By Cheryl Wright
The children were 1, 2 and 4 when they came to live with me, my hubby and our son five years ago.
After months of court appearances, barristers, affidavits and a 50-50 custody order after a relationship breakdown, the children were attacked by their mother’s new partner.
The short story is that the mother’s boyfriend went to the casino and came home at3:30 a.m.He’d lost his front-door key and, unfortunately, she’d fallen asleep and didn’t hear him knock.
He was furious, and the longer it took her to open the door, the worse he got. By the time he was inside the house, he was out of control. He grabbed a hammer and smashed windows above the children as they slept, and dragged them out of bed and around the house.
The mother gathered up the children and fled into the cold, wet night, all of them wearing nothing but pajamas. They were freezing cold, and running for their lives.
This was the only sensible thing their mother ever did.
After threatening and abusive phones calls from the boyfriend to my son and me, we applied for an intervention order, citing the attack and threats. Evidence given in the hearing showed the boyfriend was a drug addict and alcoholic and was known to police. We also learned he’d been physically attacking the mother in front of the children, and verbally abusing them.
We walked away with a lifetime intervention order. This was just the beginning of our problems.
Our son basically lost the plot, blaming himself for the children’s situation. He went into a deep depression from the time of the attack, and to this day refuses to seek medical assistance. That meant hubby and I were (and are) left to raise the children, despite our son living with all of us in the same house.
Despite repeated requests and goading, the mother rarely visits the children-five or six times a year is the average. Usually, she can be counted on for turning up at birthday parties; however, once she called ten minutes before the party was due to start to say she wasn’t coming.
Five-year-old Crystal sobbed her heart out.
It’s difficult to console a child when her heart is breaking, but we did the best we could. We sat down and hugged her, told her how sorry we were that her mother had let her down. I told her it was all right to be angry, that I’d be angry, too. This seemed to help; it was as though being given permission to be upset about the situation was what she needed. It wasn’t long before her friends began to arrive and her mother was forgotten.
Then there was the time the kids’ mother was supposed to visit on Easter Sunday. She planned to arrive at1:00 p.m.and said she would stay at least two hours. At3:00 p.m.she called to say her car had broken down in the mountains and she couldn’t come. The children were devastated, but 7-year-oldCurtis, the oldest, said, “She’s lying. She just doesn’t want to see us.”
“I’m sure she wants to see you,” I told him. “But letting you down like this is not nice.” Instead of dwelling on their mother not coming, we decided to find an activity that would burn off some of the anger.
The problem doesn’t go away, but giving the children the assurance their feelings are justified helps them a lot.
What this mother doesn’t understand is the children can see through her lies. They know when she’s genuine, and they know when she’s making an excuse-which is, unfortunately, most of the time.
The children are still traumatised by the violence in the home they left, and are still hysterical if someone drops a glass or piece of crockery. More importantly, they’re consistently distressed by their mother’s uncaring behaviour.
My belief has always been that no matter what, their mother is still their mother. Despite her putting them in danger, the children need to know their mother. And to that end, I’ve always defended her. Each and every time I did, I could see the distress on the children’s faces. Then a friend mentioned that perhaps that wasn’t the best way to handle it.
From that moment on I stopped making excuses for the rare visits each year, and I stopped letting the children think she was a good mother.
The children are still being counselled, and I’m sure they will be for many years to come. We still have the violent outbreaks, the hysterics when something triggers their memory, the disappointments and the lack of trust.
So, what do we tell the children about their truly dreadful mother? The truth? That she put them in life-threatening situations, and although she’s their mother, she’s really not a very nice person?
Dingley Village, Victoria, Australia