A few years ago, there were multiple blog entries here about an ongoing custody case in which Kiana's mother was asking for emergency custodial changes due to a seizure I had in the middle of the run. It would change where Kiana spends the vast majority of her nights in this house,one I purchased a month before her birth, that. reality was true both then and now. The legal petition then was that I get two hours of supervised visits because as her attorney stated at the time, it wasn't that I was a bad father, it just wasn't safe with my health condition.
Multiple hearings would take place, a couple of mediations and a lot of failures. It resulted in little more than me having to say I'd sign over access to my medical records which was fine since I'm not exactly secretive about it. It helped that in the middle of that was when I won a marathon pushing a stroller and literally my doctors would not only write letters for court but be interviewed for international media of all sorts, how's that for going on the record?
That was shortly before Kiana started 1st grade that it was finalized and now we're getting closer to her entering junior high school and we are again in a custodial legal setting pending. I am doing it pro se, fancy words for being your own laywer, perhaps closely sticking to the adage of Abraham Lincoln that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. That's easier to absorb in that I honestly believe and hope I'm representing exactly what the legal paperwork says, the best interests of Kiana.
Let me be clear, I absolutely consider the my divorce from Kiana's mother the biggest failure of my life. There isn't even a close second and I hope there never will be nor anything that passes it. Kiana's mother I mostly consider a stranger since we've spoken so little since she left; her need to disconnect continues. Still my memories of her when were together are fond ones. Kiana's mother was impressive by any standard. She did things that are rarely done in the modern age like nurse till Kiana was almost 2. With a master's degree, she found an amazing middle ground when it was time to return to work, returning to Kiana's daycare where Kiana was not being taken care of by someone else literally a moment longer than she had to and always in the same building. We were in our late 20's, all but kids ourselves. And we'd both been smart kids in high school and college, perhaps leading at least me to a hubris that cancer would shake: to be able to acknowledge outside help is necessary.
It was around that time that she had returned to 'regular work' that I got diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps with my emotional mishandling of the awareness of my mortality and the bills that came with it, perhaps compound interest of things of marital mistakes created or showed cracks, it was literally a couple of weeks after brain surgery that she left. That's all written down here back in real time. It was a tough time. Surprising me, she would sign away primary custody and I had to learn to be a dad in a way I'd never planned, single. It's turned into an amazing and wonderful experience. I still have never understood why that happened. Walking away from me is something I can easily imagine; heck I want to do it sometime. Was it a need to escape, to do her youth more 'properly, to more fully disconnect from the marriage? She would miss her first mother's day weekend and her first extended visit Kiana would get left at grandma's so it would be a while before her mother would have an extended connection, that facing of reality.
There have been a variety of theories thrown out by friends and family as to that custody case and the current one going on. It could be many things but I think it really is one thing, Kiana's mom realizes that no matter what there was about us, walking away from Kiana and missing her from day to day has to be ridiculously hard to absorb; both five years ago and now as I imagine it, let's just say I've gone to bed with less ability to go to sleep calmly than usual if I were in her shoes. Both then and now, cancer is less stressful than that idea. People refer to either as custody battles; I've never one thought of it that way if for no other reason than I refuse to see my child's mother as an enemy, or even an opponent, a basic prerequisite for seeing things as a battle. I see as two perspectives that are so far from aligning that they've resorted to something that can easily be seen as absurd, a stranger listening to you for a bit and then making life decisions for you and your child.
How will it go? I don't know. There have been people who have suggested trying to work things out and of course I have. We tried a mediation that didn't get the job done (the same was true of two previous mediations 5 years ago). I offered extra time during non school times but that wasn't accepted. Some have called me stubborn or selfish for not being more flexible during school times but it's just logistics of two parents living 20 miles apart and routine is a good thing for most of us and certainly for a child who has homework and projects etc etc etc. Others have tried to get me to have Kiana weigh in but is it not incredibly mean to ask a child to decide between her parents and how many 11 year olds really know what's best for them?
I keep thinking about the story of the judgement of Solomon from the Old Testament. Its two mothers with a baby child in a shared household who one rolled over their baby in their sleep. They go to him both claiming the live baby and that the passed away one is the other's. Solomon's edict is to cut the live baby in half and give half to both of them. The real mother says no give the baby to her while the other mother says fine. Solomon's wisdom guides him to give the baby to the woman who'd rather give him up.
I have no idea what will happen on March 5th if we don't settle it between us before then. But I do honestly think that between being stuck in the middle of a back and forth, it would be better for Kiana to go live in a place I mostly think of her as a visitor at (she visits there often enough I imagine she's got a softer stance on it). Of course on a scale of 1 to 10 that's a 2 and her staying where she has managed to keeps straight A's and perfect attendance is an 8. Her parents figuring out after 7 years apart how to communicate better is a 10 to the infinite power. That's the argument I'll make if necessary and we'll see how a stranger endowed with legal authority weighs in.
I believe I can make the case that I should continue to be the primary caretaker of Kiana but nightmares of things like Kramer vs Kramer sneak literally into my nightmares. But if it goes from where it is now to where I become a visitor, I'll keep doing my best at being Kiana's father from that place. I hope somewhere else the judgment of Solomon comes true that if you train up a child in the way they should go, they won't depart from it.