which side are you on?

“it’s about a shifting consciousness that’ll bring an end to war

so listen up you fathers, listen up you sons,

tell me which side are you on, now, which side are you on?”

~ani difranco

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send good thoughts our way on wednesday. when our child psychologist called me this past wednesday evening, we joked first about what a good night we had had the previous saturday, when we were at the same birthday party for a mutual friend. it’s a small town after all. then he told me there is a meeting of the inter-agency planning team scheduled for this coming wednesday morning concerning quinn.

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i have only a vague idea of what the purpose of this meeting is, and the ideas i do have revolve around the fact that my coparent is not backing down from his false accusations of me, and is instead manufacturing more of them, and making various attempts around town to keep them alive. someone on his “side” has called this meeting, which is basically comprised of representatives from various agencies such as dhs, mental health, and the school district. i was invited as an afterthought, and only then because our child psychologist, who happens to be a founder and standing member of this committee, stamped his foot. he told them he would recuse himself if both parties were not present. but even still, he is the only one involved in the planning who has notified me of this meeting, and he is not the coordinator, nor is he the one who petitioned for the meeting to happen. needless to say, my coparent certainly hasn’t mentioned it to me, but he has been almost completely silent towards me in the past few weeks.

the reason these meetings are held is because of the oft-repeated phrase “the system isn’t working”. the goal of these meetings is to help improve communication among agencies that deal with children’s welfare and when a case comes to the team’s attention, it is because someone has a complaint with the way a case has been handled among agencies.

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if i had to guess, my coparent’s version of “the system isn’t working” is that i still have my son in spite of him having provided numerous false accusations that, if they were believed by the authorities, would have lost me my parenting rights. by now, he feels quinn should have been removed from me and i should be paying him an exorbitant amount of child support. i realize it is generally not a good idea to guess at someone else’s motivations, but as i have just received a medical report from quinn’s last doctor visit (the one when he was prescribed an inhaler without my knowledge or consent) that plainly states “dad reports that quinn said mom beat him up,” i have very little ability left in me to give him the benefit of the doubt. and i cringe that this might all have been discussed in front of quinn in the doctor’s office.

at times i myself wonder about “the system” and how it might be more effective, such as our experience trying to suss out evaluation criteria for asperger’s, and the months-long ordeal we have gone through to get an answer of “no” to that question. i also wonder about a system that continues to take a person’s false accusations at face value, repeatedly, and spends tax dollars re-investigating someone they’ve already investigated and found to be without fault.

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so this will be the third incidence of walking into a room to face dhs personnel and defend myself against the accusation that i abuse quinn. in spite of a distinct sense of being considered guilty until proven innocent, over and over again, i am striving to walk in and be the farthest thing from defensive. the child psych and others on “my side” are assuring me that i don’t need to drag in a bunch of character witnesses, and that they have a view about this that is inconsistent with me being an abusive parent. for what it’s worth, he does not see himself on anyone’s side, but i think of him that way because he has been quite a support over the past year. the other night he said that while one explanation could ostensibly be that i am abusive in addition to also being schizophrenic, he felt this was not the most parsimonious explanation, and that if it were the case, i am doing the most amazing job of being schizophrenic that he has ever seen in 20+ years of experience. he knows what he is looking at, and is comfortable enough to be able to be candid with his theories and throw in a little tongue in cheek humor to make it fun.

so send me some non-defensive vibes, folks. i know in my heart i have no reason to be defensive, i have always done right by my son. there is a whole world of people who know it, too, and i trust they (you) all will be there with me in spirit.

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i received a letter from my coparent, the day after my first date with rich, over a year ago now. in an uncharacteristic moment of acknowledgement, he said he realized that he had spent our entire time together picking me apart. the letter was a last ditch attempt to ask me for one more chance, and i turned him down of course, not only because i had a newly blossoming better offer, but because that ship had already sailed. i did try to be nice about it and also to point out that if he acted on his stated intentions (to start hearing my story from me rather than being convinced he knew my deal) that coparenting should be a smoother sail from there on out.

i wouldn’t exactly call it smooth sailing over here in coparenting land.

