Allow me to offer some expository information for you to better understand the events that led us to where we are now. I’ll keep this as concise as possible.
Many moons ago in October 2007 Will Reed and I got married. 26 March 2008 our son, Adam, was born. We separated shortly thereafter and lived different lives in different states. A brief reconciliation resulted in my unplanned pregnancy with our daughter. Flooded with hormones and a desire preserve my family, I moved with Will and Adam to California to ‘repair our marriage.’ Our relationship came to a screeching halt in an ugly manner shortly after we arrived and both law enforcement and family court became involved. We lost custody of our son– a long and convoluted story I’m not going to discuss here because it is even to this day still excruciatingly painful. The last time Adam and I physically saw him was during the winter of 2011.
Tatum’s birth on 21 February 2012 flooded an otherwise dark and chaotic world with light. Will was incarcerated so he was not present for the birth, which took place in Memphis, and I left her with my parents to return to California. Eventually in March 2013 Adam and I finally returned to Tennessee to be reunited with my Mom, Dad, and Tatum….where my children met each other for the first time….but only after Will and I had our parental rights terminated, something else I can barely talk about even now. Thankfully my parents adopted Adam. Meanwhile, Will got into trouble with the law again in California and went to prison for four years.
We are not divorced although I am in the process of obtaining the paperwork as I type this. There’s a multitude of reasons why I never filed: the whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing, not wanting to subject him to the revolving door of jail for inability to pay child support, lack of funds, the seemingly astronomical effort of going before attorneys and judges [mind you I was not at my best during this time], and mostly the fact that I never planned to marry again so I wasn’t in any particular rush to invalidate a piece of paper that really didn’t mean anything to me at this point in my life. What I wasn’t doing was hoping for any sort of reconciliation. That ship had sailed and we’d both moved on with our lives years ago.Believe it or not I was one of the captains of the Will Reed cheer squads post-prison. Nobody wanted him to do well more than me [except for some of his family] because I wanted my children to have their father. Truth me told my expectations were not particularly high but he continued to prove me wrong. I was so proud! He stayed in regular contact with the kiddos via phone, found housing and a job almost immediately, and was remaining clean and sober. Visions of successful co-parenting danced through my head.
Things changed when he became romantically involved with a woman. [[ DISCLAIMER: I have nothing against this young woman. I have heard wonderful things about her from sources that I trust and from what I hear she is a good influence on him. I will never say anything unkind about her. ]] Gradually the conversations tapered off and we heard from him less. I figured it was a phase. Who hasn’t gotten giddy with a new relationship and let it consume you? I know I have. When he told me things were serious and he was thinking marriage I was ecstatic….
What a naive idiot I was. Visions of blended, modern families swirled through my brain. Maybe we could all go on vacation together! His future fiancee and I could get our nails done and have girl talk. Perhaps the guys could catch a game or go play pool. The kids would have regular Skype dates and we’d send Christmas cards and birthday gifts. Allen is the one for me. This lady apparently is the one for Will. I want what’s best for Will. So of course I want what’s best for her. We’re all adults, aren’t we? And besides, we’re not important. Our children are the center of our universe. At least they are mine. I can honestly say I was prepared to love her children as my own– and any children they may have together– because that is what mature, modern families do. My dreams were quickly dashed as Will refused to even introduce me to his significant other and showed zero interest in talking to mine.
Let’s take a moment here to acknowledge my 3,230,492,342,300,925 shortcomings. Prior to getting clean and sober, I said some horrible things to Will via text. I threw his past in his face. I demanded to know why we never received any child support when he clearly had income and insulted him, insinuated he would never change. Multiple times I called him a horrible father and person. I know from the years we spent together the things to say to really cut to the core– and I went for the jugular. Even after cleaning up my act I was not immune to acting out of hurt feelings or anger. And for that, Will, I owe you a sincere apology from the bottom of my heart. I am ashamed of my behavior. I hope you can forgive me.
Yet please don’t act as though I am the only one who has struggled with alcoholism and addiction. That’s inaccurate and unfair. We both went through it. And I think it’s about damn time we each take ownership of it instead of using it as ammunition towards one another. I don’t constantly bring up humiliations from your past [or share them with the masses] so I think it’s time you start doing the same. Whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all?”
