Imagine, being a parent, and through no fault of your own, not being able to see your child.
That happened to me. It was 2012. Tom’s Mum, beset by jealousy and anger stopped me from seeing my boy. I turned up at his school one Friday afternoon at the usual time I picked him up from school. Things had been difficult between us. I had met the woman I wanted to spend my life with; she was still bitter and resentful. Tom spent time with me and Clare with her children. We were a little family brought together by unusual and difficult circumstance but making the best of what we had.
I stood in the playground surrounded by school-mums and school-dads waiting my child coming out of school when my phone beeped.
“Your not picking Tom up today my mum is”
“Why not? I’m at the school. It’s my night to have Thomas.”
“I have been to my solicitor and I told you last weekend that you can’t see Tom. You will be getting her letter advising you that access has been removed”
I stood, not daring to move. Re-reading the words on the screen. I didn’t comprehend. What? What was going on? Slowly but surely kids came out of school and ran to their parents and they walked off leaving me stood there. Tom was never late out. Maybe it was a mistake. I had rights. He was MY boy. Where was he?
The last of the families filed out and I was stood in the school yard all alone. No child came running out to greet me, to hug me. No smiles, no happy voices, nothing. She had arranged for her Mum, who worked at the school, to take Tom either before I arrived or out an alternate exit.
I walked away dejected. I phoned my mum. No answer. I walked home bewildered.
The next day I opened a letter from a solicitor. A letter I still have. Within was her rationale for stopping me from seeing my boy. What it came down to, essentially, was that he was finding the transition from two parents living together to Mam and Dad living apart difficult. He was returning home from seeing me angry, upset and frustrated. He was five! Of course it was hard!
I wanted to go and take him. I wanted to go back to MY house that I was paying for HER to live in and take my child. Remove him from her and hold him close to me, keep him safe, tell him that everything was going to be okay. But I knew that would only make things worse. That would only cause me more pain. Above all it would cause Tom more pain.
Instead I fought her through the only way I could; solicitors, legal advice, letters and replies. She relented in the end. I got my boy back. But the legacy of that time lasts now five years later. Our relationship, mine and Toms, has been damaged by that absence and I have not been able to repair it.
I will, however, always remember the first thing he said to me that first time I picked him up from school again. It was my birthday, October 2012. It upsets me still now to think of it. It’s bittersweet and I smile through the tears. He said:
“I’ve missed you so much, Daddy.”