This morning, as T stepped out of the car onto the sidewalk, he said “I want to see mommy and daddy”. His timing could not have been worse. Just minutes before, I had been thinking about a new blog post – one about our Friday night out at a local eatery and how, for a short time, life felt worry free. As we chatted with the restaurant staff and munched on french fries and fish sandwiches, DSS, case workers, permanency plans and visits all seemed like things from a distant past. Friday felt warm and comfortable – almost hopeful. I wanted to share that feeling in the blog.
T’s statement was like a splash of cold water to my face. For a few seconds, my mind was blank. My insides constricted and tightened, recoiling from my skin and from T, perhaps as some measure of protection.
Not hearing any response from me, T looked up and repeated his wish again – “I want to see mommy and my daddy”. My brain whirred back to life. I heard the my this time.
MY Daddy? I thought I was your Daddy? When I come to get you from day care, isn’t that what you shout as you wrap yourself around my leg? “My Daddy!!” You grin devilishly as you emphasize “my”.
I knew on some level that the sidewalk moment was a test. I realized that my my response could be rational and supportive or I could muck it up badly. I choked out the words “Ok. You’ll see them on Wednesday.” And I say “choked out”, because I was surprisingly close to tears.
Now at this point, I could have left the matter alone, but I didn’t. I was stinging. T had unearthed a deep-rooted, closely-held fear – that he would someday choose his parents over me. He would someday choose to live with them and not with us.
Before I could stop myself, I asked the question I have been struggling to hold back for many months now.
“Do you want to live with your Mommy and Daddy?”
I asked it in that sing-songy voice that parents use to make something sound appealing to their little one(s). I’m not sure why I said it in that way. I knew T would say yes. I might as well have asked him if he wanted a cookie or a big scoop of ice cream with sprinkles on top. O f course he would say yes. And he did. I bit down hard on my tongue, wanting to stop myself from shouting “Traitor!” at the top of my lungs. I was not feeling rational at all.
Do you remember that classic scene in Alien, when the alien bursts through the guy’s chest as he writhes and struggles on the table? Memories of that scene interrupted my thoughts as I stood there talking to T. Something inside me has been trying to get out and I’ve been struggling mightily to keep it contained. Call it fear. Call it insecurity. Call it selfishness. Maybe it’s a beast made up of all of those things. I don’t want it to come out though. I don’t like that part of me.
As T and I walked down the sidewalk towards day care, I felt myself give ground to the beast. I was losing the battle.
“If you live with Mommy and Daddy, you won’t be able to live with Daddy and Poppa anymore. Is that what you want?”
But it wasn’t at all ok. The beast pressed forward, taking complete control of my vocal chords.
“So you won’t be able to stay with us. You will only live with Mommy and Daddy. Ok?”
Way in the back corner of my brain, where rational thought still existed, I knew that this exchange was not a good one to have. T didn’t understand what he was saying. Concepts like “live with” and permanency and forever make no sense to him. He sees his mother and father weekly and should like them. He gets to eat candy, watch movies and play with his sisters. What’s not to like? Why wouldn’t he want to see them again?
On some level I was able to process all that, but it didn’t matter. As we got closer to the entrance, all I knew was that I had to get away from T. I had to remove myself from the exchange – 1) because I was hurting and 2) because I was not handling it at all like I think a good parent should and 3) because the beast was starting to play mind games with the both of us.
I walked faster towards the entrance, putting some distance between T and me. T must have felt something was amiss.
“Nooooo, Daddy! I want to live with Poppa and Daddy!”
Great, so now I’ve distressed the kid for my own validation and selfishness. You are one fucked-up, bad daddy.
When we got inside, we finished our drop-off routine – the running hug. T steps back about 15 feet from me, runs headlong towards me and crashes into me for a big hug. We do it three times and then I kiss him and tell him “I love you” and “Have a good day!” I tried my best to mask how unsettled I still was and then I got out of there before I could do more damage.
Looking back, I wish I had left things at “Ok. You’ll see them on Wednesday.” Anything else after that was just self-torture. And I was way to close to making things very confusing and hurtful for T. I am not at all happy with the way it all went down.
What happened this morning reinforces my concern about the coming months. On December 2nd, there is yet another hearing and I am certain that we will not like the outcome. It seems evident that there is movement towards unsupervised visits and transition to his mother and father, all of which are opportunities for uncertainty, confusion and emotional drama. If I can barely keep it together when T says that he wants to see his biological parents, what the hell am I going to be like in December and the months after?
I so need this to be over, one way or another.