The Best Interest of the Children

You have a choice right now. I will give you a fun little tidbit a girlfriend shared about her three-year old and Christmas day. You can choose to read that and stop. Or, you can read on. Now, if you choose to continue, this post will not be funny. It will be heart wrenching. I’m likely to cry while writing it. You may cry while reading it.

Here’s the fun tidbit:

My friend’s three-year old daughter got a rocket ship from her grandpa this Christmas. It had everything a rocket ship would need, including a latrine. She put some little toy people in it, along with baby Jesus from the nativity scene. As she was about to blast that thing to outer space she screams: “Stop the rocket! Jesus has to go potty!”

There was your fun. Here comes the heart ache. Again, feel free not to read.

Today was my court hearing for my dissolution. For the last few days, weeks, months, we’ve been hammering out details over who gets the kids when and for how long. It’s always been about “What’s in the best interests of the children.”

These last two weeks have been incredibly stressful. In addition to it being the first Christmas my children won’t wake up to Mommy and Daddy, I’ve had the stress of changing paperwork and coming to last-minute agreements on custody. At the beginning of all this, I was a stay at home mom. The prospect of not spending even a single day around my children was sickening. It still is. However, I’ve done my research and I know the importance of making sure children have the love and attention of both parents. I have no desire to deny them of that. But, then it goes right back to what’s in their best interests. Do you know?

If you had to, right now, decide what is in the best interests for your kids if you and your spouse divorced today, would you be able to make that decision? If you decide it’s better for them to be with you most of the time, are you resigning your children to spend a few of their adult years sitting on the couch of a counselor’s office talking about why their life sucked because they didn’t get enough time with their other parent? Are you okay with denying the other parent time with their children?

Whatever you decide in this instant isn’t just a today matter. This is “what’s in the best interest of the children” until they graduate high school. No pressure. Just decide. Right now.

Do you remember when you first brought your newborn home from the hospital and you would just sit there, staring in amazement, watching your baby sleep? How about a few months or years later, when you went back to work and you would creep in and gaze at them in their crib because you’d been away from them all day long? Or when you get home from a long day at the office and they charge at you, giddy to see you and you wrap them up in your arms and squeeze them just a little longer because you’ve missed their sweet little face? Now imagine that slipping away from you.

Just a hug gone here. A kiss gone there. One by one, they melt away.

I pondered, agonized over what was in “the best interest of my children” for the last several months. I’m not sure I even have an answer now. I just want what’s best for them. God only knows.

I’ve been told it’s selfish to want them more than half of the time. I’ve been told I’m not trying hard enough to get them longer than half the time. I’ve been told it’s my decision and to pray on it. I’ve been told a lot of things and yet here I am, still wondering if what I signed in court today was in the best interest of my kids.

It turns my stomach to do the math and think of all the days, weeks, months and years I’ll miss from their lives. Tonight, I tried to turn a stressful day into something fun. My daughter put a face mask on me. Chocolate and honey were involved. The baby wanted some on his face, too. My kindergartener wanted to play “The Wiggles” game, which we did until he got pissed that he wasn’t winning and stormed downstairs. He’s since told me I’m not allowed in his room anymore. Then he apologized. Then he demanded to know why he was the only one in the house to have to do chores. Now he’s flopping angrily in his bed. My daughter went to bed with the classic “But, MOM!” words spilling out of her mouth, over the injustice of having to go to sleep. My toddler is grumpily laying in his bed shouting “NO!” repeatedly. It’s his new favorite word.

Even these frustrating memories are ones I cherish. Now more than ever. Moms and Dads out there- all I can tell you is hug your babies. You never really know how much those hours count.

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kara
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 21:49:52

    Oh honey, I don’t even know what to say. Except I’m there too, and it sucks so very much. It sucks for you, it sucks for the kids, and there are no right answers. But it sure feels like there’s a whole lot of wrong ones, doesn’t it?

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 09:25:40

      Kara, It does suck. But, as Amy said, I’ve gotta put my hope in the future and just try to be the best mom I can be with the time I do have with them.

      Reply

  2. AkFrost
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 21:53:13

    The best interest of the children should always be the first and foremost. Even in the worst of times (divorce) children need to know that they are loved and wanted. Children should be raised by both of their parents, and the hardest choice is one of self sacrifice, to put aside what you want, to not transfer your feelings to your children of anger and resentment of a relationship gone bad and allow your children to have the best of both their parents.
    I have always witnessed the courts in the past make the decision that only a mother can raise the children, but more and more we see fathers “stepping up” and taking on the responsibility that they should take and that they do deserve.
    So take a breath and remember their are two parents, two people who’s lives will forever be challenged with compromise. You cannot afford the luxury of holding on to bitterness and resentment against the other parent for wanting to also be a part of your children’s life, because it only becomes the root of other problems.
    So love your children, and cherish every moment you have with them, but do not forget that at this moment in time they love both you and your ex-husband and that should never change. Let them have a life that is filled with the love of both a mother and father.

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 09:24:56

      AK Frost, Yes, we are working very hard to show them love. My daughter actually told me the other day it was nice to see me happy. They see that. It’s amazing what they take it. I hope to always show them love and happiness.

      Reply

  3. looking for buddha again
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 22:18:44

    Not being there full time for the kids is the worst part. I did not sign up to be a half time Dad…I’ll miss half of my son’s life.
    It sucks.
    I’m sorry you are going through this.
    Peace to you

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 09:23:11

      Looking for Buddha again- I know what you mean. None of us have kids thinking we’ll only be doing this half the time. That’s never what we see in the cards.

