I will never forget when custody battles began over my daughter. Her father was emotionally and physically abusive towards me and my son (my son has a different father), but when it came to our daughter, he seemed to completely adore her. He seemed like he genuinely loved her and wanted to be in her life. He never raised his voice at her or seemed in anyway that he would cause harm to her. That all changed when he and I split up and we had to go to court for custody and visitation arrangements.
The first time we battled over custody, I started to notice that he would use our daughter to try to get at me. He would show up late, both drop offs and pick ups. He would complain about what clothes she wore, or he didn’t like her shoes. Ya know! Real petty stuff! I just dealt with that the best I could since he wasn’t going anywhere. Then as court drug on, it seemed to turn into a game, more than figuring out what was best for our daughter. I thought at the time that it was best to just try to come to an agreement. So, I agreed to shared parenting where we split most weeks. I had her 60% of the time and he had her 40% of the time.
I thought things would settle down once court was over, but it just went from one power play to another. He started to complain more about her clothes, her hair styles; just about anything that he could possibly complain about. Then one day, my daughter was about 4 at the time, my daughter started to panic. She told me that she couldn’t wear the outfit that she had on because it was a dress and her dad would yell at her. This continued over the next several visits. She would get real bad anxiety over her hair, her shoes, and her clothes. She started telling me that her dad would tell her that her clothes were ugly, her shoes were stupid, and her hair was nappy. Then she started coming home crying telling me that her dad told her that I was stupid and should be thrown away in the trash and that I was a clown and should own one of those clown cars that you see in the circus.
He was very spiteful mainly because of how our relationship ended. He became quite angry during an argument and threw stuff all over the house, breaking the house phone and one of our cell phones so I could not call 911. He broke in the front door and broke the door jam. I had my neighbors call the police that night after he left and the police issued a warrant for his arrest. He blamed me for having to go to court and deal with domestic violence charges and our break up. Therefore, I got his full wrath. He even went as far once to place several ads in craigslist under casual encounters where he listed my name, phone number, and address.
I knew something had to give. I told him that I was going to take him back to court to change our custody agreement. I also told him that I put our daughter in counseling for her panic and anxiety. Well he beat me to the punch and filed contempt of court against me, along with full custody. I will never forget the look on my lawyers face when she told me what he filed as contempt charges. He filed that I should be held in contempt of our agreement because I put our daughter in to therapy without his permission and he does not agree with therapy, and that I tell my daughter that “she is not black!” What? My daughter is mixed and has been around her father’s family all her life. My lawyer told me that she had no words for the contempt charges and could not believe he found a lawyer that would actually write that up.
As we battled for the second time over custody of our daughter, things just got worse. We were forced to go to therapy. Funny, considering that was one of the things that he disagreed with. That only lasted two sessions. The therapist reported that it was not safe, nor a good idea for us to have therapy together. Then my lawyer started to fear for my safety. She had it written up that I did not have to speak to him via the phone and that all communications should be either text message or email. She also made it that our pick up and drop offs were in a public space. In the end, he lost custody. He no longer had any parental rights; however, he did still retain visitation rights, but they were reduced to every other weekend and holidays.
When my daughter was born, she seemed like the light of her dad’s world, but that was just some illusion. She was merely a pawn in his game. She was expendable. As soon as he had no control over the situation, he just disappeared. He was like a tornado that came through and wreaked havoc, destroying his daughter’s innocence. I can still remember her cries, asking why her dad didn’t want her; asking why she wasn’t good enough; and what did she do wrong. Not only was she left broken, without a father, she had to morn the loss of her sister. She had a sister that was 18 months younger than her that she was no longer able to have a relationship with. That is a lot to put on a plate of a 6 year old little girl. Anyone that knows psychology, knows that the first 7 to 8 years of life will determine how their personalities develop and how they will handle life as they become adults. My daughter was traumatized repeatedly for those first years of her life and I can still see the affects it has today. It has been 9 years since her father left. She is now 14 and is very avoidant and acts much older than her age.
Many call her an old soul, I would say that she has a traumatized soul. She seems on the outside very happy, but that is just a persona. She is very empathetic which I would imagine that it is because she knows pain. She knows pain very well and she doesn’t want others to endure that feeling. She is very motherly and will be the first to speak up when something isn’t right. She will fight for the underdog and will not stand bullying in any form. All her teachers rave about how wonderful she is and she is a straight A student. Her guidance counselor always says that she is a really good friend and you don’t see that often will girls of her age.
Seems like she turned out alright after all she has gone though. She went through all the stages of grief. She was in therapy for several years and learned coping skills. She’s happy, has friends, and is engaged in clubs at school, so why do I seem concerned. My daughter still hasn’t healed. She just hides her scars to the world, but as her mother, I can see the wound is still there unhealed. She will not talk about her feelings and can disconnect herself from a person without a single tear in her eye. She prefers solitude and she is very insecure. She is always afraid that she is doing something wrong. I notice this if I am having a bad day. She thinks she did something that caused me to be upset. Though therapy was helpful, it did not heal her. She said to me once that she can not be mean to her dad (her step-father) because if she upsets him that he will leave her too.
Growing up, I felt abandoned by my father and I ended up dating “boys” that were familiar. This is the generational curse that I bestowed upon my daughter. Nothing that happened to her was her fault. It was my fault for not healing my own childhood wounds. It made me dig deep inside of myself and see what was causing my patterns of seeking out harmful relationships and why it was so hard for me to break my own patterns. It is never too late to heal your inner childhood wounds. I just hope that as my daughter witnesses my healing, it will encourage her to want to heal herself.
If I had to give dating advice, it would be to wait. Heal yourself first before you try to find someone else to fill the void within your heart. If you date and you seem to find yourself in the same type of relationship over and over, ask yourself what is familiar about them and what needs to be healed in order to have a healthy relationship. Ask yourself that question when you are really tired and about to fall asleep. Keep a journal with you by your bed and throughout the day. If you wake up in the middle of the night, write down anything that comes into your head. Same throughout the day. Do not care about grammar or what it means as you write. Do not think about what you are writing. Just write. After a few days then go back and read what you wrote. You may be surprised at what your subconscious has to tell you.