Relations between Mike and I were strained as we moved our way through the process of divorcing. In Napa County, parents had to come to a child custody agreement before they could file for divorce; ostensibly, this was to prevent the parents from using the child as a pawn in the divorce. We agreed to 50-50 custody and that worked well for Kyle. He was with me for the first part of the week so that I could get him started on his weekly school assignments, and then we alternated weekends. Once the divorce was finalized, there were a few weeks of silence between Mike and I that was broken quite beautifully by Mike on Christmas Day 1993.
Kyle had been with Mike for Christmas Eve, and in the morning seven-year old Kyle called me in tears. Evidently, his paternal grandparents had gone all-out with gifts for Kyle, and then had said that he had to give them all back because he didn’t want to talk to them on the phone. I had Kyle put Mike on the phone, and as gently as I could, I explained to him that he couldn’t punish Kyle for staying true to his feelings; that he couldn’t be blamed for being too shy to talk with people that he had never met before. That afternoon, when Mike dropped Kyle off, he came to the door and handed me an envelope.
Mike had found a beautiful card and written a note thanking me for helping him to see the situation with the gifts clearly, and showing him a better way of dealing with it. He admitted that he had relied upon me to be the parent and that he was in a loss as to how to handle things. Deeply touched, I ran out and was able to catch him before he drove off. We had a great talk about parenting and how we could still work together to parent Kyle.
This began a wonderful time of Kyle being able to flow easily between his two homes, and see that his parents were still friends. At Kyle’s sports games, Mike and I would sit and have long talks like we hadn’t had in a few years. Sometimes, when Mike would either pick Kyle up or drop him off, he would join me for a glass of wine on the porch as we watched Kyle playing with his neighborhood friends. Mike was acquainted with the man who I started dating, and the four of us went to hockey games together. The 50-50 schedule became only a basis from which we worked; we changed it as we needed to in order to accommodate Kyle’s needs and our own.
In March of 1997, I received a call from my lawyer. “I thought everything was okay.” She said, “What is Mike doing?” I answered that I had no idea; that he hadn’t talked to me in a while, and had been less willing to allow Kyle the freedom to flow freely between us. She informed that the paper was flowing out of her FAX machine: legally itemized paragraph after paragraph, citing what a horrible person I was and what a detrimental influence I was on Kyle.
What was he doing? I lived for the next few months in an odd twilight zone of unbelievable accusations and legal maneuvers. Suddenly, this man who had known me for twenty years acted as if he had no idea who I was and made charges against me that were in no way aligned with the person I knew he had to know me to be. The more upset I became with Mike’s nastiness and untoward behavior, the more legal charges came at me that I was unstable. Even Kyle’s therapist, who had Mike and I both sign a document of understanding that he was Kyle’s therapist and that he would not side with either of us, turned out to be in collusion with Mike and Mike’s attorney. Suddenly, the Court ordered Kyle to live full-time with his father and his new step-mother (“because they were a family”) while an evaluation was performed by a court-appointed therapist.
The evaluation took a few weeks, and her report was that Kyle’s relationship with his mother was the most important one in his life; that our emotional bond was the cornerstone of Kyle’s ability to seek his autonomy in the world; that I was is “home base” (and here she was quoting Kyle). She wrote that Kyle felt that his father was distant and wished that he had a close relationship with his father. The Court saw this wish for a relationship as good enough reason to award full physical custody to Mike.
I wondered if there had been no building of a relationship in ten years, how these people thought that they could force one to happen. For the next year, I would be the dumping ground and the rejuvenation source for Kyle. Every other weekend when he was with me, he would spend the first part of it releasing all the pent-up emotions that he had. By the time he left on Sunday night, he was strong again, and ready for the next round. Kyle did not see this of course. He only voiced that my house was where he could cry and not be called a baby for having done so. It was also the place where he could tell me about what had been going on in his life and at school, for he was not allowed to mention my name at Mike’s or talk with me on the phone without suffering harassment. This was clearly not working, and I was the only one who could see it. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter to anyone else that Kyle was starting to fail in school or that his self-esteem was slipping away. He had stopped all sports programs and fast-paced video games became his outlet.
On our Sundays, we went out for brunch in Yountville and then took long walks along the Napa River. It gave him time to draw himself back in to his inner nature as he absorbed the Nature around him. As we walked in silence, we would listen and write down what we heard and then share it as we sat quietly on the river bank, talking what he called our “sacred talk”. We always did a ceremony with a rock. Kyle was very fond of putting all his hurt in to a rock and then throwing it in to the river.
By the time Kyle left on Sunday nights, I was releasing my own emotions. Watching the almost systematically imposed shutting down of Kyle’s wonderful and intuitive nature was breaking my heart. I dove in to my professional life to keep me going. I was teaching at a large massage school in Berkeley five mornings a week, seeing private clients in the afternoons and evenings, teaching two Yoga classes a week, and at least one, if not two Reiki classes a month. I was supported by my friends, and by my students and clients though they were not aware of the purpose their presence played in my personal life.
In June of 1998, I attended another week-long ceremony in Arizona. At one point, I was given two rocks to hit together as I faced the four directions. On my first “hit” one of the rocks broke in two. I had had my eyes closed, but opened them when I felt the rock give. It was the size of my palm and shaped like a human heart. I looked up and saw that it was about Kyle and me. I carefully wrapped it up, and when I got home, I put the rock on my altar with a rose that Kyle had given me for Mother’s Day. I knew then the importance of our separation so that we could come together again. Only by letting go completely could I give Kyle enough space to find himself and clearly understand his needs. This helped me to deal with the fear and anger.
In time, I outgrew the cycle of putting Kyle back in touch with himself, of trying to shore up his low self-esteem, of hearing his anger towards his father, only to have to release him back in to the swirling vortex of confusion that overcame him at his father’s house. I saw the futility of it. I saw how the little time spent with me would give Kyle just enough esteem and strength to go back. I saw how I was becoming an enabler to this madness. I received many messages from the Universe that I was not in control. There was a purpose for what Kyle was going through. This was his life story, his process, and although the emotion of it affected me deeply, I knew I was a bystander. I had to watch from the wings as the drama of Kyle’s relationship with his father played out.