(I was placed in supervised visitation for 1 year because the Guardian ad Litem, Jamie L. Manning, with the approval of the Judge, said it is harmful that I raise concerns about ongoing child abuse, and that I should not have any fear about the alleged abuser..my discomfort around him is bad for the children. All reports from my visits are positive, there were no problems noted..and while in supervised visits, the alleged abuser was actually giving me unsupervised parenting time, texting me during the visits and even asking me to drive the kids home after the visit!! I ended the visits because I had so much unsupervised time, even over nights.)
Dinnertime is one of the many things stolen from me by the unjust Family Court that awarded sole custody to the alleged abuser.
Supervised Visitation 2010:
“Hey kids, are you hungry? I have some food for you.”
Child 2, daughter, “I’m soo hungry! Dad forgot to make lunch for us.” (It’s 6:30 pm)
Child 1, son, “Yeah, but you had a big bowl of cereal for breakfast.”
When I hear my kids tell me things about their life now that are upsetting or raise “red flags”, I have to pretend everything is fine because I have so little time with my children, and each moment is precious. When the visit ends, and I am alone in the silence…the tears and emotion flood over me, the memories rush forward like waves crashing over rock….
One of the things I miss most about my family is the closeness we shared at dinnertime. For us, dinner was a time to pause the commotion of the day so we could pray, talk and dine together.
I love to cook and try new foods. I often visualize a meal before preparing it—the menu comes alive in my imagination with color, texture and taste then I begin to dig through my cupboards to make my culinary dreams come true. My daughter would hop on a stool next to me eager to help. Or, she would just ask for a bowl and dump all sorts of things in it—pepper, oregano, peanut butter, chocolate chips—and try to convince us to eat it. Despite humble beginnings, our kitchen sizzled and popped, and our table was heavy with a hearty meal. My children especially loved the rice cooker, and I showed them how to use it.
Our dinnertime prayer always began with a Bible verse taken from Jeremiah
(15:16),” And Your word was found, and I ate them, and it was a joy to me and the delight of my heart.” Then we would take turns to thank God, or share something or just talk to God. My daughter liked to lead the prayer; my son would chime in towards the end.
My kids talked to God like He was sitting right there at the table: “I hope you like your food in Heaven. What do You eat anyways?”
Sometimes we would listen to music during dinner—my kids and I stacked up our favorite CDs on the counter like pancakes, flipping from song to song. My daughter has a sweet voice that wobbles on the high notes. My son would do all sorts of goofy musical impressions…he was convinced his “opera” could break all the windows in the house! Or we’d listen to a Bible devotional called “God’s Promises For You”. We talked and laughed a lot, made up silly games, and teased each other about who would do the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. We shared in the chores; it was a lot easier when we worked together; and listening to music made it more fun. My son fell onto the cleanly swept floor, trying to “break dance” (I feared he would break a bone dropping to the floor and kicking around!). He’d play his favorite song on repeat until we begged him to stop, which meant my son would go into his room for another merry-go-round of the same song on repeat. My daughter and I loved to sing to the loud, female rockers. My daughter would beg me to pick her up so we could dance together, which meant I had to swing her around and pretend I was going to drop her…only to catch her in midair at the verrry last second (this game is called “Don’t Drop the Baby!”).
After my children were taken by Family Court, I could not cook or go into my kitchen for almost 6 months. Family Court did not allow me to say good-bye to my children, they were taken so abruptly and without any warning that I could not comprehend the loss, or find a place for my grief so it was everywhere, everything that represented any connection to my children and I.
During those dark times, I would stand in the middle of the kitchen, between the fridge and cupboards, lost. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. Or dream recipes. Or taste the food on my tongue. Everything in my fridge went bad and had to be thrown out. I’d buy new groceries only to give them away. I lost 15 pounds but felt fat and lethargic, so I lost more weight. It was a slow return back to the kitchen, beginning with cooking for a potluck where I mothered everyone with my tropical chicken chili, then began baking bread for my volunteer work, and then cooking for myself—desperately needed because by then I lost so much weight I was wearing Juniors jeans, and resembling the veggies wilting in my fridge.
It took all my strength to say our dinnertime Bible verse, “And your word was found…” Yet I needed this very thing, the Word of God. “And I ate them…” Only with God’s help could I eat, ingest, become strong, filled with Life again. “They were a joy to me, and the delight of my heart.” I wasn’t feeling the joy but I wouldn’t let myself go down in the pit either. To keep fighting for my children meant I had to live. With shaking hands I pushed the memories back and began to focus on the plate in front of me. I picked up my fork, swallowed the pain until the lump no longer choked my throat. I’m gonna live to see my children come through that door again, sit down, and share another meal with me. Each bite is my act of resistance
Emily Court/M21, © 2011