Sunday, 14 July 2013

The impact of a Father leaving his children Part 3

This third part has been the hardest to write as it features my third and youngest child.  This child has some mild learning difficulties and sometimes exhibits challenging behaviour.  There has been a delay on early stage of his early growth development.  His behaviour and attitudes are sometimes reminiscence of symptoms of Asperger’s  Syndrome and Autism.   Despite this and numerous medical examinations since birth, no clear diagnosis has ever been given.  His gait and posture is very infantile and he displays frustration which quickly turns into vented anger when things don’t go right for him.  School has always been a struggle for him.

His problems were one of the key factors that kept me in the abusive marriage for many years.  I believed that my leaving would cause him further and greater damage and would severely affect his well-being. 

A huge turning point for me was when he mirrored one of his mother’s attacks on me.  A couple of days prior to this episode, his mother had turned violent, first of all she was verbally threatening.  When I didn’t respond, she deliberated overturned her dinner plate over my head so that the food cascaded down me and then smashed the plate on my head.  I had learnt that no response could calm her so I just sat there and absorbed it without making any response.  Because this action hadn’t provoked me into retaliation of any description, she then grabbed my dinner plate and threw that over me too.   She then stormed out the house and I started to clear the mess up.

A few days after this,  I’d cook and served dinner for all the family and was in the kitchen washing the dishes.  My son, who was 10 years old at this stage, brought his plate out and threw the remains over me.   I was cross with him and shouted at him, he was visibly upset and had a look of shock on his face.  
I realised that he thought his actions were ‘normal’ and okay because he’d seen his mother do similar just days before.  It also dawned on me that my staying in that abusive environment and absorbing such violence wasn’t protecting the children from the impact of domestic violence after all.

Shortly after this, during another violent assault, I chose not to return to the marital home.  It broke my heart to leaving all three children behind. 

My son had always been close to the middle child who was like a second mother to him.  He’d started playschool while she was still there and she took the parental instruction of “Look after your brother for us” seriously.

This relationship seemed to change once the eldest child came to live with me, and my second daughter has written in this blog about the events that led her to coming to live with me.  Part of that was her own brother attacking her.

This is the situation that worries me most and I feel helpless about.  My son still lives with his mother.  He stays with me every other weekend.  I know he feels a loyalty to his mother as he’s seen me and his two sisters leave, so he feels he can’t abandon his mother and cant come and live with me.

For the most part, he is a delightful young man.  When he stays with me, he never hits out.  There are occasions when he sulks, but either I or his siblings are able to bring him out of the mood before he get angry and violent.  However, I do worry about the time he’s not in my care.

There have been a couple of episodes at school when his frustrations have boiled over.  The school have been very good in managing him and have realised that the majority of the time, others have been provoking him to try and elicit a reaction. 

I see in him similar behaviour to his mother.  I’ve tried talking to her about this for I’ve questioned whether this is something genetic or learnt.   When he stays with me, I always try to encourage him to talk.  He will talk on any subject that he’s interested in but won’t talk about his feelings or emotional state.

Interesting, when he was staying with me, one of his sisters intercepted a facebook conversation with a school colleague where he was telling this other person that he was saw the Doctor every week for depression.   I shared this with his mother, but when  I asked my son why he felt he needed to tell someone this fabrication (although of course I didn’t phrase it like that) he won’t talk about it.  To me, however, it was rather insightful because I think he recognises that he needs to talk to someone.

Recently, his school contacted me again because they are concerned about some of his challenging behaviour.  There had been bullying in the past, so they do take things seriously.  My son had complained to a teacher that he was being attacked and his descriptions were quite vivid.  However, they had been watching closely and had seen nothing untoward taking place.  When I spoke to my son about this he was adamant it was happening.   When I questioned it, he got very aggressive and challenged whether I believed him or not.  This tactic, I know, would stop his mother from seeking more information.  However, I persevered and eventually he admitted that he’d make the whole thing up and told school that.  He was then remorseful and contrite.

He needs some help but won’t talk to anyone.  I have tried to involve other agencies.  When his second sister left, I called social services and child protection because I was concerned.   They did a quick onsite assessment, but because they deemed him not at any physical risk from his mother, they closed the case.  No-one wants to assess the emotional or mental risk. 

The only thing that gives me hope is that he’s fine when triggers aren’t breached, although he won’t recognise triggers or the impact of his behaviour.  He does display some of the aggressive traits of his mother, although the one area where they differ is that afterwards, he is remorseful and recognises his wrong doing.  I only hope that as he grows older, he’s able to talk through the things and emotions that he’s obviously bottling up.  I just wish the help was offered and provided that I believe he needs.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Impact of a Father leaving his Children Part 2

Elsewhere I already described my middle child as very similar to me in temperament and very placid.  I didn’t really notice the impact on her while I was still living in the family home although it affected her like everyone else.  The eldest child was always being criticised by her mother and was constantly verbally assaulted.  The youngest child had similar behavioural issues to his mother.  I guess the middle child felt caught in the middle and tried to make the best of a bad situation.

It was when I had been relocated in a house several miles away from the children that I saw how witnessing Domestic Violence had affected her.

This child had an exceptional school attendance record never missing a day from school.  She started developing headaches and cramps that were affecting her school attendance.

All three children had stayed with me for the weekend and we had a good happy time together.  A few days later I called unannounced at the children’s home to drop something off to them.  I was shocked at the change in the physical appearance of my middle child.  How she could change so drastically in just a few days deeply concerned me.  