      Reply

  4. Amy
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 23:46:37

    Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to know what’s “best”. I don’t think there’s any “one size fits all” solution for these things. If you follow your heart, I think that’s the best you can do. If it doesn’t work out as planned, hopefully you two can work together to adjust it for the best interests of the kids.

    Being a child in the 80’s where the common arrangement was “every other weekend with dad”, I struggle to understand the current trend towards “50/50” arrangements… When I think about moving and shifting so much it makes me ill. But, of course, I’m viewing things as an adult, and that’s a very different perspective than a child. Adults are less flexible…children adapt well to most situations. They’re amazingly resilient little people. I know parents who do 50-50 and wouldn’t want it any other way. They say it gives them a break, and by the time they’re really missing the kids, then they’re back again. It would be interesting to hear others chime in on their experiences parenting or even being raised in different custody arrangements.

    In your personal life, I wouldn’t put too much weight on all the opinions you’re likely to receive. You simply cannot please everyone all of the time, and you’ll become a nervous wreck trying. Work towards whatever decision you’ve made and give it a good faith effort. If it doesn’t go as planned, work towards trying something different. 🙂

    Reply

  5. Kari Sue Siniard
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 04:40:51

    I am thinking of you Aniela….whatever happens, just know that you made the best decision you could have. No matter what, someone loses, but in the end…you all win because your kids will be HAPPY and HEALTHY. That is all that matters now. I am so proud of how you have handled all of this. I pray that God shows you the joy in everything you have been through very soon!!! There is a reason for everything. Although it is never easy, it is just your path. If ever you need me, call and i will answer…no matter what time of night or day!!! Love Kari Sue!

    Reply

  6. Flora
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 10:22:52

    Debating life now. Do i stay n be miserable or leave n maybe find happiness?! Mother of 6…

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 13:28:54

      Flora, I’m not sure of your situation. But, there is a great book that helped me called “Should I stay or should I go?” Also, prayers and counseling are crucial. There is a lot of support available, even with six kids. God bless you. Life will get better.

      Reply

  7. JulieB
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 10:27:01

    I’ve been divorced and I also married a divorced man with children, and I have to say, the way my exhusband and I did things was a whole lot better than the situation my husband had. From the start, my ex and I made it a point to not argue in front of the kids. We also were generous with each other regarding time with the kids. For example, if there was a game my ex wanted to take one of the boys during during “my time,” I allowed that, and if there was a movie I wanted to take my daughter to during “his time,” he allowed that. But, we would talk to the other parent first before bringing it up to the child in question. I don’t think there was one time that either of us tried to use the kids to hurt the other. We weren’t perfect at it, but he and I both agree that we did a pretty good job of co-parenting.

    My husband wasn’t so lucky. From the start, his ex wanted full custody and full control over their daughter. The judge granted joint custody and from that day until April of 2004, it was a near constant battle. My husband gave in to his ex’s demands many times, for the sake of my stepdaughter, who was put in the middle too many times to count. It was a nightmare. In 2004, my husband very reluctantly relinquished his joint custody for the sake of his almost completely alienated 14 year old daughter. If only his exwife would have been willing to put their daughter’s best interests firsts, things would have been so very different.

    All this is to say, listen to your children, but make decisions with your ex. Keep lines of communication open. There will be disagreements, compromise where you can. Throw the notion of “my time, his time” out the window and think of it as the child’s time to be with each of his/her parents. Allow the other parent time with their child without undo intrusion. Be happy for your children when they go to spend time with their dad, even if it’s killing you inside. Make plans for friend time, or just you time while they are gone.

    Above all, work toward a new normal that will eventually become familiar.

    Good luck and hugs to you.

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 13:27:31

      JulieB,
      Thank you for this line: “Throw the notion of “my time, his time” out the window and think of it as the child’s time to be with each of his/her parents.”
      That is really important to remember.

      Reply

  8. Erin
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 10:27:20

    ((((HUGS))))) Saying a prayer that things from here on out go smooth, and that the Lord gives you peace, and patience to deal with the days ahead. Since I am not sure how to do it here is a link, when you get a chance go watch this short vedio by the Skitguys, Cards You’ve Been Dealt

    http://skitguys.com/videos/item/cards-yo… 🙂 It’s very touching.. prayers to you God bless!!

    Reply

  9. Michelle
    Dec 28, 2011 @ 10:28:38

    I know when I was growing up and my parents got a divorce I was told who I would live with when I had to go to the other parents house and it was the worst I never got to see friends outside of school because I was always having t spend time with my “parents” I switched schools 7 times between middle and high school and was never in one spot for more than a year I didn’t have a choice until I was 17 were I wanted to live it SUCKED so my advice if your kids are a little older “school age is” give them some say don’t let them decide completely on their own but let them have a lil input what me and my husband did just as an in case method because we both grew up with seperated parents we came up with a plan if we got divorced that our son would live with me during the week and since my husbands days off are during the week he would get him on his days off no matter what day they fell on the reason we decided this is because my husband works full time and I have a lot of family support and he doesn’t so we felt it was better he spend the majority of time with me and share holidays with him I hope everything works out for you and I know its different for every situation just thought I’d give you an idea 🙂

    Reply

    • Mom Land
      Dec 28, 2011 @ 13:19:44

      Michelle,
      It’s hard for kids no matter what age. You are right. Shuffling around sucks. And that is exactly what my kids have already complained about- they never get to see their friends. I remember the same thing when I’d come home to visit my parents and they always wanted the time and I wanted to hang out with my friends. Thanks for the input. 🙂

      Reply

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