I made the very poor choice to marry my kids' father, and I also made the choice to take the children and leave (and also to file for divorce). In hindsight I can see a LOT of red flags that would now make me send him packing, but that wasn't the case back then.
This man had every opportunity to step up and be a husband and father. Instead he chose to molest four children, the oldest of whom I have now been estranged from for 5 years, mostly because of his interaction with her. He chose to extinguish a cigarette on one child's ankle and another's tongue. He chose to allow them to watch 'slasher' horror movies while they were still in diapers. He chose to take the youngest with him to the lawn & garden store, so this little boy would see and hear him lie to his brother the salesman as he told a story of how I'd given permission to purchase a $400 lawnmower with the money I'd given him to pay the rent. (Said lawnmower didn't even make it out of the box; as soon as I saw it I was on the phone to the brother and told him that it was coming straight back to the store).
He chose to cut the steering wheel and hotwire a car that was given to me by my parish. When I asked the parish to back me up to the police to help get the car back, I found that he'd gotten there ahead of me and I was told that I'd have to find assistance somewhere else.
After my fifth c-section, I went back to work the day after being discharged from the hospital, because without my earnings there would not be enough money to pay the bills. I had to ride the city bus and slipped and fell (with baby Lightning in my arms) in the parking lot of my work, because he chose not to get out of bed and drive us. I sprained my hip, strained a few staples in my incision and ended up being ordered to bed rest for 6 weeks. He chose to go to his mother's house and call my parish, telling them that I had some kind of mental disorder from having the baby and if I called and said I needed help or anything, that it was a lie and that I didn't need anything - his family was cooking all our meals and helping out with the other kids and errands (meanwhile he'd told his family that my parish was doing all that). So when I called the parish and told the secretary I needed help getting groceries in the house, cooking and cleaning etc., it just bewildered me when she told me they couldn't help. Meanwhile there is nothing in the house but ramen noodles, chips and pizza rolls. I can't count the times the children had bread with cold coffee and sugar on it for a meal because that's what he fed them.
The morning after I took the kids and left, half his family turned up at my work and proceeded to get in my face and yell and scream at me for nearly three hours - how dare I go off and not let them know where I was, I'd better get myself and the children back to that apartment where we belonged (or we'd regret it, which his sister actually said to me).
I did, and do, regret it. During the time we were in and out of court over the divorce and visitation schedules, he and his family chose to report me to CPS over twenty times, for the following (and similar) things:
- daughter had a skinned knee
- baby son's hair was cut unevenly at his forehead because his older brother had played barber
- daughter bowlegged
- all three children cried for me during several entire visits with him
- I asked the 9yo to change the 18mo's diaper, therefore 'parentifying' her (did you know that in this state, having a sibling change a diaper is potentially child abuse? I didn't, but I sure do now!)
I have a great deal of admiration and respect for women who make every effort to repair a marriage-gone-sour and not resort to divorce. However, I should say that as part of the divorce process we were required to go to at least one joint counseling session. During this session he informed the counselor that I was mentally ill, that I was a pathological liar and I couldn't be trusted to tell the truth even if asked what color is the sky, and that since I had a woman business partner that obviously I was homosexual and therefore should have my parental rights terminated.
You may be asking yourselves (if you've even managed to read this far) where were my family and/or friends during all this.
That is a very good question.
At the time, my mom lived over 300 miles away. And my friends? I guess he got to them first. I did get some help from the local Gabriel Project people with a ride to the grocery store a couple of times, and also to the laundromat, but those six weeks I spent on "bed rest" I was basically confined to a tiny apartment with four children under the age of ten. I tried talking to both the Gabriel Project volunteer and the WIC person at one of my appointments about how things really were, but neither person seemed to take me seriously. Even the nurse at my 6-week postpartum appointment wasn't interested (heck, she didn't even suggest I might have PPD; if I'd gotten a referral to a mental health professional I might have been able to get us some help sooner).
Anyway, Lightning McQueen has no real memory of his father; I'm the only parent he's ever known he has. Velvet and Birdman remember him very vaguely.
So Happy Father's Day to me and all the other single moms out there.