After another disappointing phone call today, my memory was taken back to a blog I had written titled "My Moment". After reading it I decided it might be some good therapy to write out a few things we've experienced within the last year...
As a mother it is our job to protect our children, wipe away their tears and do our best to make life better. In our experience with her father's drug addictions I have always tried to do and be whatever she needs, from doing everything in my power to give her her dad back, to accepting his current state, to supporting her in her desire to separate herself from this stranger that was once her dad. For years she struggled seeing the last name of a man she barely knew anymore, still attached to her name. I watched her correct people each time they called her by her full name. She was an ADAMS, but legally she wasn't. After many prayers and discussions and tears and are you sure's, we decided we would fight to change her last name to mine...to ours! I knew he wouldn't agree to this and was going to make it as difficult as possible for us, and he did. As you can imagine it's pretty difficult to serve an addict that has no job, no home, no contact with family, and that would do everything to avoid us now. I chose to represent her myself in this case. Not being educated in law or how the system works, the process in changing the name of a minor without consent of the other parent, not knowing his whereabouts to locate him, trying to prove he was considered to have "abandoned" her, or what the hell the stack of legal documents I just read even said... this was absolutely the most difficult challenge I had ever taken on. As time went on, I was losing faith, every avenue we tried, was NO! NO! NO! But we finally got a break, a judge knowing he had no contact with his family, still allowed me to serve him at his family's addresses because those were the last addresses he had registered with the courts. I felt like I had a judge this time, that after reviewing all our evidence and attempts, just might be on our side. I served his family members and had to wait out the time for him to respond. He called to tell me that he would be responding and fighting us on this (not that nicely put, but... I don't blame him for being hurt and upset). I tried to explain her changing her name, didn't mean she didn't love him, but that it's difficult to carry the last name of someone that hasn't been in her life for the majority of her life. People see we have different last names and automatically ask about her father, the inability to answer "where he is" or not wanting to admit "what he does for a living", it drudges up hurt and negativity every time. He was angry and determined to fight it. Fighting us meant he would need to appear in court, which caused so much stress and anxiety for me. My daughter hadn't seen her father in almost 3 years, he was no longer the man she remembered. His addiction had aged him and worn him down physically, he probably weighed less than me at the time. I didn't want her to see him like that. I want her to remember the dad he used to be, I wanted her to keep the image of how she remembered him in her mind. Not this stranger, this junkie that he'd now become. I especially didn't want their first encounter after 3 years to be inside a courtroom, with her fighting him, having to tell a judge in front of him, that she wants to "disown" his name. I didn't want her to see his hurt, I was afraid of his reactions and actions in the courtroom. I was uncertain of how the courts would handle protecting her from seeing it. Those 30 days until our court date were the longest days of my life, and my family's life. Sleepless nights, constant worrying, going over my documents, researching, planning, visualizing their encounter, her reaction, second-guessing if she was old enough to make such a drastic decision. Making sure I wasn't supporting this for my own secret selfish desires. I've raised her on my own her entire life, no child support, of course she's an Adams damn it.... was I going along with it for her or for me... even though I knew my heart and my intentions, all these questions had me wondering if I was making the right decision.
My mom talked me through all my erratic phone calls, all the "what if I forgot this", "what if I filed something wrong", "what if I screw this up", "what if what if what if".... EVERY DAY she took my call. I never gave enough credit or respect to my mom growing up, and it's a regret I will always carry with me, because she truly is a wonderful woman and mother. She was there through every step of this process. She advised me when she knew I needed it and she just listened to me when she knew that's all I wanted. She has a way with her words, to calm me down, to reassure me, to convince me it will be all be okay and that I'm doing a good job. I know I would not have made it through this experience without her. (Thank you Mama).
When the court date finally arrived, my parents met us in the parking garage, I cried as soon as I saw them, mostly just nerves and scared for the unknown... but also just thankful to have them there supporting us, I needed them.This was it, this was the deciding day. My mom escorted my daughter to the courtroom, while Dad and I stayed out in the foyer on the look out, so we could warn her when he had arrived. She was extremely nervous, shaking. I was too, trying to go over my case and my "speech" in my head but trying to comfort my daughter, myself, be on watch, all at the same time and I was failing... big time. My mom, stepped in and distracted my daughter, getting her to look at her, sitting in a way that would block any view of her if he were to enter the courtroom, (wonder where I get my protective Mama Bear trait from! ha ha), my mom was telling her jokes, getting her to laugh, and all of a sudden my daughter wasn't in a courtroom anymore, she was in my parents home, comfortably cuddling on the couch with my mom, just having their usual conversations. With my mom taking over for me, it was my dad's turn to calm me down, distract me, encourage me that I was ready, letting me know he was proud of me and I could do this. I needed his encouragement and his faith in me that I was making the right decision, this is what she wanted. When the judge was finally ready to see us.... my daughter's dad hadn't shown up, so we were escorted to the judge's chambers to make it more comfortable for my daughter. I was so beyond thankful for that, it made it less scary and less "court-like". It was just us, talking to this nice woman, explaining our story and why we wanted to change her last name. She was such a lovely lady...very soft spoken, kind, and compassionate to my daughter. She complimented my daughter on her maturity and asked her several questions. My daughter spoke from her heart, expressed her desires, explained why she felt this way. I couldn't have been more proud. And that was it. The judge ruled in our favor. I vividly remember my mom's gasp. We all cried tears of relief and joy when she spoke the words that our motion was granted and my daughter's last name was now ADAMS. We all just kind of looked at each other and asked "that's it"? As I tearfully thanked the judge, she genuinely smiled and I still remember her eyes as she said, "this has been a long time coming hasn't it?"... I tried to get out a yes, but could only manage a head nod. She reminded my daughter that she was a very lucky girl and surrounded by people that loved her very much. She congratulated us and that was it. As I looked over at my daughter, I have never witnessed a child exude pride, independence, empowerment like I did that day. She fought for what she believed in, what she wanted, she was willing to stand against someone she loved to fight for it, with all the odds stacked against us and she won. We went downstairs and allowed ourselves to beam with victory. Of course we had to document it with a million pictures. Even now, when I'm feeling defeated, I always go back to this one picture... It reminds me of how many no's we heard, but kept fighting until we got our YES!!!! This was definitely my 2011 moment. I will never forget the feeling in that room, the love between my family. The love my parents have for their grandbaby. And now my lil A is officially an ADAMS.... I still smile everytime I see her name on her homework!
