John was a very smart man. He knew that he had barely participated in parenting the children up until this point. He also knew that would hurt his claim that he should get the children half of the time.
I’m honestly not sure why he wanted to have the children half the time. He didn’t understand James’ autism, which meant extreme tantrums any time they were left alone. He sat on his tablet or watching television any time he was in the same room with them. And don’t forget he had told me that having the children was experiencing the worst hell of his life. If he enjoyed having them around he was really good at hiding it.
But regardless of all of that, he said he wanted them half of the time. It felt as if he thought it was something he was entitled to because they were “his”… a possession that he owned. I felt no love for the children behind his actions. All he talked about was what was fair to him. What he deserved. What was”fair to the children” were words that never came out of his mouth.
Whatever the reason was, he wanted to fight me for the children and he knew that he was a sub-par parent. He was going to have to do something to manipulate the situation and tip the scales in his favor. First he tried telling lies to make himself look like a more involved parent. He started by talking about all of the doctor’s appointments he’d attended with the children (that he didn’t actually go to). When I told him that doctor’s keep records that include who brought them to the appointment he grew angry and aggressive. “Fine! You’re the perfect parent!” I never claimed to be perfect. I’m actually far from it. But I wasn’t going to let this abusive man lie so he could abuse my kids 50% of the time.
He tried to get the school involved. He became upset that they were sending me emails that they were not sending to him. These emails were little day to day things like James needed another change of clothes or he didn’t like what he had for lunch so please send something different. All of the important emails were always sent to us both. It had been this way since my son was in preschool. John was not interested in the many day to day jobs that went along with being a parent of two young children… one of whom is on the spectrum. But now that eyes were on him, he was angry that I was communicating with the school more than him and tried to make it sound as if he wasn’t more involved because I got a handful more emails than he did.
He was trying to get me to question my reality, as he had successfully done in the past. The old me would have asked myself… Am I remembering things wrong? Was he at those doctor’s appointments? Did I do something to get the school to send me more communication than him? Is it my fault he isn’t more involved? I would have allowed him to deflect any and all responsibility for his own actions and put it on me. But I had grown too strong for that now. I knew my reality. His attempts to twist my mind and control my pattern of thoughts would not work this time.
It felt like a win for a few short minutes. But then John did what he does best. He prayed on the weak…. on the susceptible. He started to use his mind games on the children.
Keep in mind the children still had no idea that we were getting a divorce. I wanted to wait until more of their uncertain future was defined to reduce their anxiety. I didn’t have answers to the questions they would likely ask. When would we move out? When would they be with each parent? Where would they live? It was too much uncertainty to lay in the laps of two small children.
Quinn was extremely easy to play mind games with. I quickly noticed changes in her behavior. She started to cry when her dad left for work saying she wanted to be with him because he misses her. I witnessed him pout at her when she said she wanted to go to the store with me and then say, “But won’t you miss me Quinn? Don’t you want to be with me?” When she kept dancing around and he didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for he repeated himself two more times until I asked him to stop.
He tried to make her sad and emotional at any opportunity he could in an attempt to make it look as if she couldn’t bear to be away from him. One day, John said goodbye and headed to the door because he was going out drinking with friends. Quinn started to cry and said she didn’t want him to leave. She’d never done this before. She was used to him not being around. But he smiled and played it up. It was like he was enjoying her sadness. I quickly distracted her with a game and she stopped crying and started playing. John glared at me. He stood in the middle of the room angrily staring at us for two minutes and then walked over to us and hovered over us as we sat on the floor. I looked up at him and said, “I don’t know the point of this. You already said goodbye. She stopped crying. You should leave unless the point is to get her to be upset.” “Fine!” He yelled and headed to the door.
Every time he was alone with the children he said things to them designed to make them more attached to him and upset with me. More manipulation… more mind games…. Only it didn’t have the results I believe he was hoping for. James reacted by having more violent outbursts at school and when he was alone with his dad. Quinn became weepy and emotional. The school noticed it too. I tried to talk to John about it, but he didn’t care. It was all part of his game to manipulate things to look like he should be with the kids half the time. What good is being with the children if you have destroyed them and made them into sad, depressed shells of themselves?! Protecting the children was getting harder and harder and John was getting sneakier and more conniving.