Hi. My name is Karen. You don’t know me. But, I know your mom. And through your mom, I feel like I know you. It probably seems weird reading a letter from a stranger but we actually have a lot in common. I also have a teen-age daughter, KJ. She just turned 13 and she is my only daughter. From what your mom says, you might have a lot in common with her. She loves animals, technology and computers.
It is hard to explain the love between a mom and daughter sometimes. Especially a mom and a teen-age daughter. Sometimes it seems difficult, hurtful and annoying and sometimes it seems loving, fun and wonderful. But, I can promise you, no matter what has happened or what is going on, no one loves you more than your mom. No one ever could or ever will. It is just how mother nature works. Even in the wild. The mother animals are the ones who protect their young until the death while the fathers wander off. No one will go to the lengths that your mom has and will to protect you. It just comes natural to us as moms.
I raised my daughter alone all by myself for the first 11 and a half years of her life until her father and his new wife came one day and kidnapped her out of school without telling me and took her away to another city. That was almost 2 years ago and I am still fighting in the family court system to get her back.
Kids are not supposed to understand how the family court process works. And we, as moms, do not expect you too. Kids don’t know that it takes months and months just to get one hearing or chance to talk to the Judge. That a whole year can go by and we have only been able to have 2 hearings in front of the Judge. They don’t know that sometimes we do not even get to speak at all. Sometimes, because of the way the court system works, one side gets to talk and the other side never does. I know you probably think that could never happen. That is not fair. That is not how court works. Both sides should get to talk and tell the Judge everything they want and show the Judge all of their evidence. But, as hard as it is to believe, that is not always the case. The court is not a perfect system and many mistakes are made which once made, are very hard to fix later on.
My daughter’s father got to speak many times in court and I rarely got a chance. You can’t even imagine how frustrated that made me. I wanted so desperately to tell the Judge how sad my daughter was and how her father was mistreating her and I never even got the chance. Eventually, I just ran out of money. In family court, you have to be able to afford the lawyers, the counseling, the expert witnesses, the court hearings, the depositions and the mediations. These things can really add up. I have spent over $20,000 so far and have only had a few hearings. I don’t make a lot of money. I don’t make near as much as what KJ’s father and his new wife make together. So, I can’t fight in the family court system to get my daughter back like I really want too because I just don’t have the money. I had to sell everything I own (yes, even my bed) and move in with a friend in another state to try and get back on my feet. Right now I sleep on an air mattress on the floor because that is all I have. My daughter does not know this. Sometimes us moms fight so hard for our kids and for what is right that we end up losing everything we have in the process and end up losing our kids anyhow. It does not seem fair. Money should not have anything to do with where my daughter lives and who is allowed to parent her and keep her safe. But, in family court, it does. If a parent can’t afford to continue fighting the expensive legal battle in court, they lose. I literally spent every dime I had and even sold all my jewelry to help pay legal bills to fight for my daughter to come home.
We try not to talk to our kids about court things even though we want desperately to tell them and explain to them what is “really going on”. We want you to know the truth because we feel that you have a right to know the truth. Yet, at the same time, we are trying to spare you from knowing all the ugly “truth” details. And, the family court tells us that we are not allowed to talk to you about it.
I can’t even describe how scared and panicked I was when my daughter’s father and new wife took her out of school that day. They would not let me talk to her for weeks until a Judge ordered that they had to let her see me and talk to me. But even then, her father would not let her see me when she was supposed too and he would always make plans for her during the times that I was supposed to see her. He would never let us talk in private. He would stand close by and listen in to all our phone calls and after we hung up she would get in trouble for anything that she would tell me that he did not like. He would yell at her and argue with her. She would hide from him in the bedroom closet and try to lock him out of the room. He would pick the lock and come in and yell at her. He woke her up out of a sleep to continue an argument with her one night. The argument was over the fact that she would not tell him that she wanted to live with him half of the time. She wanted to come back home to live with me full time as she always had and this made him very angry. The arguments were always about ME. She even hit him one time to try and get him away from her. When he found out she was reaching out to me by phone and IPOD, he took the phone and IPOD away from her for months so that she could not reach out to me again. This really hurt me because my daughter was being punished for loving me and I knew that was so wrong. No child should ever be punished or made to feel bad because they love and miss one of their parents. I could not protect her from him and this broke my heart.
My daughter was so scared the day that she was kidnapped that she hid in a rest area bathroom stall off the side of the interstate. She was trying to hide from her father and his new wife so that she could find a way to call me for help. She even told her school principal that she did not want to go with them and that it was not their time to have her and the principal made her go anyway – even though I was on the phone telling the principal not to release her. She had never lived with her father before and was fearful of him as he did not treat her well. She barely knew his new wife as they had only been together a few months prior to getting married. They did not even tell their children the day they got married. It turned out that they had to marry quickly because they were having a baby. They told KJ on the way home from kidnapping her that they were having a new baby and she was supposed to be very happy about this. Can you imagine finding that news out on your way home from being kidnapped? Needless to say, she was not happy about this at all.
