I am sitting in a coffee shop in Starkville finishing this entry started at the beach –hence the analogy. We finished the first day of a two day divorce trial. Everything was at issue at the start of the day, but by lunch, we had narrowed what we did not agree on to a hand full of things --including the non-custodial parent's access to the child at certain times during the year. I have taken my share of child custody cases in Mississippi to trial. Did one in Tennessee several years back too ---Sevier County. There is statue of Dolly Parton in front of the courthouse. Seriously, look it up.
Over the weekend, I stared at the ocean a good bit, watching the waves move in and out, my mind traveled back to other courtroom battles where parental relationships were at stake. The kids and I had built a sandcastle I saw melted by saltwater as the shadows grew longer. Custody cases are like building sandcastles.
From the beach its sandy walls rise,
Its turrents reach up to touch the skies.
A tiny moat dissolves the keep.
Its pavers are strong, though only two inches deep.
Tiny footprints embedded in the sand,
Where once a child there did stand.
Its grace and beauty a short time will last,
Before the sea washes it into the past.
When we let judges make decisions about our kids, we often expensively battle and toil for the temporary. Our children can be the weapons used to inflict pain on our former partner. But as the tide rolls in and out, our children will develop their own identity, even if grounded by the shaky foundation created by our conflict. They will stop thinking what you tell them and have opinions of their own. Remember, a child draws his or her emotional health equally from their relationship and opinions about their mom and dad, so while you are poisoning their thoughts about a parent, you are poisoning your kid.
Childhood is as short as the life of a sandcastle, but its impact burns in the deep places of your kid's mind forever. You are the steward of your child's experiences.
Be a good one.