I did my best to make my mother’s house feel like home for the children. My mother cleared out dresser drawers and cleaned out a bedroom for each child. I filled their beds with familiar stuffed animals. I even started letting them use their tablets in bed for a few minutes before they were asked to shut the lights off. (Tablet time was a big deal for my kids.)
I had a constant feeling of guilt. Guilt that it was almost Christmas time and instead of decking the halls my children were experiencing huge life changes. Guilt that we had taken over my mother’s house with so many boxes that there was barely any room for her own things. Guilt that my children had to learn to sleep in new bedrooms. Guilt that my mother was sleeping on a cot in the room that had the washer and dryer. Everyone was sacrificing so much for my safety and the safety of my children.
I also felt the crushing guilt that I wasn’t able to do enough to protect them from having to frequently visit their father. I knew he was hurting my son. I knew he was saying mentally damaging things to both of the children. I knew I couldn’t protect them from these things. It crushed me. I was a fragile mess… which made me susceptible to John’s mind games.
My son started sharing with me that his father was saying things to him like, “You’re Gammy’s house is not your home. You only have one home. The home you lived in your whole life and that’s my house. That’s your only home.” He started pointing out to the children all of the things that they no longer had in the house because I “took them”. He tried with his might to twist the children’s minds and upset them. He wouldn’t let them call me when they were at his house, but he started demanding that I force the children to talk to him on the phone when it was my night. HE was desperate to find any way… even if it was very small… to maintain his control over me and the kids.
I would answer the phone and put it next to the kids and they would refuse to talk to John. He would then email me and text me threatening messages trying to make me force them to talk. He had a “right” to talk to his children. They were “his” children. I needed to make them speak to him when he called.
I refused. My children deserved to have some control in their lives… and everything else that was happening was so far outside of their control. So I continued to allow him to call, put him on speaker phone and let the children choose if they wanted to talk or not.
The children were confused. They were hurt. If John thought they would become angry with me if he said damaging things about me, he was wrong. It merely made them more angry with him. If he thought forcing them to talk on the phone with him every night was going to make them more attached to him, he was wrong. It made them want to avoid him. His attempts to overpower and control the minds of the kids and I weren’t having the effect he desired.
His mind games may not have affected the kids the way he had hoped…..but it did affect me. I felt as if I couldn’t get away. We were living in separate houses but he was still trying to make the children turn on me. We were two towns apart, but he was still sending me multiple threatening messages a day… and that was all that it took to bring back the feeling of terror. In my head I knew I was far away… I was safe… he couldn’t hurt me at my mother’s house…. but for some reason I could not turn off the sheer terror that had become my knee jerk reaction to his mind games.
What’s worse, is that I was still allowing him control. Why did I pick up the phone when he called? I could have just let the phone ring. His control DID linger, and he knew it. He wanted to make sure that it was still there. That he could still make me do what he wanted. His mind games were clearly his way of maintaining that control.
It never occurred to me that I had a choice. The thought that I didn’t have to answer the phone never even entered my mind. I was so weak. I was so defeated. I was so angry with myself for allowing it. Looking back now I can see how that is something I need to work on. Just because John tells me I need to do something… does not make it true. I need to make a commitment to myself to only do what I feel is right for the children and for myself, despite John’s demands. Then I can watch as his last thread of control dissipates in the air like a trail of smoke.