A mother goes to pick up her child from a playdate with their grandparents – her spouse’s parents. When she arrives at the designated location, those same grandparents toss her child into their car, lock the doors and tell her that she no longer has custody of her own child.
Now, as the director, how would you advise your actress to portray her feelings? Would you ask her to put herself into that situation? To imagine what it would feel like to see them drive away, her child crying for her, while she stood there completely dumbfounded? To worry about how could she maintain the strong bond that she has with her child when she is only allowed to see them – with supervision – for a few hours on one day each week? How can your actress properly emote the feeling of someone pulling your heart out of your chest and doing the Hora on it? Don’t forget to add that it was her own spouse who helped set it all into motion.
It seems like a movie plot or soap opera, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, for someone very near and dear to my heart, this is reality. This is her life every day and has been for months now. I have been shocked, appalled and disgusted. I am brokenhearted, scared for her and nervous for the future. As was bound to happen at some point during this crazier-by-the-day battle, I started looking at my own life with a magnifying glass. I began examining every single thing The Dad has ever said or done, questioning my decisions to have his parents babysit (however, our kids are crazy and are returned to us – gratefully on both sides) and looking back on my time struggling with Postpartum Depression with deepening fear. Could a struggle that was completely out of my hands be used against me one day? Could any verbalized moment of doubt, feeling of failure, low self-esteem or generally bad day that I’ve ever had be used against me in a custody hearing? I then looked at Peanut, messy from having fun at school and wonder if someone is thinking that I’m a bad mother because his clothes are covered in glue and paint. I looked at GreenBean, who trips over air, with bruises on his knees and wonder if someone is thinking that I put them there. I looked at Boo, with his frequent crying jags and wonder if someone thinks that I ignore my screaming child. ‘These thoughts are crazy’, I told myself, fully knowing that for my friend, this was now her life.
Where do you go when the people that you’re supposed to trust, that are supposed to be your village and your rock, turn on you? What are you supposed to do when they throw you under the bus without so much as a warning? When your spouse tells you how much he loves you while he stabs you in the back? Now, not only have you lost your reason and purpose to get up every morning – but you’ve lost your partner, job and family in one fell swoop.
These thoughts and worries should never exist. No mother should ever think that a glass of wine after the kids are asleep means that she is an unfit parent. I mean, if that were truly the case, grandparents everywhere would have custody of their grandchildren! Instead of second guessing myself, I should see Peanut’s craft covered clothes as proof that he’s enjoying learning, GreenBean’s bruised knees as evidence that he’s exploring the world around him and Boo’s cries as a sign that I am simply trying to divide my time between 3 young children, one of whom is too young to understand that. Nobody should ever be able to make you question your worth as a mother, a spouse or a human being. We spend so much time fearing the worst about ourselves that to have someone vocalize our fears and put them on display for the world to see is not only unfair, but it is the lowest of the low. There is a special place in hell for people who forget that Gd gets the final say in life. There are the minor battles and then there is the war. She may have lost a few minor battles, but she will not lose the war.