A day-to-day parent has the luxury of time. Time every day, be it five minutes over breakfast, time in the car on the way to school, a few minutes before / during / after dinner, or those precious “tucking-in-time”.
I don’t have the luxury of moments during the day.
What I do have are days or weeks at a time, free of work stress, housekeeping chores, traffic rush or the like.
I see K +- every 12 weeks, as I have done since 2013. Before that, I had decided to leave my ex, and subsequently had to face the stark reality that as a single mother, on a teacher’s salary, there was no way I could support myself, much less make and sustain a home for my son.
The plan was to take him with me. Then initial court proceedings altered the plan to “he’ll join me in a couple of months”. Then the vast chasm between my financial resources and those of my ex and his family resulted in a long, drawn-out battle. Personal circumstances (I had to acknowledge that I’d been the victim of a violent assault in the very place I had been arguing would be in his better interest to be raised) meant that we were better off leaving things be as they were (with K at my ex’s house, me visiting every 12 weeks, mostly for 10 days at a time, and in the summer for +- 5 weeks).
I have been able to complete a Cambridge post-graduate diploma in teaching, and a Trinity College London post-graduate certificate in teaching young learners. I have been able to establish myself in a posting in the Gulf. Aside from great future career prospects, I am able to pay K’s very expensive school fees which guarantee that his teacher/student ratio is never more than 1-10. He’s been able to join private robotics classes, visit a cheetah rehabilitation centre, and get the latest technology as requested by his school, I have taken him to see snow and snowboard in Switzerland. We have gone on a 3 week overland camping trip through Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. We have visited the penguin colony near Cape Town. We are planning a 3-week Sri Lanka holiday this summer.
Yet, I know that all of the quality time experiences, all of the educational perks, all of the opportunities that my working in the Gulf afford him, cannot replace morning cuddles, school runs and chats in the traffic, bath-time conversations and tickles and tucking-in at bed time.
What breaks me is that I know my son has been left living in the home of my emotionally abusive, manipulating and gaslighting ex. His narcissistic personality disorder is not a figment of my imagination, or a label thrown around by a woman scorned…it was identified and documented by independent professionals during our court-ordered socio-psych evaluations in the initial relocation/custody proceedings. Their findings, though not enough to convince the judge that my ex is an emotionally unavailable parent figure, did finally validate my experience of abuse (when the abuse is emotional . psychological and inflicted by a manipulative narcissist at that, no one believes you …. until eventually you yourself begin to doubt the authenticity of your experience – I did so much so that I ended up in treatment for psychological stress twice during our marriage).
I got away from that man and his emotional belittling, pressure and manipulation. My little boy, however, is still there. He has to endure and withstand this treatment every day.
The moments that he should have every day would be a tickle to wake up in the morning, maybe a joke over breakfast, some banter in the car on the way to school, earnestly sharing the day’s experiences over dinner, and lovingly shared story-time and tucking in for bed.
This is what he has, with me, when I go home to see him every 3 months or so.
Why am I so conflicted right now? Well I have just come back after a 10-day break back home with him. During this time, I got married to my long-time partner (who K respects and adores). K walked me down the aisle, cut the cake with u, and was generally part of every stage of the celebration. But what with wedding preparations, the actual day (ceremony and reception), and the subsequent holiday with friends and their kids in lieu of a honeymoon…I feel like what has always been a week of purely K and mommy time, this time had to be shared.
In our run up to my leaving for the airport, I apologised for the lack of “just us time”, and my K was gracious, and understanding and oh so wise beyond his years… saying “Mommy, we need to understand and forgive people, because nobody’s perfect. But you were great this holiday anyway”. … I crumbled at his words – I know it’s amazing that he is so insightful, wise and empathetic for his age, but I also know that these virtues spring from a sadness, longing and loneliness that no little boy deserves to experience like he has had to.
And so here I am, 4 am, listening to music, headphones on, reminiscing, crying, longing… on the whole dealing with this situation so much less wisely, less maturely, less proactively than my 10-year old K…. I bottle up my fair share, yet despite the adult-fully-aware-bottling-up, I manage the residual emotions far more destructively than my brave little warrior …. He braves the tides, he navigates the whims of emotionally compromised parent figures at home, he adjusts his emotional responses to ensure the path of least resistance in his dealings with the narcissist father figure whose care he is in day-to-day, he does his best to comfort and reassure his self-effacing mother. He does all this, whilst remaining a cool, calm and collected youngster, who shows an interest in school and studies, displays motivation and dedication to his participation and progression in his karate dojo, and most all of the time responds with empathy and love to creatures, people and his natural environment,
My little guy, for all of his 10 years, and notwithstanding all the challenges he’s had to, and has to navigate every day, is a champion. A warrior. A compassionate, caring companion. A companion to me, a companion to one and all who find themselves lost or alone on any given day.K is a champion for the rights of those who may feel, however so slightly, or however completely, disenfranchised. He rises to every occasion. He listens, he asks, he endeavours to understand, he hugs, he nods and smiles, he is the most ideal confidant. He’s a little boy who has so much emotional understanding and comfort to offer – and he doesn’t even know it yet. But the depth and breadth of his empathy, compassion and emotional strength continue to grow. I am reminded of a Camus quote …
In the midst of winter, I discovered within me an invinsible summer.
MY K IS an invinsible summer – he is light, he is bright, he is warm, he is open, he is pure sunshine. Given the winter after winter of loss he has had to navigate, from our first separation when he was only just 5 years old…, the endless summer he has recognised and experienced within himself, and expressed and shared with the world around him, has shaped him oh so positively….
…into a young man who comes across as profoundly wise; one who is excep99tionally attuned, adept and emotionally connected; one whose demeanour and interactions are clearl evidence of a human being for whom life, loveliness and hope and desire is all about,
I am here…. any time for a chat, (might even need one just as much as you do, or more)…
xxxxxx I love you , K