I had my son Jai in the middle of my college career. In light of the my financial situation there were a lot of things Jai didn’t have, which I felt he deserved. However, he was very blessed to have a phenomenal dad. His his dad’s name is Canaan. And Canaan is, by far, one of the best parents that I have ever had the chance to observe and interact with.
He is present. He keeps every promise and shows up to every game, appointment, and parent teacher conference…on time! He spends quality time with Jai. They go to the park and out to the movies. They laugh and play together.
He is a provider. He pays his child support…on time, every time and he is always willing to chip in above and beyond the bare minimum for anything else Jai may need. He not only provides financially, but he provides spiritually by praying and reading the bible with our son regularly.
He is a protector. He is very particular and aggressive about being involved in choosing Jai’s school, assisting with any sports teams or programs Jai is involved in and Jai is quick to tell somebody that his Daddy will beat them up.
He is a disciplinarian. He corrects our son in love and tempers his punishments with grace without compromising a healthy level of respect from Jai.
He is a friend. He talks with our son about his life and his fears and praises all of Jai’s successes. While I can’t get Jai to say much more on the phone than “I love you, Mommy! You’re the best!” Jai will talk to Canaan on the phone for several minutes without getting disinterested.
I am not exaggerating when I say that he is a phenomenal dad.
At this point you might be wondering what in the WORLD I would know about baby daddy drama. The fact is, Canaan was is not always so great (neither am I) and my perspective was is not always so clear. While there are few bonds as strong and vibrant as the one Jai shares with his dad, my relationship with Canaan has been less enjoyable (to put it mildly.)
We’ve had an eventful history including but not limited to police reports, broken lap tops, medical bills, restraining orders, physical altercations, and every level of verbal abuse you could imagine. There was a time when you could not tell me that Canaan was not the devil himself. And at one point, hating him could’ve have been considered an improvement in our relationship.
Now let me tell, in hind’s sight, neither one of us were exclusively the victim or the aggressor. It was much more complicated than that. In a general sense, no matter who was at fault in any given situation, the only word that comes to my mind when I think of our interactions over the course of my college career (and beyond) is hellish!
There was no end to the confusion and at the bottom of it was our little baby who, by no fault of his own, was caught in the middle of a very ugly tug of war match. I would stay up agonizing over whether or not he would try to take my son away from me. He didn’t sleep for months tormenting himself over whether or not I was going to take his son from him. It was our deep love and passion for Jai, coupled with our extreme lack of individual maturity that took us down a terrible and dramatic road which almost cost us everything that truly matters.
This happened…in real life:
There was subtle noise everywhere. Students talking and typing. Chips crunching. Copy machines printing and recalibrating. It was a normal day in the Student Success Center (SSC). I can’t remember whether I was entering data into a spread sheet or meeting with a fellow student but I will never forget the sound of Jai’s giggling. I’d know that laugh anywhere even if it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb in such a mature environment. It was still a pleasant surprise! Since Jai’s preschool was located in the heart of campus, I just knew that his class was out for a walk and stopped by the SSC to visit “Jai’s Mommy” at her campus job; nothing unusual about that.
I turned the corner and my heart started beating fast enough to bring on a minor stroke. All my nightmares were suddenly coming true in live and living color.
“What are you doing?” I asked Canaan as low and aggressively as I could manage.
“I’m with my son.” He replied coolly but obviously under the same level of pressure that I was experiencing.
“You have to tell me when you are coming.” He shrugged his shoulder nonchalantly and didn’t bother to look away from Jai’s smiling face.
“Give me my son, Canaan!”
“No.” He didn’t have to say anything else. I knew that was a dare and he knew I wasn’t prepared to play tug of war with Jai…again. Certainly not at my job.
I took off out the door and across the street to give the preschool director a piece of my mind. I didn’t know what else to do.
When I arrived I could tell from the look on her face that she was expecting me and she was deeply sorry. She hung her head and told me there was nothing she could do. I knew she wasn’t lying but that didn’t stop my heart from beating out my chest.
I was in tears but all of my mental and instinctive faculties were functioning at their highest level. I phoned the campus police from her office. They asked me if Jai was in any danger. I told them no. They asked me if we had any kind of legal agreement. I told them no. At the time, I couldn’t see the relevance in their line of questioning. Was I overreacting? Definitely! But unless you have experienced the very real, albeit possibly irrational, fear that someone might take your child away from you, then you may not understand at all.
Since I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the police dispatcher, I texted Canaan: The police are on their way. By the time the police actually arrived Canaan had already returned Jai to his classroom and made his way back to his car. The battle might’ve have been over but I knew the war was still on. This was NOT the time to fall apart. Bigger things were at stake than flunking out of school.
The next few months of my life were a world wind of hiding Jai, restraining orders, court appearances, guardian ad litems, applications, failed college classes, missed exams, fear, stress, praying, angry emails, volatile text messages, and contracts. I literally thought I was going to die.
It all finally culminated on March 14, 2012 when we signed our first parenting plan. We were all exhausted. Canaan was outraged that I took him to court and tried to strip him of his parental rights. I could not forgive Canaan’s compromising and selfish choices. Jai missed his Daddy and asked about him frequently.
As much as that 15 page document cost us, it was the very best thing that ever happened to the three of us collectively. When Canaan disagreed with me I would say, “Refer to page six, section H.” When I disagreed with Canaan he would tell me to refer to page eleven, section B. There was little left to argue about.
While the parenting plan
couldn’t can’t stop us from being downright petty with each other, it gave us both the restrictions and the freedom to parent with a greater confidence that we would both see our son again.
I won’t say that after that we all lived happily ever after but (1) parenting plans clear up a lot confusion (2) our emotions rob us and our children of opportunities and achievement (3) if your child(ren)s other parent is safe and genuinely desires to have a healthy relationship with your child(ren) you should not stand in the way. Period.
Stay Wonderful 🙂