“So Mom, do I sorta have brothers?” Adam asked me one day, apropos of nothing. I could not believe my ears. “I’m assuming you’re referring to the children of your dad’s girlfriend. Unfortunately I don’t know very much about them. But if your Dad marries his girlfriend and she has kids then yes, they will be a type of brother to you. I know that sounds pretty exciting.” He nonchalantly played with his video game a few more minutes and I wondered aloud what made him think of that. “That could be cool. Dad said that he and my stepmom might come visit me this summer so I was just wondering.”
Back. The. Eff. Up.
I knew Will was seeing somebody and it was serious. Because Adam saw a photo of them on Facebook I explained that Daddy had a girlfriend. Yet all of the sudden a woman whom Will have never mentioned except in passing to my son is his STEPMOTHER?! Talk about dropping a major bombshell on a ten year old. When Adam met Allen, their first meeting was casual. He met my ‘friend,’ Allen. Then we became a couple. Gradually we increased the amount of time the three of us spent together and now Adam and Allen are so close they have their own relationship outside of me. And that’s exactly how it should be– gradual, allowing the child to dictate the pace, and making sure the little one is not uncomfortable. Furthermore, I told Will as a courtesy when Allen and I started to get serious. Not because I thought he cared but because it was a development that affected his son. I expected the same courtesy.
As for that visit? Just like I wish he’d help support his son financially, maintain a regular relationship with him, and show respect for Adam’s maternal family– that would be fantastic. But don’t you dare tell Adam you are coming to visit without running it by me [and my parents] first. And if you break one more promise to that poor child…don’t. Just please don’t. You rip his heart out of his chest every single time you fail to do what you say, whether it’s not calling at a certain time or not showing up for a visit. DO NOT BREAK MY CHILDREN’S HEARTS ANYMORE. Have they not had enough?
I’m just thankful that Tatum has largely missed this heartache because she does not know you and hasn’t had the chance to be let down or hurt. What she is; however, is showered in love– and extremely confused. Everyone from Bapa [my dad] to Gary [Theresa’s husband] to Allen to my ex she has called ‘Daddy’ and asked “Is that my Dad?” I’ve always wondered Will…is there a reason you rarely mention Tatum during the times you did call? She’s your daughter too.
Will accidentally sent me a text meant for his girlfriend. In it he referred to me by multiple expletives– and we weren’t even arguing. That really gave me pause. Is this how he refers to the mother of his children to his significant other? Wow. I could understand if we were in the middle of some heated fight and he said something to his partner out of anger, but this was just an every day message. Is that the amount of ‘respect’ I get from him? Of course he can speak to her about me in any way he chooses but that hurt. I never talk of him that way to Allen, or anyone for that matter. That doesn’t change even if I’m angry or upset. I know it’s none of my business what other people think of me but I couldn’t help but wonder if this woman knows everything my family and I did for Will over the years. Does she know that I spent a hefty sum of my own money to print out photos of the children and write updates to send him frequently while he was in jail and encouraged him to have a relationship with them? Doubtful. I’ve had two boyfriends in the past that had children. The way these men treated the mother of their children– with respect and gratitude even if they weren’t necessarily friends– was of the utmost importance to me.
This text confirmed what I already knew. My son told me that his father called me a not so nice name and said that I was being a not so nice person. Excuse me?! Adam immediately ran to me, upset that somebody was insulting his mother. He told me he didn’t even want to talk to his father anymore after that. Seriously, Will? Do you think it’s okay to talk poorly about me to our son? Newsflash: It’s not. Even when I’m having to explain very difficult subjects to him…like why you were in jail for so long [I told him it was a ‘DUI’]…or why you so involved with somebody else’s kids but seem to have forgotten about us [I explained because of your legal status you couldn’t leave the state of California but you give other kids attention because he misses y’all so much]. He doesn’t have to like me. But I demand to be treated with respect– at least around my children. Do you know what Adam did after Will said these things? He blocked him. I didn’t tell him to do that. Adam chose to because he is fiercely protective of his mother.
Will, I’m done with you. I wish you the best but you are toxic for me and I want no communication from you unless it is absolutely imperative. Never will I tell my children how to behave towards you– and they will always hear from me that their father loves them very much. I will be nothing but supportive if they decide they want to speak to you or pursue a relationship with you– but I’m over it. You constantly make me feel like a terrible person, you’re unnecessarily unkind and hurtful, and are uncooperative when it comes to my attempts to co-parent. I deserve better. And if the kids ask why we don’t talk? I’ll simply tell them it’s better for Mommy and Daddy to not be friends…but we both love you very much. And at least on my end they’ll never hear me speak poorly of you. Goodbye, William.
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,