Richard Riehl 7 a.m., Feb. 10
- Community Blog
- MOM INTERRUPTED
Being a single mother is a challenge that no other could understand unless they are themselves are a single parent. Thinking that this would be the hardest challenge I would ever face in my lifetime, I have recently found otherwise. Now, I am another statistic in our California court system. My son has been my reason for living, the sunshine for me on cloudy days, the most important being in my life. When he was sick, I was there to hold and comfort him. When he first took his first steps, I was there to hold his hand to make sure he did not fall.
I spent years of discrimination being a single parent. I have been turned down on job offer’s (reason being - “who will watch your son when he is sick? Will you leave work if your child needs to be picked up from school? Your child has a school play, well, too bad... you need to be at work”). I’ve had to bring my child to work with me when his school was closed... afraid to lose my job if I had called in and also afraid to loose a days pay. After all, I was feeding my child before myself - there was barely enough money to pay the rent and any other bills that it takes to live. Living off of hot dogs and 99 cent mac and cheese is all that could be afforded many times. Thank god though for Little Caesar $5 Hot-And-Ready! Pizza night was definitely an event in our home!
A day of “splurging” for my son and I was me spending money on gas to drive to the Oceanside Harbor. Just so that we could sit on the rocks and spend the day admiring the seal lions and the overstuffed squirrels that eat probably better than we did. Sure, there was my son’s grandmother who did help at times watching my son and helping me with the “bare essentials”, but raising and protecting my son was my responsibility. And, although I consider myself to be an pretty great mom, I have made mistakes. Nothing that would be considered astronomical but I can not say that I was a “perfect” mom. But then again, is there such a thing as a “perfect” mom? I did what is considered to be a good mom... provided for my son, never did drugs, did not go out and “party” with my friends, worked as many hours as possible to stay a float.
As the years went by, my son started asking me about his father. His father was in prison. My son had seen his father on several occasions while he was in the poki. His dad was not a huge part of his life though. Rarely did we receive letters or phone calls. My son would ask me “mom, why is my dad in prison? Did he hurt someone?” Unsure of the right answer to give my son, I would tell him that sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes good people make bad choices. After all, his father was not a rapist or murderer... he was a drug addict, a thief. But, you don’t tell a child this! You fill a child with hope... and love. I did not want my son to know the truth... and I believed that his father deserved to not be disrespected.
The day comes... it is July 2008. His father is finally out of prison and returns back to San Diego. My son is now a couple of weeks from his 7th birthday. I remember taking my son to go see his father for the first time since he was a baby in a non-prison setting. How nervous I was for him... but at the same time, I was happy for my son. All the years that had passed that he missed and his father missed together. By this time, I had already moved on with my life. I had a wonderful man in my life. A man who has spent almost 20 years in the navy and who most importantly stood in as a role model for my son while his father was not present. Not for one second though did my now husband ever try to take the role as the “father”. The reunion goes well! I am relived to see that my son’s father is no longer on drugs and seeming to do very well. I am relived for my son’s sake! Months go by, and with a mutual decision, I let my son move with his father on a temporarily basis. My soon-to-be husband and I discussed with the dad that we may be moving when my husband retires from the navy. We all felt that this would be good time for my son to spend quality time with his dad. A decision that I now regret everyday of my life!
The week before my husband and I are married, things fall apart very quickly. While my husband and I were on our honeymoon, the father went to court and accused me of dreadful abuse and neglect. My husband and I have only been married a few weeks and we are well on our way to the biggest fight of our lives.
Court session after court session, we are forced to sit there and listen to lie after lie. Why is the judge not looking at the fact this is an ex-convict with multiple felonies, making accusations towards a parent that has raised her son with no support at all from the father. I am being looked down on as a “bad parent” for allowing my son to spend time with his father. Yes, of course I knew that he was in prison. But, should I have my son suffer or possibly grow-up to resent me because I did not give him a chance to get to know his own dad? These were not options for me... I never considered holding my son back from the most “normal” life I thought I could provide for him. After all, I grew up with divorced parents who hated each other and all they did was fight. Tearing me, my brothers, and sisters apart. Disabling us from having a wholesome childhood. Never did I want this for my son! His father and I were not married, I had no obligation to even let his father see him until a court order was in effect.
As I sit here and write this, my son’s father now has physical custody of our son. I get to see my son every other weekend with limited phone time in between. How could this happen you may ask? I do not have the answer to that question. The pain that I feel is so overbearing that it is hard to have faith in our family court system. Yes, we still can go to trial and spend my husbands life savings (money that could have been spent on more positive constructive things, like buying a home). We are now faced with the possibility that I may never get physical custody of my son back. We are faced with the fact that a person who has been a career criminal (which I did not know that he has spent years in prison before I ever met him) will be raising my son.
I have brought my son up to always try to do the right thing; to forgive and love all people. This has been the base of my parenting skills as a single mom for so many years. Can this happen to you? Of course it can. If I were face to face with god today, I would ask him... “Why”?