The middle child, the boy child, Jackson, is Austin's son. Jackson's mother, like my daughters' father, lives about 15 minutes away from our house (in the opposite direction, of course). All of which means we share custody of the children with our respective exes - one week at our house for all of them, then the next week they're all at their other parents' houses. It's a nice schedule that gives everyone a chance to be together while allowing Austin and me time to ourselves, much like we would have if we were a young couple just starting out.
Except things have gone seriously awry on the end where Jackson's mother is concerned. She has made some relationship choices over the last month (and more broadly over the last few years) that have led to her ultimately deciding she would rather focus on her relationship with her "boyfriend" than be actively involved in her son's life at a crucial time in his development.
(I have to stress that Jackson's upbringing until about a year ago was less than ideal and as a result he has rather significant anxiety, self-esteem, attention/focusing, and social/emotional problems, all of which impact his ability to participate and succeed in school despite (or in combination with) the fact that he is incredibly gifted academically. Cognitively he is well beyond where he ought to be. Socially and emotionally he is well behind where he ought to be and for most of his life has been incorrectly labeled as ADHD and subjected to numerous medications. It was not until earlier this year - already in middle school - that he stopped throwing violent screaming fits of rage and frustration.)
I know, having grown up with parents who split when I was about Jackson's age, how hard it is to understand why a parent might choose a new relationship instead of custody of a child, and how ultimately damaging it has been to my relationships with my parents. When I was thirteen my father moved several states away in order to marry a woman he re-met at a high school reunion. I barely saw him until I ended up living with him when, about a year later, my mother couldn't figure out how to help me overcome severe depression and instead decided to focus on her academic career. I felt abandoned and ignored by both of them for the majority of my adolescent years, something that haunts me to this day.
Knowing that my father or mother was several states away was a lot different than Jackson's situation will be. His mother is still living in the house in which he grew up, close enough that he can ride his bike there, with the man she is choosing over him. Jackson will still see her every other weekend and a day or two in between. But she is choosing, because her new boyfriend is isolating, controlling, manipulative, and has anger-management issues, to let go of her son in every important way and any way that matters to him.
It really worries me... what this will do to Jackson and what it will do to the rest of the family. I think I just need to focus on the long-term. It will, ultimately, benefit Jackson to be here almost full-time during the school year once he is over the shock and grief of being abandoned (for what I believe and I am positive he will correctly interpret as his mother being incredibly selfish, immature, irresponsible, gullible, and lacking in any kind of parenting morals, although I will NEVER say as much to him). He will continue to learn the skills he started to acquire last year regarding how to focus, learn, study, work, and succeed. He will continue to learn how to appreciate his strengths while acknowledging that areas of weakness are simply opportunities for practice and growth. He will learn how to recognize, understand, and act appropriately on his emotions. He will become a fine young man under the watchful and loving eyes of his father, me, and our amazingly hard-working family therapist.
But his mother? She has chosen a man Austin and I (from personal experience in an almost identical situation) believe is and has been emotionally and very potentially physically abusive to her and Jackson. All I can say is thank goodness Jackson will no longer be subjected to the manipulation, bullying, harassment, and violence his mother's boyfriend has brought to her house in the month he has lived there since returning from a year's absence overseas. She will continue to wander until she realizes the answers she needs are right there inside of her and until then, I wish her the best.