We both got there at the exact same time. I turned left on to the dirt road just as he was coming from the opposite direction. He followed me up the driveway. My palms were sweaty on the wheel. We sat at either end of the dining room table, while his parents sat between us.
Nobody spoke for the longest time, and I started to think this may have been a very bad idea.
Then his mom launched into a 5 minute soliloquy. She talked about how hard this has been on everyone, and how much she loved LB, as well as both of us. She said what a wonderful mother I’ve been and how I’ve done such a great job taking care of LB alone. She said she knows how much Rooferman loves his daughter, and how badly she hopes we can come to an agreement.
Then Rooferman’s dad started quoting scripture. I was a little blown away at first, but that’s how he interprets and understands life, and he did good job relating it to our situation. Coming from a ex-biker/mechanic who doesn’t speak more than a sentence at a time, I was pretty impressed.
Rooferman sat with his arms crossed against his chest. He listened to both of his parents, and I confirmed how much I wanted to settle this too.
Then he looked at me and said, “I want an answer from you.”
“You honestly think that anything other than both of us having 50/50 is fair?”
It was a trick question, and I knew he was going to try to lay some Blondie-crafted accusation on me. He wanted me to say yes so he could use it against me in court.
Instead I smiled and said, “What you and I consider to be ‘fair’ may not necessarily be in our daughter’s best interest. I want us to be able to get to the point where we can share custody, but with the current situation, I don’t see that happening right now.”
Thus began a 2-hour debate, which was graciously mediated by Rooferman’s parents. He told me what I was trying to do was not fair to him. He told me that his “other daughters” were confused by the whole situation, that LB doesn’t have enough time to learn the “rules” of his house, that as soon as she’s getting “acclimated”, I come and take her away.
I asked him what he meant by that, because as far as I could see, LB has a great time at his house, looks forward to being with him, and is ready to come home.
“If its not broke, don’t fix it,” I said. “She’s doing great. She’s 3 years old, she’s a healthy, happy, well-adjusted kid. Why do you want to mess with that?”
“I’M BROKE!” He yelled.
I bit my lip from the irony. He was trying me make me feel guilty. Threats, intimidation, guilt, insults. He used them all during the meeting. I’m so used to it by now, I wasn’t even phased.
I told him I wanted our daughter to start spending the night. I told him I thought it would be good for everyone. After she transitions from 1 overnight to 3 during the next 12 months, I was willing to come back and discuss the option of going to 50/50 custody. She’ll be 4 years old then, ready to start school.
Both Rooferman’s parents nodded in agreement. They looked toward their son.
Grandma said, “Even when LB stays the night here, she’s ready to go home to mom the next day.”
Rooferman looked like a horse caught in a barn fire. His eyes were wide and shimmering with anger. He got up and walked out of the room. My palms were clammy and my heart was racing.
“Maybe we should stop here,” Grandpa said.
So I left, telling Rooferman I would rewrite the parenting plan for an initial 12-months with the intention of us coming back to decide on 50/50 after LB starts spending overnights there.
Do I have hope that he will sign it? Not really.
Do I feel better? Yes. Hearing his parents back me up the way they did, I feel 1000 times better. His mom sent me a text message yesterday, saying “We are so proud of you for standing up for LB’s best interest. We hope our son can understand this instead of seeing a defeat.”
I gave him the revised plan last night. Who knows what’s going to happen now. Pre-trial conference is Thursday.