Daddy Doughnut Day. A story of joint custody. 

It’s been more than three years now since my ex-husband and I divorced. Sometimes it’s hard to remember being married to him because it seems like lifetimes ago and sometimes the memories come flooding back in overwhelming waves of anxiety. I was so bitter. My marriage didn’t end in any way that anyone would or should see themselves experiencing. I remember crying out in the night, physical pain brought on by an emotional reaction, I didn’t even know that could happen. Food, even the idea of it made me sick to my stomach. I lost over 30 pounds within a few short months. I never imagined the pain would go away. But it did, and when it did it was replaced with a fury that I will never have the words to describe. I wanted revenge and so help me he was going to suffer.

My thoughts of how I was going to make him understand my pain ranged from having an intimate relationship with another person and rubbing it in his face to slashing all of his tires. I thought about blasting him on social media and laying out every dirty detail for the whole world to read. I was going to take every penny he had in child support. The desire for revenge consumed me. I couldn’t think of anything else, literally ever. No matter how much time I spent contemplating my options, nothing seemed like it would be severe enough per what I had determined he deserved. Until one night I had it, I figured it out. I was a genius. The smartest woman alive. He was NEVER going to see his son again.

I wasn’t only doing this out of pure hate and desire to pay him back for stealing a part of my soul that I didn’t feel I could mend, but he was the one who left! He was the one who made the choices he made! I shouldn’t have to suffer because he determined that our family was just another thing to cross off on his list of things he did in this life. He was not going to take away the life that I had, everything I knew AND my son, that just wasn’t an option. So we would go to court and I would take full custody and then maybe he would understand what misery really was. I would take control of my life again all the while stacking away the money that he legally had to pay me. So there. Take that.

Fast forward and it turns out that I didn’t end up doing exactly what I thought. However, I only gave him every other weekend. Our son was 1 and a half at the time and  he didn’t fully understand but he didn’t need to. Children have a fierce connection to how they feel and you could tell that at least emotionally, he understood something wasn’t right. Whenever he was away I was broken, counting down the seconds until he was coming home and when he was home, he was asking for his dad and it sucked. While I was complaining about this at work one day my assistant manager at the time said, “You know Chelsie, my ex-husband comes over every Sunday morning for breakfast and to be honest, I love it.” My immediate response? “Yeah okay, well that’s because you’re a crazy person.” Because she was right? She was absolute nuts, completely out of her mind. That’s just not what you do if you are sane and stuff. If you’re gonna do that why did you even get divorced in the first place? I went home annoyed that day and decided to no longer talk to her about my situation because CLEARLY she just didn’t understand.

When I met my current husband and I saw that it was possible to be happy again, my bitterness took a chill pill. I started to understand that things happen in this life that there isn’t an explanation for. You will only understand once you see how things turn out in the future. I became flexible for the first time in years. It was okay if he was a little late bringing our son back to me after they shared their weekend together. It wasn’t as big of a deal if he needed him one day during the week for his girlfriends birthday dinner. He wanted to start picking him up on Thursday night instead of Friday which after a considerable amount of thinking I agreed to, but only for a little while. Slowly but surely over a years time, I found myself in an every other week agreement with him and I had a panic attack. I laid in my bed late one night and realized that I was only going to see my child for 9 out of the next 18 years if we kept up this 50/50 junk! What have I done? I was going to call him first thing in the morning and take back everything I had done. We were going to just go back to the every other weekend arrangement. Okay, yes, that’s what I was going to do, now I can relax and go to sleep. I laid down and dread hit me when I realized that my decision, the one that I had just made, the one that helped me stop crying, was the wrong decision.

We kept our every other week arrangement. It was the absolute worst but it has yielded absolutely the best results. We don’t exactly kick it every Sunday morning enjoying orange rolls together but guess what? We all go to all of his soccer games together and set our chairs up in one big group that yells so loud you have to wonder if the other kids can even hear their parents cheering. Child support is no longer a payment from him to me that allows him to see his child. In fact, child support in our situation comes in the form of “What do I need to help make sure our son is taken care of and has a good life at home? Not an over the top bomb.com life, just a good, happy, beautiful life.” I have realized that the $600.00 that I could force him to pay me every other month is unnecessary for my survival and that I’m not really taking money from my ex, I am taking money from our child. The money that he saves each month can be spent on new clothes, we all know how fast they grow out of those suckers. They could get a nicer place for them to live, a cupboard stocked full of spaghettios and meatballs and ruffles cheese chips, those are his favorite. They could take family vacations and make memories and more and our son deserves that. My stomach doesn’t drop every time I have to see him anymore and my chest doesn’t burn with hate. We aren’t one big happy family, we are two completely separate families with the same goal.

Together, over some very difficult years of trial and error, we have found that we just weren’t good together, but we are good for our son even if it’s separately. We understand that our child didn’t choose this, we did. It was for the best seeing as how we are happier people now which allows us to be better parents for him. I had to teach my soul to understand the hard truth that yes, some children are not SAFE in the hands of their other parent. I had to force myself to see that there are mothers and fathers out there that fight for full custody of their child because it is what is best for them, but I had to accept that that wasn’t my reality. I tried to tell myself that it would be healthier for my son to be in one place and have some consistency. I had loved ones telling me that I was wrong for not fighting for full custody, but my heart, when I was honest with myself just knew that two parents who love their child and WANT to be involved was what was best, at least for us it was.

Our son is 5 now. He just started Kindergarten and today was Daddy Doughnut Day. Over the years I have wondered how our decision to share 50/50 custody until school started would affect our child. It was all confirmed when he came RUNNING out of school, looked me straight in my face and said “Today was the best day of my life. All of the other kids just had 1 dad there today, but I was the coolest kid in my class because I had 2.” I would be lying if I said that my eyes didn’t completely fill with tears as I offered a silent prayer to my Father in Heaven for making me strong enough to make the decision that for years had my heart breaking while simultaneously reassuring me that I was doing the right thing. Sometimes the right thing isn’t the easiest thing, actually most of the time it isn’t. I guess my assistant manager wasn’t all that crazy after all. Actually, she had it all figured out.

So for those of you that still shake at the mere mention of your ex, or for those that want to hug your child so tightly that somehow your bodies morph into one so that it is physically impossible for them to ever leave you again, as Judy Hopps would say, I implore you to try. Try to understand that this isn’t about money, revenge, who gets more time or any other excuse that you are trying to convince yourself isn’t selfish. It is however about your child and raising them in love to become the best possible them they can be. It’s about giving them a fighting chance in this life to know that love and marriage aren’t horrible things that they never want to experience because all they have ever seen is bitterness and hate. It’s about showing them AND yourself that you are strong enough to rise above the past. I can absolutely promise that there are blessings that come to those that suffer on the path of making the right decisions. I can now also tell you that one day, you will come face to face with those blessings and you will then understand the worth of your sacrifices.

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