“In the past there has been some confusion about our custody arrangement.”
Thus began the second paragraph in the e-mail I sent to the head of Luca’s new high school last night, the high school he will be attending when he comes home from his residential treatment facility later this month.
I have learned to be proactive when it comes to educating schools, doctors, and therapists on the reality of our custody agreement, and specifically, that I am not roaming the streets in a tin hat trying to ward off alien invaders.
I have learned to be proactive because professionals working wtih children do not always do their due diligence when it comes to deciphering custody arrangements. And in their defense, the process of interpreting a densely worded custody arrangement is a great cure for insomnia.
Also, ex-spouses who are determined to keep you “out of the picture,” as one therapist confided Prince had told him, can quite convincingly persuade people like School Directors that you are, in fact, a nut-job who has been forbidden by the court to see your own kid.
Last year, before I understood that I had to be proactive, and spent weeks trying to get Luca’s therapists to return my calls, I got my feathers all ruffled. It is, after all, rather humiliating to have to show people papers that prove you are entitled to participate in your kid’s education or therapy, and then frustrating when you have to decipher Paragraph 2b, or whatever, which explains this provision in virtually undecipherable legalese.
Then there’s the explaining — without seeming defensive — that the relinquishment of custody was voluntary on your part and that the judge did not, in fact, take away your custody because you are “mentally unfit.” There is the patient detailing of the ramifications of the divorce in just-the-facts-ma’am language, instead of the breast-beating howls of foul play and accusations of DSM-IV diagnoses that might, in fact, make you appear just the slightest bit unhinged.
Although I don’t go to Alanon, I have adopted the Alanon perspective that someone else’s opinion of me does not define me. I now expect that Prince will pull every move in his machiavellian repertoire to undermine me. When I feel my heart pounding at the latest injustice, I detach from my white-knuckling reaction and instead take action that makes sense.
Which in this case was e-mailing the Head of the School to introduce myself and arrange a meeting to show him the custody order, explain that Prince and the school are, in fact, legally required to include me in all aspects of Luca’s schooling, and in general let him see that I am a regular mom, albeit one with just a wee bit of PTSD.
Only an hour after I e-mailed the School Director, I received an e-mail back from him at 10:00 p.m. (this guy must sleep with his iPad under his pillow) telling me that he was forwarding my e-mail to other school staff so “we will all be fully informed about the custody school-decision arrangements.” He also suggested times we could meet.
I’ve never laid eyes on the man, but I love him. He is prompt, decisive, inclusive, reasonable. Certainly savvy enough to prevent becoming embroiled in legal mishigas. Yet also doing the right thing by my kid.
Because kids deserve a relationship with both parents. And there should never be any confusion about custody arrangements.