Monday, April 26, 2010

Parents are people, too

Perhaps you've heard the story of Abbie Dorn, mother of triplets born to her in 2006.  Abbie and her husband Daniel wanted children and were tickled to learn that they were expecting.  Oh, man were they expecting.  All was going swimmingly in their lives. 

Then it was time for delivery and something went terribly, terribly wrong.  A medical mistake during delivery left Abbie severely mentally incapacitated.   One year after the triplets were born, Daniel sought a divorce.

Abbie has been cared for by her parents in South Carolina while Daniel raises the triplets in Los Angeles.  Daniel has denied all visitation between Abbie and the children contending that he wants to be the one parent for the children and will consider telling the children what happened to their mother when the children get older and are able to understand.  Some years in the future, he might even let the children visit if he receives medical evidence that Abbie can communicate with her children.  Abbie's parents contend that she can communicate, albeit quite sparingly. 

The children turn four in June.  Daniel thinks the children can handle their mother's situation better when they are older, apparently when they can grasp their mother's medical condition and its limited and perhaps non-existent prognosis for improvement.  But I disagree.  I vehemently disagree. 

The key to assessing this matter is Daniel's "one parent" line.  Granted, this phrase was spoken by Daniel's attorney, but attorneys do not get too far afield of their client's expressions and further, the attorney's assertion is whollly supported by Daniel's actions.  He wants to be the "one parent."

But children have two parents.  Daniel's frail ego cannot change reality.  These three children have a mother whether she is exemplary or impaired.  The children have a right to see her, have a right to develop a relationship with her.  Daniel's actions are an infringement of that right.

The relationship will undoubtedly be incredibly different from the relationship most children develop with their mothers, but these children are entitled to the relationship they will develop with their mother, whether she can sing an aria or whether she is in a nearly vegetative state.

And Daniel's argument about waiting until they are older is disengenuous at best.  If the children had seen their mother from the beginning, they would have grown up with a mother in that condition.  It would have been a part of life, their natural order of things.  With each passing month that the children are denied access to their mother, the children's increasing cognizance cannot help but create drama.  Daniel is creating the children's trauma.  Perhaps his next step will be to claim it is too late, "now they will be traumatized."

Daniel operates from the paradigm that he owns the children.  Unfortunately, I see this often.

For Daniel, the children are his and only his.  He will determine all facets of their lives right down to whether they ever get to so much as gaze upon their mother's face.

In my cases in which parental ownership is an issue, while I don't often address circumstances with brain injured parents, I do work with many mentally and emotionally impaired parents.  But even when there is no medical or psychological component, even when there is no claim of such an issue, the parent who claims ownership operates the same way.  "I am the one parent." 

The owner parent acts unilaterally, denigrates the other parent, often does not include the other parent in activities, perhaps even refuses to provide the other parent with notice of school events.  By the time I see them, there may have been so much history that the non-owning parent needs an opportunity to readjust his paradigms and prepare to re-enter the relationship on much healthier terms.   I feel for these parents.  They have been excluded from their children's lives.

And the children need these parents included.  The children seem to feel a real void without the presence of that missing parent, even if the void is just psychological from a physically present but emotionally neutered parent.  I am writing in male terms, but this condition sometimes also occurs with women, when the men gain primary custody.

And this situation is atrocious.

So you can guess how I feel about the plight of the Dorn children, and how I feel about their father's arrogant attitude. 

For a child to be wholly separated from one of their parents there better be an exceptionally good reason.  And that reason better not be because dad is Hispanic, or dad doesn't earn enough money, or mom has bi-polar disorder or because mom became brain damaged during delivery.  That is a new definition for "sucks".

Michael Manely

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