This last year was also filled with the lows of seeing my daughter's dad continue to lose his battle with addiction. After my last blog about the glimpse we had of him on the road to recovering, it wasn't three days after his release and he was back on the streets looking for his heroin fix. Two weeks later he was back to his old ways, lying, stealing, using. I couldn't help but feel betrayed, hurt, disappointed, embarrassed, upset in him and that this story didn't have the ending I had hoped for. Although I knew I wasn't the "author of his story", I still desperately wanted to finish reading that chapter of his book, with him winning in the end.
It's been another year of his addiction. I still answered his calls, I still reported how our daughter was doing, but each phone call, i knew he was getting closer to death.
I have had another year to come to terms with his choices, but it still saddens me every day. But in this year, I learned I needed to allow my story to have a voice, how I've been affected by this experience as well. I finally sat down and just wrote everything out about how he's affected me, what his addiction has taken from me. When I see those "dad" moments, observing and watching strangers, dad's laughing, playing, loving their daughters. The innocent smiles on those little girl's faces, their eyes that light up and scream "I love you daddy" and they mean it unconditionally with every ounce of their soul and spirit. The daily moments of seeing a father help their daughter with homework, or attempt to do their hair or paint their nails. Seeing my sister's faces as they witness their husbands with their daughters in these "dad" moments. Doing the dad/manly things with their daughters, things I'm not good at, things I have no clue how to teach her, things I attempt but it usually ends in tears or laughter because I completely screw it up. Like figuring out how to put a fishing pole together, with the bubble thingy and not tangle up the line & reel thing. Having to tear a poor innocent living worm and jam it's squirming lil' body through a sharp hook... and then figure out how to unhook the sad lil' fishy we caught but I can't get it out so I tear off half his face while it flops around in agony, I almost pass out from blood and guts, so I just hurry and throw it back in the water and leave crying. Things like that! But being able to watch my daughter with her dad, learn, participate and love to do these things with him, witness those sacred daddy/daughter moments... These are the moments he took from me.
Now as my daughter is becoming a young woman and life is getting harder in her world, and someone forgot to give me the Parenting Manual, I wish I had him there as a co-parent, maybe reassurance of making the right decisions, have his opinion in how to handle certain situations, bounce ideas off of each other, support her in her activities together, witness the key moments of her growing up, sharing those "proud parent" moments together as co-parents should. Sometimes, the feeling of 'I wasn't supposed to do this alone' creeps in. There are times I feel like I could have been better mom, more hands on, more energy, less stressed, more attentive, had I had my partner, my co-parent involved, didn't carry the load all on my own. Please don't get me wrong, in no way am I trying to pity-party woe is me this... I love every moment of being a mom, I take pride in being a single mother. I am proud of what we have accomplished together just the two of us. I'm proud of our little family and I'm proud of the daughter and young woman that she is. The thoughtful, loving, generous, helpful, funny, accepting, open-minded, big heart that is her. My favorite thing about her, is that through all this, she hasn't let it change her. She still trusts, she still has faith and hope in people, she understands life isn't always picture perfect, but whatever her picture is at the moment, she'll make it perfect. No matter the situation, she will find the positive in it, she will take the time and figure out what she can learn from each experience. She hasn't lost her heart or her smile or her laugh in all of this. She is exceptional in my eyes. These are things he DIDN'T take from us!
After his phone call today, and another forced detox, I took a moment to acknowledge the progress I have made. I have come to accept that it's okay for me to be hurt by what I feel I have missed out from his absence. It not selfish of me, it's genuine, true emotion. Me admitting I'm affected too, doesn't take away from my daughter's suffering... just means we've both been affected on different levels. In all this, I've been able to allow sadness for those lost moments, but they don't hold me down. I definitely feel confident in my boundaries and at peace with them. Still not sure I have defined what the exact balance between being a Christian and helping one in need and enabling is yet, such a fickle line... but I'm feeling good with where I am. I hope for him, I pray for him, I want for him to find his way back. But it is his battle to fight, his game to win, I can only be a supporting spectator at this point. To Be Continued....
Well we have had several ups and downs over the last year... seemed like an off year for us and 2012 hasn't seemed to start off much better... but with recent crappy events, I think the two of us will choose to continue to find the blessings in disguise, reevaluate and enjoy getting back to the old Adams girls routines. I truly am thankful for my parents, my sister and best friend Kortney, and for those friends closest to me. Thank you for your support, listening ear, advice, and a new set of eyes for me. (Wow this is sounding like an award acceptance speech or something....) Alright... well THANK YOU to everyone. We love you and I'll try not to wait over a year next time... then it won't be as long as a Stephanie Myers novel! (is that her name??? ahahahhaa)