One year ago today x filed an emergency ex parte claiming I was neglecting our daughter. I didn’t know it until days later, though. Until sometime the week after. It had already been denied by the time I found out about it and he had already refiled a regular motion.
One year and two days ago today, x was laid off from the place we worked together. He was one of several people laid off in the early days of quarantine. I was not part of the decision but I knew about it three days in advance since I had to prepare final checks for everyone to be laid off.
I was terrified. He had already attempted to file three separate workplace harassment claims against me in the six months prior – the last one resulting in him being written up for bringing our personal issues to work again.
There was no harassment found. Because there was no harassment. I was strictly following a protocol put in place by the third party investigator to protect me from his false accusations.
In the months since ending it for good, he had harassed me via email. He had called the police on me. He had driven by and let me know when I wasn’t home and he thought I should be. He had told a tenants’ rights lawyer that I had taken his key and was holding his stuff six months after he had walked out of this home and moved into another apartment.
He had left sharpie-scrawled notes duct-taped to my door on paper towels. He had followed me to work on a Saturday and used his key to enter when I was alone with our daughter.
He had called me evil. Psychotic. Lied about me online in so, so many ways.
I didn’t put anything past him and so when I found out he was about to lose his job and I knew he’d blame me even though I was not part of the decision in any way, I planned to stay home that day. I didn’t want to risk him blowing up on me at work. I really didn’t want to risk him coming by the house and trying to make the babysitter hand over our daughter.
The night before lay-off day was the most scared I had been of him up to that point.
That day went without incident. I had prepared and it was all fine.
As is generally true with x, if someone else is involved or will see it, he has no bravado and no courage to show himself.
My worst fears would have meant him exposing himself to be exactly what I said he was and he’s too covert for that, usually.
Two days later he used his new unemployed status to get a fee waiver and filed two motions against me – the ex parte and then when that was denied, a regular motion charging neglect.
He didn’t serve me with either documents. I know he was relishing the idea that the judge would rule in his favor without me even knowing it was coming and then he’d have our daughter during all my work hours and his custodial evening and weekend time. And I wouldn’t even see it coming. I can practically hear his hands wringing together as he gleefully imagined that moment.
I found out about the motions when I got called by a court mediator, with x on the line, wanting to work things out sometime the next week.
Things? What things?
I had the wherewithal to decline to mediate until I could be served. I was never, ever going to get in a three way conversation with him without knowing what he was aiming to strong arm into existence.
The thing that shocks me most, still a year later, about x and his tactics is that he still does things as though I am not a prepared, articulate, logical person who will not be rolled like a spare tire.
I know how to handle myself. I know how to regulate no matter what he tells anyone else who will listen.
Almost instantly after getting him out of this house, I was able to recalibrate and return to my normal self (at least in that regard) and he was, still, desperately trying to unsettle and unmoor me any way he could.
He had to ‘re’serve the papers.
I was dizzy when I read his filings.
He had literally scrawled across the form, in pen, neglect to an extreme.
But I was only dizzy as long as it took me to really soak that sentence in – to an extreme.
Everything I legitimately had as concerns with x as a father were over and over seen as not that serious.
So my sound and nurturing and attentive parenting was going to not only not be neglect, but saying to an extreme in a space where judges see awful, terrible actual neglect?
Once my brain took over my body again, I was rolling my eyes and clicking statements and evidence mentally into place to show that his charges were laughable.
A year later, that is still the same.
He states something ludicrous and easily disproven. As long as I remember that fact, I can quickly list the ways I will disprove it and then keep on with my day. The unmooring of the past is hard for him to achieve these days.
That move he made a year ago was a turning point.
For him, for me, for the court.
He made a play to control me through legal abuse. He came away with a denied ex parte and a vacation clause pushed out for a year (and currently up for suspension) and Father’s Day weekend (for which he lost Mother’s day weekend and also equal say in educational and medical decisions and credibility in the eyes of the court).
That move was scary for me. And stressful. And really expensive.
But he played his hand and he overplayed it.
Many abusers have that moment – where they knee jerk to try to control and it backfires.
Now that’s in the record of our case.
I saw that for what it was right away and then when the judge made it clear he saw it for what it was, it shifted something deep inside of me. I can see that even more clearly now.
I can’t say I don’t still get scared. I do. If you’ve read anything I’ve posted here in the last year, you know that I can stare down a pit of terror that I have to talk myself through, have to breathe through, sometimes have to call a friend to have the sound of their voice walk me away from it.
When someone will do anything and the truth is not a concern, they are scary.
There’s a trust, though, now, that gets me through it faster and with less damage.
Because he filed that ex parte. Because he said those words. Neglect to an extreme.
Because he let it show – in person and on paper – that his perspective is anything but normal. That his entitlement is through the roof and somewhere near Mars. That his perception of me is exaggerated at best and downright delusional at worst.
I also now have one year and two days free from seeing him at work. Of hearing him in the building. Of processing his paychecks. Of seeing the things he would put on the wall facing my office window to try to antagonize me and prove (to himself) that he could still get at me.
Resist in giant wood letters. My daughter’s birth announcement with the name I had removed from her birth certificate. The piece of wood he painted a heart on for me and I gave back to him months prior.
Today when I realized what happened a year ago that sideswiped me right when my daughter was struggling the most, right when I thought we were done with court for a while, right when I sighed with relief about being free from him in one more building of my life – today when I realized what I hadn’t known a year ago, I felt grateful.
Cheesy platitude level grateful.
I feel a distinct difference in my body, in how I trust now, in my own ability to weather his shit storms.
One year ago today I had no idea the lens was about to be slightly turned to allow me to see advantage where I had only seen attempted control. To see benefit where I used to only feel fear. To see a calm future where there was only trauma.
Some call this long haul life of family court after leaving an abuser 3D chess. It is. Even when you don’t want to play.
My daughter’s life is definitely not a game or a war to be won. But I have to be smart and measured and thoughtful and mindful and vigilant in order to guard her goodness and to love her the best I can: with softness and openness and a shield of mama-bear strength that uses smarts over brawn and honesty over coercion.
So I am learning and teaching myself. I’m a good student. I didn’t make it through grad school without understanding how to stick it out and study.
Those of us in this life have to remember to appreciate the things that help us when it’s so easy to feel lost in the day to day minute by minute of our children being used as tools of abuse.
The early years of this life are full of anniversaries and a year ago, I could not have anticipated this would be one of the good ones. But it is.
Cheers to finding the light in the chaos and in raising a little human who will never be able to say her mama gave up and didn’t do all she could.