Once Upon a Time, for a moment, I Felt Free

This isn’t a subject I talk about much as it’s painful and sensitive. In January of 2018, I returned to where I grew up after spending nearly a year with my family after coming down with transverse myelitis, using all my FMLA time at work, and having no way to support myself.

As I was making arrangements to get home, my little 10 year old told me on the phone, “mommy, I want to kill myself”.

I wasn’t even sure what to think. Did he feel this way because I had been gone? Was he lonely? Did he never think he would see me again? All I remember was telling him to hold on and that I would be home soon. It made him feel better. He promised to hold on

I made it home in January of 2018. He and I had some glorious days of being together after nearly 6 months apart as I worked on figuring out my life. I felt free. I felt like my new trauma healing had come full circle and that everything I had gone through was worth it.

Within a couple weeks, my son started telling me some horribly abusive things that had been happening to him. For about 4 months or so, I nearly exclusively took care of him while an investigation was underway about his abuse accusations. I held my little boy as I drug him to a handful of social workers, always telling the same story and always reassuring him he was brave as he felt scared.

He would wake up in the middle of the night terrified. He had become that brave child that was strong enough to speak out against what happened to him. He described what I can only call psychological torture.

The investigation happened. The person was substantiated on the charges, which is a fancy way of saying “guilty”. My son felt safe. I didn’t tell him about the substantiation verdict. I simply promised I would keep him safe.

After he had been with me a week when the investigation started and had left the other house he lived in, I got an email from his teacher stating she wasn’t sure what I had done, but my son hadn’t had any bathroom accidents at school (he was having them daily and just so it’s noted, older kids who have poop accidents without a medical reason are usually a sign of abuse. She was also amazed at how much his grades were improving as well as behavior).

It was a really hard time for me. We didn’t have a stable place to live as the vacancy rate in my city was next to nothing. While he was at school, I spent the days at the doctor having numerous tests run knowing I had neurological problems as well as autoimmune diseases that had yet to be diagnosed as those are sneaky problems to give proper names too.

I was tired. I was bone crushing fatigued, but I was there for my son. Was I perfect? No, but is any parent perfect, especially under those circumstances? I was also intensely angry for what happened to my son. He was confused and while he should get 50 gold medals for how composed he stayed during that time, he rightfully got angry too.

After a period of time, the guilty charge was overturned. He left my near full time care to go back to his other house. I just submitted. I was sick. I spent 4 months of my life caring for that precious angel of a child who is neither biologically or legally mine. I was also out of money.

Sure, I saw him with some regularity, often not as I didn’t feel well and there was a lot I couldn’t deal with. My son saw me change though. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” truly meant something to him. He told me how strong I was. I said the same to him. I was growing as a person. I was growing as a mom.

I was expected to say sorry to the people who were found guilty of abusing him. I did the best I could to apologize and own my part. No one apologized to me. It was plenty of accusations against while my son would still tell me late into the night on nights he spent the night at my house about the continuing psychological torture he said he was going through. I told him he had to tell someone at school or an adult as I tried to protect him and couldn’t. My son watched me be vilified. He said he would never tell again as he didn’t want me to be hurt.

I realized in those times that my son took the responsibility of my losing people, and even worse, getting really sick as his burden. I told him over and over that I was an adult as his mom, I protected HIM.

He continued to tell me about being yelled at and called awful things and horrible things being said about me. I was really sick at this point and so angry. I thought about leaving his life so he wouldn’t have to live in two worlds that were so different. He was struggling hard. I even wrote to someone about it as as much as it was destroying me, I was watching my son being ripped apart. He had been brave for years in standing up for what he knew was the truth of me. Instead, I asked to go to a 3rd party to work out my issues with the other adults caring for him. My request wasn’t flowery and friendly and sweet smelling, but neither was what my son was saying.

I knew on some level it didn’t matter. I knew I couldn’t live like this, but I knew my now 12 year old son couldn’t live like this either. I tried to find parenting books to give me advice. Therapists were useless in helping me, and trust me, I tried.

So a day or so after I sent the email, I was blocked from all communication from my son. I was removed as a parent from the school. The significant adults in his life were told I abandoned him. Some were told I was too sick to be a mom so I chose not to.

The unfortunate thing about my situation is that I don’t have any biological or legal rights to my son. I wasn’t part of the adoption, which is too much to explain right now. It’s nothing I did wrong, it just has to do with unmarried couples not being able to adopt together.

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my son. I had a couple phone calls with him. We texted for a short time. There’s a system of power in place to protect the other adults that no longer let me see him.

I was a licensed foster parent at one point. Even abused parents are allowed to have visitation with their children. I was instead subjected to a sweeping judgment that at the drop of an email, I couldn’t see my son anymore. I was found guilty of I don’t know what without a trial.

It’s called parental alienation. No, I wasn’t always right. No. I didn’t make perfect decisions. Sadly, the other adults in his life certainly didn’t either. Maybe they reflect on it? I don’t know.

I do also reflect on what I did right. I reflect on the loving and giving heart my son has that I will take plenty of credit for. I look at the loving projects he did at my house like teach himself to loom knit off YouTube and had a plan to give out his homemade hats to homeless people this past winter. I still have the beginning of a children’s book he started writing and illustrating about a family that had fallen on hard times, but a huge meteor had landed in their yard that was going to change this family’s life.

Some people might pray by closing their eyes, folding their hands, and directing their prayers to a certain god or deity. I personally have Tibetan prayer flags in my backyard and the idea of them is that you say your prayers or good intentions and as the breeze blows them, those good intentions are set into the world going to their intended recipient or the greater good.

A piece of my heart has shattered having my son gone and the story you would hear from the other side is probably an ugly account of what a horrible person I am as that’s what the texts have said.

None of that matters to me except my sons well being that I have no way of knowing. I realize that as I slowly pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, I take those billions of shards of love to set them onto my prayer flags to be sent to my son so he can feel, maybe just a little that his mom still thinks of him, loves him, and wishes more than anything in the world to hug him when the breeze hits his face.

I’ve missed over a year of his life. There’s no speculating if he’s doing well, surrounded by love, making good choices, surviving, thriving, but all I know as I’m minutes away from my official official start date of my new job that is an absolutely amazing opportunity that I work to be a strong person, woman, mother, so if I’m lucky enough that he ever enters my life, he will see a mom who kept trying even though I honestly feel like giving up often because of this situation. It’s a pain that can never be explained.

If you are an alienated parent, whether a mother, father, or someone who was extremely significant in a child’s life to have it taken from you, I’m sorry. Feel free to email me. I won’t make your story public or ask you to be an activist. There’s simply power in knowing you aren’t alone, and I’m frankly exhausted from being silent about this.

One of the final things my extremely insightful 12 year old said to me just over a year ago was, “mom, you are Wonder Woman. Your shield is made up of your heart and your soul and that’s why you’re so strong”.

So no matter what’s said of me or the ramifications of not being silent anymore, I will hold onto his words as directed towards me. I certainly hope he’s found someone to love like a genuine mom again and says such profoundly beautiful things to them, but regardless if he does or doesn’t, those words were meant for me. I can send him loving words about his strength to flutter on the breezes in my backyard

Love

Lizzie

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