I opened my mouth to speak to him, only to have him roll his eyes at me and grin.
“Fuck you, motherfucker” was what I wanted to scream, but the mediator had already explained the rules, and within them were clauses against shouting and profanity.
I could feel the tears of anger begin to well up in my eyes. I was being pushed to my breaking point today, but I knew I could not break. Allowing my ex to win would not only hurt me – it would hurt my son.
Remember who you’re here for…
While this wasn’t really about me, I wasn’t about to be disrespected in that mediation room. I’d put up with it before, but now was different. Now I was different, and if this was how the rest of this session was going to be I’d walk out the door now instead of wasting my time.
My son’s future wasn’t a joke to me, but apparently it was to my ex and his eye-rolling.
It only took a few minutes of watching us interact for the mediator to see how poorly my ex treats me. I think it was then that he realized he’d had the wool pulled over his eyes while talking to my ex alone earlier. At one point during our back-and-forth, he even decided to step in and tell my ex he was being a jerk.
“Why do you hate her so much?” the mediator finally asked him.
“I shouldn’t have to ask her permission for anything!” he proclaimed loudly. “Just because she’s the mother?! She isn’t BETTER THAN ME!”
And there it was. The real reason we were here. It wasn’t about being a better father or our son’s best interests. It was about a narcissist throwing a temper tantrum over his lack of control.
But here’s the thing, buddy. We’re co-parents and whether you like it or not, because of that, YOU DO need my permission for the big things – which is basically what the mediator explained to him next.
We sat with each other for nearly two hours in the mediation room that day and basically got no where. Round and around in circles we went while my ex tried to deflect any and all questions that came at him from myself or the mediator. His only point of being there was to try to convince me that I was a bad mother – but there was no way in hell I would let him.
He couldn’t see that being in that room was supposed to be about our son. All he saw in that room was me and all he felt was rage because I was the one person who could not be bullied to give him what he wanted. And because of that, all he wanted to do was keep pushing me, hoping that I’d break like everyone else always did.
“Someone needs to be the hero here,” the mediator said.
Did this guy not understand I was being as heroic as I could by even showing up that day?! Sitting there with my ex and defending myself alone was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. And yet it wasn’t heroic enough because it had become obvious my being in this room still couldn’t make things right. There were no words I could say to my ex to make him see that what he was about to do could change our son forever.
Someone needs to be the hero…
“What about a rotating visitation schedule?” the mediator proposed.
And with that he whipped out a 30-day calendar with an arrangement where the amount of days my ex and I would have each week would vary throughout the month so that our time was split equally.
Though it seemed fair, the entire idea made my head spin. We’d had a consistent routine for the last five years. There was zero reason to change that. How was anyone supposed to keep track of that kind of rotating schedule, let alone an 8-year-old?
It was a valiant effort by the mediator to do his job, but I didn’t think implementing this kind of schedule would be good for anyone.
I knew if I gave a firm and final no to the mediator’s proposal that day, the Court would immediately move forward with conducting a best interest evaluation to determine if I was a “fit” mother. This meant both my ex and I would be interviewed and evaluated by the Court, and so would our 8-year-old son.
Following that we would go to trial to determine whether or not our current custody arrangement would stay in place or if my son’s routine would change because visitation time would be taken away from me.
My son’s well-being was riding on my answer that day. I wanted to be the hero, but I didn’t know which kind of heroic act would be the right one. I could compromise my beliefs to say yes to this crazy rotating schedule now and avoid having my son dragged into Court, or I could continue to fight for what I thought was best for him and risk him getting emotionally fucked up because of it.
I despised my ex for putting this all on me while I sat there frozen in fear, terrified of spitting out the words that might lead to a wrong decision.
Somewhere amidst the fear I had a moment of clarity. I decided to buy myself more time by asking the mediator to give me a week to think about the proposal. It was only fair since he had just sprung it on me, and so he agreed and ended the mediation session.
“I’m going to have to ask you two to walk out separately to avoid any fighting on premises,” he said.
My ex left first, and I breathed a sigh of relief after he exited the room.
I’d fucking survived.
“I have to ask this question, and you can choose not to answer if you’d like, but I would love to know…Totally off the record…I’m trying to understand why he has such anger towards you. Did you cheat on him?” the mediator asked.
“Nope. It was actually the other way around,” I replied.
“Then that’s just one angry guy…”
Yes, yes it is.
To be continued…