parent opinion

"The horrific thing my two-year-old ate that meant I could never trust his dad again."

I recently told the world the story of the text message my husband sent that ended our marriage when our son was two-years-old.

I talked about how a man who had been my best friend suddenly became a reluctant contributor to our new family structure from the moment our baby was born. How he stayed in our marital bed whilst I moved into the nursery to do night duty. How he had always played Thursday night sport – and didn’t ever miss one week.

I detailed how he didn’t want to change anything about his social life with his mates; which might have been OK, had it not also included refusing to tell me his plans each day and night, so I usually would not know whether he’d be home or not.

I put up with that nonsense for two years until I saw a text message to his friends that called me SWMBO – ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ – after never actually ‘asking permission’ (which in a marriage I thought was called basic communication) to do anything, ever.

That text message was the death knell for us, and I left with my baby the next week. But of course, a lot had gone down before that.

On the night I told him we were leaving, my husband said to me: “You just don’t understand, I’m working so much.”

I told him, “It’s not that you’re rarely home, it’s how you treat us when you’re here.”

He didn’t accept that. He didn’t accept that me asking him to get up with the baby on a Sunday morning – one morning a week – and him refusing to do it for two years, was a clear indication to me that he couldn’t care less about us.

He just couldn’t see that by refusing to adjust anything in his life for his baby wasn’t responsible, or loving.

And that’s why, despite being a highly educated professional who should have known better, he would regularly drink without thought for the next day, and leave his cigarettes where our son could reach them.

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He didn’t smoke in the house, but rather than risk crushing his beloved smokes in his pocket, he would leave them on the kitchen bench. We lived in a two-storey house, and often he would place the packet on the foot of the stairs, near the front door.

We fought about it constantly, because obviously, the baby who was starting to crawl would one day become a toddler who would walk – and make a beeline for daddy’s keys, wallet, and packet of cigarettes whenever he could. Eventually, I stopped trying to change things, and would just put the packet in a high kitchen cabinet myself – but we would then argue about that too.

So of course, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when one day I came out of the bathroom to find my son eating cigarettes.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was the most horrific thing I’d seen as a parent.

There was my little two-year-old, his mouth full of tobacco leaves, as he’d managed to chomp through the paper lining of couple.

My darling baby wasn’t enjoying the experience – he looked confused and disgusted (just like when I forced him to try pureed broccoli).

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His father was on the nearby sofa, with his face in his phone, and didn’t look up until I screamed, “You f**king idiot!”, as I dove for the packet.

Obviously, I wasn’t saying that to my son – he was just doing what he’d seen daddy do so many times as he’d sat with me inside and watched his father smoke through the window.

If my husband was embarrassed/upset/anything about poisoning his child, he refused to show it. Admitting he’d fucked up would be admitting I was right about something, and that I was a better parent than him – which, in this case, was absolutely true.

Because I wasn’t the one who’d left items only available to adults casually lying around the house for our son to consume.

Shaking with rage, I snatched my son up, and ran him to the bathroom to rinse his mouth and brush his teeth. I also called the poisons helpline, and my mother, who’s a doctor.

When we returned to the living area, my husband was outside, smoking.

We didn’t talk about it. I was done talking. I knew in my heart this was unforgivable, because it wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t unforeseen. It was simply negligence.

I would never trust my husband to be alone with our young son from then on. Even though I’ve been forced to make that leap of faith regularly since, it’s a constant worry.

The week after this incident, I found the ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ text message, which was the final straw for me. The following week, my son and I left that man so that he was free to live his life as he pleased; so he could put toxins in his body as he pleased – but no longer in us.

If you or anyone you care about is experiencing crisis, depression or suicidal thoughts, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For anyone experiencing domestic violence or abuse, please seek professional help and contact 1800 RESPECT on1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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