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on the other hand, i now know what it is like to have someone accept me unconditionally, without picking me apart. i still have to work hard at not picking myself apart (physically and mentally), and after all i have been through in the relationship department, that may take some time to fully heal. in this amazing love i am now in, i am becoming more gentle with myself, inspired by the gentleness with which my love treats me. experiencing what it feels like when someone is truly accepting of all my faults, i am newly able to hear him point out some of those faults when it matters, and hear them without reacting. which opens all sorts of doors to improving my experience here on this earth. he is able to tell me about my tendencies to bristle and become defensive and react prematurely with aversion and negativity to a new idea, he is able to let me know that i tend to interrupt, and i can hear all of that without doubting that he loves me with all his heart. because he spends all of his time loving me and treating me in loving ways, his words come across as protective and caring rather than destructive and mean. they happen to be all of the same flaws i used to be verbally abused over, and so i still do have the ability to be triggered by such feedback, but i am finding that it isn’t generally the way that it goes. i still have those old grooves that i could potentially fall into, but the new patterns of openness have taken over as the default. generally, i am able to listen to his feedback and consider it and acknowledge the truth of it and ponder ways to work at it. not only that, i feel lucky to have the opportunity to improve in some of these areas, with a supportive guy around who will love me through it all. none of these flaws make me a bad person, they just make me normal. he doesn’t see me as any less worthy of his love because i have a few flaws, and it helps that he also freely admits to having a few of his own.

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when he told me i have a tendency to interrupt, i did not feel judged or criticized, i just listened. here’s this guy who is completely gaga for me, who has paid attention to what i am like, and noticed this about me, so i’m taking it seriously. i know it is a true statement about me, and have been told so before, but having it said now in such a gentle, kind way to me transforms the experience. this is also the first time rich has said most of these things to me, over a year into our relationship, and he was just talking strategy for this meeting. he wasn’t saying that it annoys him, he wasn’t demanding i change to improve his life, but instead: here’s how you can come across sometimes, so try not to do it in the meeting because we want this to go really well, even though it will be really hard, and no one could fault you for feeling the way you do.

i don’t feel defensive when it comes from rich. and he is so right that i need to watch that tendency when i’m walking into a room full of potential enemies and especially my coparent. rich can say these things and i can be unhurt by them and not jump to my own defense; on the contrary, this room will be full of people who do not make me feel like they are protecting and nurturing and accepting me unconditionally while they make their criticisms. it will be hard work to keep from bristling and wanting to jump in and reply, but i plan to keep my center and wait my turn to speak. and when it is my turn, i plan to speak my truth, with the single-pointed focus of quinn’s best interest at the forefront of everything i have to say. (that focus part won’t be hard.) and by the way, rich isn’t planning on sitting quietly, either.

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so i plan to walk in there with as few preconceived notions as possible about the purpose and outcomes of this meeting. it will be hard to pull that off, but i would love for this meeting to become a forum for everyone who cares about quinn to be able to communicate much more effectively than we all have been. in spite of that not being the stated reason for this meeting, in spite of the fact that i wasn’t really on the guest list, in spite of how coparenting has become so adversarial over the past year, it is the outcome i would like to see. all those who care about quinn should be on the same side. i feel certain that quinn himself would be on board with that idea.

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p.s. thank you to grammy and grampy for the awesome pre-birthday trip to the zoo! we will have more (and better) photos in a week or so when i get my film developed!

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3 comments to which side are you on?

  • lau

    in honor of ur amazing babeness at being Quinn’s mom i think i may make boo’s blueberry muffins and channel some of your patient loving 2am muffin making mama abilities… or i just want an excuse to make them again….but regardless, you will obviously be in my thoughts and i cannot wait to hear the sigh of relief when this ridiculous absurd nonsense is over. i am thankful rich will be there to center you. 😀

  • Lb

    All good vibes focused in a northwesterly direction 🙂 I shall say this as politely as my red headed disposition will allow: I dislike coparent. Immensely. Someday Quinn will be old enough to make his own informed decisions about which parent was committed to making the best life for him and then coparent will understand the full meaning of karma.

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