Noah, now age 11, has been involved in band, soccer, youth group, children’s ministries, dramas in church, dramas at school, and has lived every moment of his 11 years between Brighton and Williamston. He barely remembers living in Brighton, as we moved when he was about 3. Williamston is the place he considers his hometown.
Faith, now age 8, has been involved in swimming, children’s ministries, enchanting the masses with her sweet spirit, and being daddy’s little girl from the moment she first breathed. Faith was just about a year old when we migrated to Williamston.
Chloe, now age 6, hasn’t really been involved in much of anything yet in her young life, except that if you ask anyone in that town who she is, they’ll know. She has a personality bigger than all outdoors and a light that outshines even the darkest of night. She loves to laugh with her sister and play with her brother, except when she doesn’t and then she just simply won’t.
You never have to wonder about kids. They pretty much will tell you exactly how it is, and they’ve taught me a lot more about strength than I ever knew. They are resilient and amazing in their own rights; each dealing with life’s curves in their own manners.
Essentially, I realized quite suddenly one day that the example my (previous) marriage was setting for them would be one they would attempt to model their own futures after. I could not bear the thought of my daughters crying endless hours the way I did; of my son believing he could control a household the way my husband did. I didn’t want for them what I had in my own life, and that picture became much too much to bear throughout the years. I told people for years that I would file for divorce when *I* was ready, because I knew there would be years of questions to answer that I needed to be able to stand firm for. And there I was, almost 10 years into a marriage that was going nowhere but further south, and I admitted it outloud for the final time: I was done.
Most of our community turned their backs on me. They had never known what was going on behind closed doors, they had never seen our struggles in the public limelight, and immediately because I filed, I was disowned. Now, I can’t say that I blame them all that horribly much. And, truly, I didn’t fight their opinions because Williamston was now going to be his community; no longer my home. I let them believe and say what they wanted to, and somehow I assumed that eventually I would pull some friends together through the whole mess, but I was completely and utterly painfully alone. The day I drove out of that community, I had exactly one friend left, and now even that friendship is gone.
My children call Williamston home. They have from Noah’s first soccer game, from Faith’s first steps, even from Chloe’s first breath. I no longer could; the community of people I had known and loved for several years made sure of that for me. So, I left my children right where they belonged – in a community that would love and support them and aid their father. I believed then that he was the best parent for them, and though I have varying opinions on that now from day to day, in general I would still say the same thing. In my eyes, when I left my children in Williamston, I did the least selfish thing I could do for them.
You have no idea what this is like if you’ve never done it. Being the non-custodial parent immediately gives the court reason to hate you. Granted, there are many “dead-beat” parents out there, and the the general public as well as the court has somewhat of a right to be negative towards this group as a whole, but we don’t all deserve that treatment. Now, the court looks upon my act as “abandonment” and has the right to blatantly refuse my pleas for custody, should I ever choose to fight for it. I am responsible for more child support than it costs to raise children (this much I can guarantee, as I lived for many years raising them on much less). And, I fight on a weekly basis just to speak to my children over the phone. I dry their tears as another visit ends, and remind them excitedly about the next one and what fun adventures may exist then. They’re still forced to call me “NC Mom” (which is about the only thing that confuses them, since I now live in Virginia), and were once upon a time forced to call a new wife “Mommy” for the few months the marriage lasted. There are some major struggles involved here, and yet they have it all figured out.
They love Rhyan, because ,”She is OUR SISTER, MOM!!!!” they announce with over zealousness. They love their daddy very much as well as their mommy, and yet see our flaws for what they are. They have accepted Chris with wide-open arms; I now have an 11 year old that wants to be in the military in his future because of Chris’ example of service. They love their “summer home” in North Carolina, or now in Virginia, and plan for about 6 months ahead of time what we will do when we’re all together again.
They have heard the best and the worst of it; I am amazed what adults think it is okay to tell children (and sadly, most of this has come from people in the local church). Somehow, they have gotten it all figured out – that they have two parents who love them very very much, even if they couldn’t love each other enough. And they see mommy’s happiness, and will immediately tell you that it’s better to have some time with a happy mommy than with a “whole” family that fights all of the time.
Don’t judge my decision; you don’t know what you would have done in this situation. I did what I thought was best, and that’s all any of us can ever do … and then follow it up moment by moment with prayer. If it’s hard for you to swallow, please remember I’m their mother – the woman who endured a total of 42 hours in labor, 2.5 weeks in Intensive Care, and so much more – I promise you, it’s harder for me than it could ever be for you.
And if you think I act as if you might suddenly attack me when I discuss this, it’s because I have been taught by the general population that will indeed be your reaction, sadly. Walk a mile in my shoes ….