I wish I would have had the money and the guts to fight for my kids. My ex just wanted me out of his life, and the kids' lives completely, once he understood we were no longer going to be together. Anything it took to get me completely out of their lives he was going to do. And he did it.
I am not saying I am a perfect parent, or I did everything perfectly. I have made many, many mistakes. But I believe it is a child's right to have both parents in their lives. Unless there is a good reason for that not to happen.
I know my ex left a message on my daughter's phone on her eleventh birthday saying I was on drugs, and that my 'boyfriend' was a criminal. I know because I listened to her message which ordinarily I didn't do. I wanted to encourage her to stay in contact with her father, and when we were going through the separation and she said she missed him I told her to call him. If he wanted to come over, I'd go out so she and her dad could hang out.
A month before we separated we had gone up to Oregon for spring break to spend the Easter holiday with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and my mom and step-father. We drove up from California, with my daughter and eldest son. My middle son wanted to stay home in CA with his grandma, and my ex-husband agreed against my wishes.
We got to my sister's house where we had spent much time during many summers. My daughter was happy to see her little cousin Maddie, and her aunt, uncle, grandma and grandpa. My oldest seemed pleased to be there too, but mostly interested in his video games.
My ex decided on Easter day to leave me at my sister's and drive back to California. We were just getting the table set up for Easter dinner. Apparently, he had heard me discussing some of our marital problems in the kitchen with my mom and sister. Next thing I knew he was loading his suitcase in the suburban. I ran outside, baffled and scared. He said, "That's it. I'm divorcing you!" I asked him to stay, to discuss it. I said I was sorry I'd been discussing our problems with my mother and sister. He said he was leaving.
He told our son and daughter to go with him. I told them it was up to them if they wanted to stay or go. I was shaking from head to toe, feeling like jelly on the inside, but I willed myself to stay calm for the kids. My family seemed on the sidelines, out of vision. I heard a few pleas of, "Jim, calm down. Come eat some dinner." I'm not sure who said it, but I'm pretty sure my sister, brother-in-law, mom and step-father all did.
My daughter clung to my waist while her dad begged her to come with him. Easter dinner was on the table and our eldest son was in the passenger seat of the suburban ready to go. My daughter said, "I'm staying with mom." She had been put in the middle, stretched like a rubber band, put in a position I didn't want her to have to be in, of having to chose. Her dad kept saying, "Come home with me. I want you to come with me."
My daughter and I stayed at my sister's for the rest of spring break. The weather was nice and we went kayaking on a lake nearby, rode the horses, played with my niece, and enjoyed getting to be around family. My daughter didn't ask too much about her dad, but became very anxious if I was out of her sight.
My family didn't seem that surprised by my ex's behavior. They put it down to an extreme over-reaction. My mother didn't tell me until we were in the process of divorce that Jim had called and left a message on her phone the night he left. His message was that in the event I needed to be hospitalized, (apparently assuming I would have a breakdown because he left) would my mother please ride on the airplane with my daughter to bring her home.