October 5, 2009

Gotta Say It Was a Good Day

So Saturday my children, my husband and I took the first step on a long road to rebuilding their tattered and torn relationship with him. And it turned out to be a surprisingly nice day. The weather was perfect, so that added to the sunny feeling. I was anxious while getting ready because I hadn't seen my husband outside of court since February 5th, the night he was served with my order of protection, and we argued before I went over to the precinct. Since that time we hadn't spoken at all and when I would see him in court, I didn't get any positive energy from him.

He had texted me to say that he was about an hour behind schedule, which was fine because I was running late and beginning to feel even more anxiety which was turning into a headache. After he called to let us know he had arrived, I got the kids in the van and we got there about 15 minutes later.

Being that I had never seen his new car, I didn't know which one was his, so we were looking for a blue car. I didn't see him sitting in any of the cars in the parking lot as I drove up, but as I parked I noticed his mother sitting in the passenger side of a blue Volvo station wagon. I wasn't happy to see her initially, because it felt like an ambush.

When I tried to tell his mother about his abusive behavior towards me about 2 years ago, after he started a huge argument with me on the first and only Mother's Day she ever spent with us, she didn't want to hear about it.

Since she hadn't tried to contact me or the children since we left her son, for their birthdays, to see if we were okay or anything, I felt that she must have believed his version of history - that I was abusing him and therefore considered me the "bad" wife. So I didn't know what to expect. I certainly thought his visits with the children were going to be just between him and them.

In any event, it turned out that she and I spent most of the time talking while he visited with the kids. We didn't talk talk, you know about the 800 lb. elephant in the room, but we talked about stuff and again it was surprisingly not too awkward.

After my husband walked out into the parking lot from the fun center, they got some things out of the car and came over to greet us. They had quite a few bags of toys and clothing that had to be loaded into our trunk. Once that was done, instead of going straight into the fun center, my husband asked if we could go over to the adjacent park since it was such a beautiful day, to which of course I consented. He played with the kids and they played with him. He let them take turns "driving" his car around the parking lot. After a while the kids told him they wanted to go into the fun center.

Before we went, there was a moment when we were all seated at the same picnic table. To break the ice, I asked Solomon if he wanted to sing his remix of Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone?" To which his father replied, "Oh, he did. He rocked it." So I suggested Solomon do it again for his grandmother. So Solomon began to sing his special take on the song once more and his father began to play a beat on the table. It was a nice moment, we cheered for him when it was over. Then it was over to the fun center where they played some more. They were having a genuinely good time and I was very glad about that. Justina was even calling him dad and interacting the whole time.

At one point at the fun center, I was at a table with baby Emmanuel, Justina and his mother. He came over to the table and I asked him, "Would you like to hold your son?" He took Emmanuel and went over to the kids and played with them and Manny for a couple minutes, then sat down with him for a few more minutes. When Manny began to get upset, he handed him back over to me. He made no acknowledgement, but I know in his heart, when he looked in that baby's face, he could see his own face, except smaller, fatter and much cuter.

When it was almost time to go, Solomon got very upset and cried as he usually does when his visits with his father come to an end. He is a little boy who really misses having his father in his life on a daily basis and has a lot of pain there. He's the sensitive kid in the middle. Joshua is too young, wasn't as affected by the violence, and has a very happy nature and doesn't care either way. Justina was the oldest and was so affected, she wanted nothing to do with him. But Solomon was just the right age to be affected and yet still want to be with him.

He told me that he wanted to go home with his father just for a day. I told him that he would be able to do that soon, but not right now, because he has to be back in school on Monday. He understood, but he was still sad. His father took him aside and talked to him for a little while and he calmed down some more. Then my husband came over and told me that if he's really upset and freaking out, to just let him call him.

When it finally came time for the visit to end, instead of only 3 hours, they had spent about 4 & 1/2 hours together. Their father thanked me, he smiled and talked to Manny and said goodbye to him and the kids. His mom and I hugged, and the kids left happy while playing with some of the new toys they had received.

It was a nice time, nothing to complain about. The one thing that would make it better would be for my husband to take off his sunglasses in the future. He had them on the entire time whether indoors or out and to me that's a strange way to visit with your kids. There are no paparazzi following him around, so no need for the incognito tip.

Justina said she asked him, "Why do you have your sunglasses on?" She said he told her that he didn't have anywhere to put them. ??? How about leave them in the car? I hope at some point he will realize that it's weird and inappropriate to keep them on while spending time with his kids and take them off so that they can really have a visit with all of him and be able to look into his eyes when he tells them that he loves them.

But all in all, I have to say it was a good day and a great first step toward salvaging and mending what we can of the children's broken relationship with their father, their broken lives and their broken hearts.

(The photo of the children with their father was taken at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on April 10, 2008.)