I also knew that she couldn’t talk to me when I telephoned them for I knew that their mother was always standing by them and listening to the call when I phoned.  When the children were being very guarded and mono-syllable in their responses I knew that their mother was close by.  The children would confirm this for me.  Disturbed by the poor health of my daughter I managed to communicate by Facebook.  We had the following text conversation which I share with her permission:

Hi ,

I'm worried about you and want you to know that you can talk to me at anytime. I realise it may be hard when XXXXXXX and xxxxxxxxx are around, or when your Mum is listening over the phone. It does concern me that you seem to cope ok when you are with me at the weekend, but looked so ill yesterday. Anything you type won't go any further, and it may help if you feel you have to bottle things up to protect every one.

Love you lots

Dad xx
o    I think I am just stressed out, I enjoy things more with you but at mums house It just stresses me out. I really want to live with you. love you two xx
o    I'd love to have you all here all the time - the only thing that worrries me about that is the upheaval of changing school.

Love you xx
o    yeah I know :/ ,
how far Is xxxxxxxxx to  xxxxxxxxxx?
o    13 miles...20-30 minutes by car - we could work something out. Does your mum know you're stressed?
o    no she doesn't
o    it might help if you can say that to the doctor's without your mum knowing -- does mum leave you alone with the doctor?
o    nope she sits there with me, I could tell student reception maybe?
o    it would probably help you if you could talk to someone other than me or mum, ideally perhaps asking to see the doctor alone?
o    you know what shes like, she won't let me talk to the doctor alone
o    how does student reception work?
o    well miss xxxxx says I can talk to her anytime about anything
o    it might be a good idea to talk to her as soon as you can. The only thing i don't want to happen is for your schooling to be affected
o    I will talk to her tomorrow
o    Tell her she can contact me anytime. I want the best for you all
o    Ok I will, I know you do but it won't help my school work at all if I'm stressed all the time
o    Someone (whether me or the school) needs to tell your mum she's stressing you out and it's affecting your schoolwork..

Perhaps it might help you to think of all the different ways in which she's stressing you out and list them
o    Its everything really, but recently it been the fact that she thinks I was skiving and I can't believe she would think that little of me, you know that I am not the type of person to miss school, so she obviously don't know me as well as I thought
o    It breaks my heart xxxxxx, we have three amazing children and I'm so proud of all you and how you're coped with everything. I didn't want to leave when I did, but was given no choice. You need to say all this to Miss xxxxxxxx and whatever happens, I'm always here for you. If it means moving in with me, we will work it out so that school is unaffected.

I will speak to your Mum if you want me too, but she may just think I'm trying to cause trouble so it may be best from school..You know how she re-acted when i tried to speak to her about xxxxxxxx
o    no its probably best if you don't tell her, I know you didn't want to leave but I know you had to, If I move in with you then I will maybe just have to wake up a bit earlier, That is the thing I love  school (sounds weird) but its the best school I have been to, you can guess that from my levels and stuff, I am going to tell miss xxxxxx tomorrow and I will tell you how it goes around this time
o    I don't want you to leave that school  either...if you end up living here, I'll make sure you still get to school..

I love you so much, I think you're totally amazing and I'm really proud of you. xxxx
o    thanks I love you too,
I'm going now so I will tell you what happens tomorrow
bye xx
o    Bye and be brave

Love you xxx
I tried to tell miss xxxxxx that I am stressed but she said I need a letter from my parents for some reason, so do you think you can write one and give it to me at the weekend on the quiet?
o    Hi xxxxxx Of course I can

Love you lots xxxx

o    hi xxxxxxx Missing you. School phoned me today, really glad you're able to talk to them. I love you lots and will always be here for you. I'm really proud of you, you are an exceptional young lady.

Keep smiling,

o    yeah did they tell you what they said to me;
they said they were going to phone you,
email my teachers so they can keep an eye on me,
contact the school nurse about my stomach pains and,
a school counselor is in for one day so they put me on the list so I can talk to her,
I was waiting for ages for the lady to come and talk to me but the only reason she did on Friday was because my friend xxxxxxxx went to her without me knowing and ask if she could come to me straight away because she could tell I needed to talk to someone, and that was nice of her, I am really lucky to have friends like her

It wasn’t too long after this that I left the church ministry, found a house near the school.  The eldest child came to live with me as described in part one of this blog.  A month later, my middle child telephoned me from a friend’s house distressed.   She’d reached breaking point and couldn’t cope with her home life anymore.  She’d made the excuse of going to see her friend.  Once she reached that safe haven, she’d decided that she couldn’t return. 

I went to collect her and asked her if her mother knew where she was.   She said no so I said I’d telephone her mother to let her know where she was and that she was safe.  

I made the call and said that I’d been asked to collect our middle child from her friend’s house as she was extremely distressed and upset.  Her mother said that they had had an argument.    I informed my ex-wife that our daughter was determined that she didn’t want to return there.  I then suggested that the best course of action would be to let our daughter stay with me overnight and then review the situation in the morning when tempers had subsided.  

My ex-wife seemed to agree to this approach, however just before midnight she telephoned me, asking me what was happening and when I said that we had agreed that our daughter was safer staying the night with me, she launched into an abusive tirade accusing me of kidnap and issuing all manner of threats against me.  I hung up the telephone because I didn’t need to listen to such rubbish and everything that could have been said rationally had been.  My daughter was safe and had made her choice, her mother knew where she was and there was nothing else that could be done at this point. 

Since moving in with me, this daughter has not experienced any more health issues and has excelled at school keeping minimum contact with her mother.