Thursday, February 26, 2015

At What Cost?

After nine months of fighting, we finally got our day in court.

Without getting into the details, here are the basics: I have spent the last 10 years wishing to spend more time with my oldest son with less interference from his mom. I was always afraid to fight her for that time in court until two back-to-back incidents last spring convinced me it was time to stand up for my rights as a father, and for our rights as a family.

And yet, I was still scared to do anything about it. With my wife's loving nudge and encouragement, I finally sued my e-wife for more time with my son.

The process took nine months, five attorneys, one judge and stupid amounts of money to settle. And as of today, it IS settled. But am I? Is my wife? Is my son? Is his mom? Is my youngest son? At this point, I don't know. The case has only been settled for 9 hours as of this writing, so it's still too fresh. I have a general feel for what the papers say, but I need a couple of days of distance to be able to look at it with clear eyes and a clear mind and really comprehend it.

So when friends on social media or in face-to-face conversation ask me how it went, I find myself simply saying "it went well," and leaving it at that. And I'm not lying. It did go well. It also went horribly. It went in a way that is depressing. It also went in a way that is depleting. I'm tired and worn out emotionally. It has been a worm that has consumed my every waking moment for almost a year. This experience has been soul-sucking, not only for me, but also for my wife. 

The stress and pressure continue because there are parts of the agreement that made my wife disappointed with me. And that hurts, because I truly did my best to stand up for our family as best I could, while at the same time knowing that we wouldn't get everything we wanted. That's part of the negotiation process. No matter how right you are, you still don't get everything you want.

So did we win? Yes. We got more time with less interference, which was our goal...even if it wasn't as much time as we wanted to get.

Did we lose? Yes. Right now I am a physical wreck. I want to sleep, but my mind won't shut up long enough to allow that. I have slept for a total of 10 hours in the past two nights. And then there's the question of the money. We spent nine months paying five attorneys to do what we should have been able to sit down and work out together in a matter of days, maybe with just one attorney. But my son's mother and I were both prideful. We were stubborn. We were immature in some ways. And above all, we both HAD to be RIGHT.

Yes, we won. But at what cost? There are no true winners in these situations. 

There are so many ways that It's a Wonderful Life ties into this.

  • Yes, it cost money. And yes, the bills will be painful for a while. But like George Bailey, we fought for our family. And for that, the price can never be too high.
  • There was a moment in the negotiations where I had to firmly put my foot down and strongly and clearly say that I would not accept one of her requests. But I followed it up with an encouraging word that there were still alternatives to consider. It was very much like George during the bank run when he told the mob "We can get through this, but ... we've got to have faith in each other." The truth is that I have no faith in the ex. But I had to trust that she would be rational enough to help create a solution instead of continuing to be part of the problem.
  • At the beginning of It's a Wonderful Life, we hear prayers from Gower, Mary, Ma Bailey, Nick, Janey, and a host of others as they pray for George. These are called prayers of intersession. Having kept this issue mostly private, I took to Facebook on the morning of the trial/negotiations, requesting support from everyone who was willing to give it:
Our friends and family came through in huge ways. I even had someone offer to take me up on the Footloose video. THANK YOU ALL for that support. I can honestly tell you that it did have a calming effect on me as I sat in the negotiations.

We all have choices to make. George could have let his brother drown. He could have chosen to go to college and let the Building and Loan close instead of taking his father’s position. He didn't do either of those things, and it cost him. Over and over and over again, it cost him. But he made those decisions - those sacrifices and hard choices - to protect his family. I did the same and I would do it again in a minute. I might do a couple of things a little differently, but I in general, I like the outcome.

Now we have a choice to make. We can be grateful and celebrate what we DID get, knowing that God has this and it's part of His plan, or we can let the sacrifices that we made eat us alive. 

In short, we can be right, or we can be happy. I choose to be happy. After all, it's finally over and we got extra time with my oldest son on a regular basis. We have plans for that time, and we're taking the little brother along with us. Maybe we’ll climb Mt. Bedford.

What have you done lately where counting the cost hurts, but it's still worth the effort? Feel free to comment below. While you are at it, show your support for fathers everywhere by tweeting #fathershaverightstoo and tag me at @iawlfan and @iawb.

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