3:50pm- “Can you meet a little early to get the kids? I have stuff to do.”
Never a request I would turn down. I finished up my haircut and headed to our meeting spot.
As the kids opened the door, I could feel the difference in their demeanor. So quiet. Not the normal “hey mom” or hugs from behind.
Just sitting there.
Confused, I turned around to say hello… and saw my son crying.
I waited until their dad pulled out of the parking lot and I reached back to touch his leg. “What’s wrong, Jaybird?”
Then the tears really started pouring. My heart was already breaking as I saw in his eyes what I already knew.
“They fought all weekend mom. My stomach keeps doing flips and it made me throw up. I should have had a phone. If I could have called you, we could have come home yesterday. I didn’t like seeing that. I’ve already seen it before.”
I knew what he was referencing. At almost 4 years old, he watched his dad beat his mom… almost to death. I could see that this one wasn’t going to be something simple to deal with.
Jaylah interjected with some information about how their dad was going to be homeless and unable to care for them because of me… and a few other manipulative phrases that I remembered all too well from my time with him.
“I’m so sorry you had a hard weekend. Come here and give me a hug. I’m glad you’re home and you’re safe now.”
They both came up between the seats and we all embraced in an awkward hug.
My blood was boiling. Angry with him. Angry with myself for letting them go without a proper escape plan. Angry with the court that said he deserved to spend time with them. I still don’t understand why the state does not regard domestic violence as child abuse because it impacts their tiny beings to the core. It changes them. It isn’t okay to send your kids into that situation ever. But if you don’t, you are held in contempt of court. You become the criminal when you try to protect your children. It isn’t right and it isn’t fair and I dream of a day that it will be different. But right now, that is reality.
And right now, I’m angry.
But I know that all damage control needs to come from me. I know that explosive anger will only make the situation worse. I know that I have to be the example of healthy emotions.
I told them I was angry and sorry and that I hoped it would never happen again. I told them that hard things will happen in life sometimes and that the best thing we can do for ourselves is be prepared. And I told them that I will always fight for them, I will forever be in their corner. I told them they were so loved and that what they saw this weekend was NOT love. People love each other by treating each other with respect and kindness, and even when you disagree on something, it is NEVER okay to behave like that. I made a plan with them. And I spent time holding them and attempting to hold back the tears.
Yes, I will leave a new legacy for my children. Yes, I hope and pray that they will see good things from my life. But today I realized that the darkness that had seemed so far away is actually much closer than I realize. I realized that protecting them still means being vigilant and doing everything in my power to be involved in every aspect of their world. It means earning their trust. It means making safety plans. It means figuring out where consequence and necessity meet. It means reevaluating things to give them the tools they need.
I never wanted this for them. But it is their reality and I must face that. The only way to conquer fear is to face it head on. And that is what we will do. For as long as it takes.
My legacy will not only be passion, it will be strength and resilience and a backbone of steel. They will know what healthy looks like and they will know what it takes.
The tears haven’t stopped flowing much tonight… But I promise this heart isn’t weak. No, it is strong. And I will teach my children to be strong. And when the opportunity arises, I have no doubt they will find the right path.
Please pray for my kiddos. And all the other children that have to go through the same thing due to the “system.”