If you are someone who reads for “all the feels,” you want to read this post. If you are a member of my family and know what my family has gone through, you want to read this post. If you are a parent who has been on the “receiving” end of parentally alienating behaviors…
…you want to read this post.
Short background, from October 2013 until July 2015, I did not see my children, except for a few brief sessions in a therapists office with a therapist who grossly misdiagnosed the situation and ended up doing what we feared would be irreparable harm to my children. A judge allowed this to happen based on information “about me” provided by this same therapist before she had EVER, EVEN ONCE, SPOKEN TO ME.
I was able to refute her claim by asking for, and paying for (with the help of family), a full custody evaluation by a doctorate level psychologist. Now, if you don’t know what that involves, it involves private interviews with every single person in both households– which meant my then fiance (now husband) and his daughter had to go through this too. It involves full psychological tests and evaluations of ALL adults (which meant my then fiance had to go through that too). It often can involve a physical home visit if there are any concerns about the physical environment (there were not in our case).
If there is a psychological issue, it’s going to show up.
Let’s just say that evaluation took everything that the therapist mentioned above said on the stand and turned it completely on its head. Even with some bouts of depression on my end, I was shown to be a very stable and normal person. The conclusion statement of that evaluation, however, was disappointing. The psychologist performing it stated a “guarded prognosis” when it came to a relationship repair between my daughter and I, due to the extent and drawn-out nature of the damage that had been done. She did feel that my son and I would be able to repair.
Even after I saw my children that first time in July 2015, it was another year before any sort of visitation outside of a therapist’s office resumed. And even then, it has been more than a year of reduced visitations— which are ending soon— with no argument from anyone. As in, no argument from the alienating father, who knows that I could have exercised that right much much sooner, and chose to instead work out a compromised scheduled with my children to show them a spirit of cooperation and caring. No argument from the children, who now know that while I certainly have never been a perfect parent, I am not the type of parent they were lead to believe I was by the alienating father.
So, there is the background that you need to understand what I am about to write here.
I have my children every other weekend. That same weekend, I usually have my nieces for at least part of that time. Usually, all four kids like to sleep in the same room, although sometimes, the girls will use the sleeper sofa downstairs, and my son will use the bedroom by himself. I let them choose.
And every night I go in and give my nieces hugs and kisses and tell them I love them (they are 5 and soon to be 4). They respond in kind. When I do that, I tell my daughter goodnight and offer a high-5, which she eventually began returning, after which I tell her I love her. I tell my son goodnight and offer the same high-5, which he has yet to return. He will usually say goodnight, to which I respond by telling him that I love him. I am so used to these expressions of love not being returned, that I almost fail to notice the lack of response anymore. But, I know that they need to hear it, consistently, so I say it, consistently.
This weekend that I am writing about, when saying goodnight, my daughter put her hand up for the high-five before I did. I should have noticed it, but I didn’t really. I just did our routine.
We had a good weekend, the small community down the road had their big annual festival, so we went to that, and ate food and listened to music. My daughter and I found shoes that we liked and managed to talk my husband into letting us each get matching sandals, which we both wore to church the next day. It wasn’t an intentional twinning, I think we were both really excited about the shoes, but it was fun, nonetheless. (For the record, my son had a special purchase this weekend, too.)
On Sunday, we celebrated one of my niece’s birthday with a big lunch, and then we all rested— the little kids napped, the older people played on phones and watched TV, and might have napped too. 😉
My daughter wanted to go to youth group and asked if I would take her, which I did, even though it was extra running for me. When I dropped her off, I told her to have a good time, and once again said: “Love you.”
Only this time was infinitely different.
Because two little words, in a quiet voice, came back at me.
(Excuse me, I gotta go find some tissues to clean up these happy tears.)
Just those two little words:
As in, I love you, too.
(In our matching sandals.)
Two little words, that really meant four little words, that really mean so much more than two or three or four little words.