This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.
As a lawyer who has many years of experience drafting wills, I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve asked a couple about their family situation. They will tell me about their children.
Often the family is blended, some children are theirs, others his or hers.
Occasionally, I will see an odd look in the man’s eyes and press a bit further.
"Any other children?"
That’s when he will mention a child that he hasn’t seen for 20 or more years. A child whose name he knows, but that is all.
If he wanted to find his adult child, he wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking.
I have seen this many times, often observing a distinct lack of sadness, an apparent acceptance of this devastating situation, that there is a child out there who does not know their father.
When my son was two, I unwisely followed the ‘cry it out’ advice when I could not get him to have a day sleep. He was in the early stages of diagnosis, his labels at that point being a mild global development delay and a more severe delay in his receptive and expressive language.
I put him to bed, locked his door, sat outside it and cried.
He cried too, for more than an hour. I was told to stay strong, that I was doing this to help him, that he would learn.
I didn’t go into his room until he had been quiet for 30 minutes. I’ll never forget what I found when I opened the door.
My precious son, along with the bed, floor and walls were covered in his excrement. And he was asleep on the floor in the middle of it all.
I never made him ‘cry it out’ again.
As the years went on nothing got easier. Eventually we added autism, epilepsy and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to his list of conditions.
The thing I had feared the most had happened. My child had a severe disability.
And on top of this, my marriage was a place of pain and fear. I had been dealt a double whammy, a severely disabled son and a controlling abusive husband.
Make or break.
I have noticed something about families with a severely disabled child. Many of the relationships between the parents end early.
Among those that don’t, I have observed some amazingly strong marriages. Two adults who, despite the incredibly challenging parenting circumstances they have found themselves in, are still best friends, still deeply love, care for and respect each other, still understand that if the marriage comes first everyone, including the disabled child, wins.
I was not in one of those marriages. Mine was a long-term abusive relationship. I had made the devastating mistake of committing my life to a deeply insecure man who dealt with his own fear by gradually assuming control over my life, taking whatever steps were necessary to ensure I would never leave, that his source of security would always be there.