperate.
No more legal letters. My solicitor told me I would need to turn up at the contact centre eventually, so I don’t know why he’s stopped chasing me. Maybe he’s just got tired. But he’s there every evening for an hour between 6 and 7. I can’t believe it’s the same fish. He must be stocking up every time one pops it. I can’t stop our girl seeing him. She’s not stupid. She can see he’s plotting something, sitting there with his fish bowl. She’s given up trying to persuade me to let him come in. Now I don’t have anything to fight against, it’s harder in a way. I mean what’s his game? Nothing anyone told me seems to have come true. I don’t feel any happier on my own. I don’t want him back but all the things I used to be angry about don’t fit anymore. He doesn’t demand anything, or send legal letters, or leave angry messages. He doesn’t bitch about me on Facebook or say crap things about me to my mates when he sees them in town. It’s weird. He just comes every day – even weekends – and sits there with that bloody fish. For 8 weeks. It seems he’s always been there, staring at his iPad. Holding a fish bowl.
There was a lot of shouting and banging earlier. Six going on fourteen I guess. I see her face at the window every day and long so much to go over there and bash down the door. But I just stay with Patience – that’s what I call the goldfish. Actually, it’s Patience Mark 4 – they don’t live very long. Then the front door opens and more shouting. It slams shut. Then it opens again. I see both of them, on the doorstep. They are walking over together. She stands with her arms folded in the street, but my girl keeps walking towards me. My heart is in my throat. I don’t know what to say. I just hand her the bowl, and she takes it, and smiles at the fish, and smiles at me. It’s been two years since I got kicked out. We don’t really know each other. She probably hates me. Parental alienation they call it. “Can I keep it?” She asks. “It’s up to your mum” I says. I wanted to say “of course you can keep it. I’ve been sitting out her for over two months and you can have anything you want” but I remembered, that I was still on one bank looking across the river, and that the foundations still needed to be made a bit more solid.
“Why are you doing this to us?” her mum shouts across. She’s only a few feet away but she might as well be a mile off. “Why are you trying to make me go crazy? Haven’t you done enough harm already?” She is shouting and I think she might cry, but she’s out in the street so she’s holding it together.
“I know you’re angry” I tells her. She looks confused. I’m a bit confused – it’s not normally the way I speak. But I’ve been reading to Patience Mark 1, 2, 3 and 4 over these last weeks. Reading books on communication and parenting and stuff off my iPad. The bloke with the checked shirt emailed them to me. I’m no expert, but I’m going to use this new situation to practice. Been practicing at work too as it seems to be good stuff with work mates who are being pissy. Just listening, reflecting back, showing you take them seriously. Telling that angry voice in your head that says they are a stupid nobhead and should just sort out their shit, to be quiet, and just let it pass. Don’t say what just comes straight to my mouth. Hold it. Breathe.
“She’s not having that bloody thing in the house”. Then she stomps back and sits on the doorstep, glaring. I feel angry for a moment – but then I notice that our daughter is still standing next to me. Holding the fish bowl. I want to hug her so much. But I breathe and I say: “Perhaps tomorrow, you can feed Patience. I’ll bring some fish food with me?” She smiles. Such a beautiful, broad, smile. She hands back the bowl and without a word, knowing the way the river flows, instinctively, runs back to her mum. They go inside.
“Well, Patience Mark 4” I says, looking at the fish eye ball to eyeball. “I wonder if you’ll live to see the bridge built? Will you? Or will it be Mark 5?”
Whose to say. I walk back down the bank, looking across the river, but no matter how hard the current may be, I know I’m going to build that bridge. One day at a time.
SuzyMillerCreator of Best Way To Divorce. International Divorce Divorce Strategist and TEDx Speaker.
6th March 2022
4th June 2023
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