It often irks me how certain situations are handled by legal systems. How is it, that in a case that centers around the welfare of a child, they can be detached from the emotional and psychological effects of the decisions they can make so candidly according to the clear-cut, bulletpoint lists in their precious ‘book’? One circumstance cannot be weighed against another, just as the quality of a parent or their importance in playing any role can be.
Screw their procedures. Some of these outdated, sexist and downright outrageous policies have long been in need of omission, or at least bear being looked at very carefully to ascertain their genuine purpose in the modern day. In our world, divorce has become almost as natural as a milestone as marriage itself. Women have their hard-won rights to work, and vote, and enjoy their sexuality. Men are no longer treated disparagingly if they choose to be the stay at home parent. With all this ‘equality’, one can’t help but wonder just how far the courts are willing to go to preserve their ‘political correctness’.
The first time I left my husband, Shovel, I took my son and fled back to Europe, to enjoy the sanctuary of my friends and family while I tried to decide what to do next. I needed that distance, if there was to be any hope of our relationship – and therefore our family – continuing.
Up until this point, Twig and I had been leading a strange sort of half life. Shovel left to go to work at around 8am, leaving.. no, locking us in the apartment. I didn’t have my own set of keys, so going out wasn’t really an option. Added to the fact he never allowed me to have so much as $5 in my pocket. We had little food; for a while Twig and I were munching on brocolli, since that was all I had in the freezer. The power regularly got cut off because our matriarch failed to pay the utilities so long as beer and cigarettes still existed. I didn’t know anyone in our neighbourhood. I had no phone to call people I did know. And I’m not ashamed to admit, of an evening, once my baby boy was safely tucked up in bed, I had gotten into the habit of enjoying a drink. Assuming there was any beer left over.
Perhaps the lowest point, when I realised just how wrong this situation was, was when Twig cut his foot on some broken glass. The rare chance of playing outside on the porch, resulting in blood and screaming. Typical.
But I had no phone, no money, and nobody. I did the best I could with the first aid kit and some tweezers, then simply had to sit and cuddle my sobbing child until Shovel got home. Which, incidentally, was two hours later than it ought to have been, since he went to visit some friends first. Of course.
Twig got his foot x-rayed, then had to have more shards of glass pulled from his foot. He still has the scar. And I still have the powerful urge to punch the ‘assisting’ nurse in the face. Clearly she didn’t have children of her own. She did, however, have the sense to back the hell up from a distressed mother.
(I ought to mention here, I don’t advocate the poor treatment of those in such an industry. I was just pissed because she was pressing his foot down, the one with frickin’ glass still in it, and scolding him for screaming. How would she like it?)
The day I decided I was leaving, though. It wasn’t a huge, cataclismic event. To some people, it may even seem insignificant. But it breaks my heart, to this day.
I was making dinner – if you can call Ramen Noodles dinner. I do. – and I asked Shovel, who was engrossed at his computer, to play with Twig for five minutes. Anyone who’s ever ‘cooked’ Ramen, knows that’s about the exact space of time you need. Five minutes.
What was so damn important on that screen, I have no idea. But I heard Twig crying as I was zombie-ing around in the kitchen, so I padded up the hallway to see if I could help. Maybe he was being fussy? Maybe I could sit him in his high-chair to watch me, instead?
He wasn’t being fussy.
He was sitting, all by himself, on the little push-along car he had been besotted with for the past few days. You know the kind; with the long handle for a parent to push them around? He loved it.
Shovel remained glued to his screen, typing away madly to whoever he was playing some mindless online game with. Ignoring the toddler who was sitting howling, with tears streaming down his face, because he wanted his daddy to play with him, to pay him some attention. Just for five minutes. And he’d been pushed aside.
I put up with so much. I tolerated it all, because it only seemed to affect me. But in that moment, I realised I’d been wrong. And if I continued this way, I was going to watch my little boy be ruined. Just like I was. So, via email, I arranged with my mother that we would be returning. She booked the tickets for us, she arranged everything. Amusingly, we even got upgraded to First Class for the long flight. Twig looked seriously cute, sitting in one of those big armchair recliners, drinking from his bottle and regarding everyone with those big, solemn eyes.
So, now you have some notion of our predicament. Not as a client, or a case, or a number. But as a parent and a child. Do you think I made the wrong choice?
The law apparently did.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, or Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted from one member nation to another. Proceedings on the Convention concluded 25 October 1980 and the Convention entered into force between the signatory nations on 1 December 1983. The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence. The primary intention of the Convention is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal or retention thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court
I was accused of abducting my own child, and basically told I could return willingly, or he would be taken from me. All because of one paragraph in a document written over thirty years ago.
I did what I imagine really any parent would do. There was no way I was letting that family take my baby. Look what a stellar job they’d done with their own, after all.
I went back.
To be continued.