Once she was living with him, he would not allow her to call me every night like she was supposed to be allowed to do. He would never let us talk in private. Either he or his new wife would constantly monitor our phone calls. He would argue with her all the time if she tried to tell him that she wanted to come home to me. He would interfere in our short visits that we had together – even when I was driving 14 hours from out of town just to see her. He would cancel our visits at the last minute and make other plans for her during those times like dance class, church youth group, birthday parties. Many times he was able to cause friction and tension between her and me by doing these things because of course, I would want to see her and she would want to go to a party. I would try my best to “suck it up” and hide my tears because I missed her so much and only wanted to see her or talk to her. I would always give in and allow our phone calls to be cancelled or visitation time to be cut short because I did not want my daughter to be mad at me. At the same time, her dad was telling her things like how “selfish” I was for making her feel bad about going to a party instead of visiting with me. He would make every call and every visit so difficult on both KJ and me.
Eventually, it just became easier to accept whatever visit time or calls he allowed us even though per the courts, we were supposed to have so much more. Her father and his new wife manipulated the situation and set it up perfectly to create stress and tension between KJ and myself. This is what happens when someone limits, controls and interferes in your calls and visits with your other parent.
This is actually a form of emotional and psychological child abuse and it is called Parental Alienation. It is hard for kids to see. They are just kids and they are stuck in the middle where they should not have to be. They just want to have fun, see their friends and not worry about grown up things. Believe it or not, it is even hard for other adults and professionals like aunts, grandparents, step-parents, counselors and judges to see sometimes. The reason is because it is a very slow, manipulative, day in and day out process. So it happens slowly over a long period of time. Not only that, it is psychological (not physical) in nature so it is a lot harder for others to see and to pick up on. It was much easier for KJ’s father to disguise it as something else such as “care” and “concern” and “love”. When someone abuses you by physically hitting you, it leaves a mark or a bruise and is easy for others to see. But that is not the case when someone abuses you emotionally. I know that my daughter does not even realize the extent of what her father was doing.
My daughter was very brave for an 11 year old little girl and she fought him for a very long time in order to be able to talk to me and see me. I am so proud of her. But after awhile, she sort of just gave up. Her father and new step-mother were constantly telling her untrue and bad things about me such as I did not care about her, that I was just trying to cause trouble and that I was unstable. I was not there to defend myself. And, she got tired of being punished for defending me in my absence. It was easier for her to just go along with what they wanted and say what they wanted to hear to make her life easier. If she did not talk about me or to me and if she did not see me and if she told her dad that she did not want to come back home to me anymore then she could keep her IPOD and she could keep her phone and she could get treated a lot better. She could also get the attention from her dad that she had never gotten from him before.
At his house, she gets to stay up until 2am and 3am with her same age step-sister – even on school nights. They both get to go onto all kinds of public internet websites. They have a lot of fun creating fake accounts and pulling pranks on people. My daughter’s step-sister and older step-brother are teaching her all kinds of internet tricks that she never knew before when she was living with me. Sometimes, I really worry about her though. I am always so afraid that she may put something on the internet that she shouldn’t or that someone will see her online and hurt her. You know once you put something on the internet, it is out there forever. Moms worry about things like that.
Her dad had not been very involved in her life before he kidnapped her. He would see her a few days a month but he never came to things like school events, chorus concerts or awards ceremonies. He had always been single and was more interested in focusing on his career and his girlfriends. But, once he started dating his new wife and they got married, he was suddenly very interested in having our daughter live with him. He had never wanted her to live with him before. So, I understand that KJ is probably happy to finally have some attention from her father now. There is a new baby in the home and a step-sister and brother so she now has a lot to keep her distracted from me and busy.
When she started slowly turning away from me, it hurt me greatly. It still does. I use to try and call her over and over but rarely got through. She rarely called me back. She would deny getting any calls or texts from me even though I had proof in black and white. She would tell me she had tried to call me even though there was never a missed call on my phone from her. I felt so hurt and left out of her life – school, friends. Eventually, I just felt that maybe she did not want to talk to me anymore and I should stop trying to call her. I was afraid I would upset her or pressure her if I called too often. She would sometimes tell me that I made her feel bad or guilty if she did not call me. That was never my intention. I only wanted to talk to her because I loved and missed her so much. As a mom, my heart was breaking but she did not know that. She even began saying negative things about me such as how we never got along and how we always argued. I promise you that was not true. At the same time, she also began denying negative things that her father and step-mother had done such as lying to her, screaming at her, talking bad about me, taking her phone and IPOD away, keeping her from calling me and more. I could not understand why she was suddenly saying bad things about me. I also could not understand why she was suddenly protecting and covering up for the father who she had never gotten along with before and who had mistreated her very badly in the past.
Then I learned about Parental Alienation and the effects it has on children and teens. I learned about Stockholm Syndrome and Trauma Bonding. These are all things I learned about just by going online and doing a little research. It was only then that I began to understand why my daughter was saying and doing the things she was and where she was coming from. Sadly, that still did not make my hurt and pain any less. I do not expect her to understand my hurt right now. She is just a teen-ager. But, I do hope and pray that some day, when she is older, that she will mature and grow and see the truth for herself of what has happened to us and why. I know right now that this is her way of surviving in the home that she has no choice but to live in. And, it now seems that after all this time away from me, she may even want to stay with her father despite all of the bad things that he has done to her and to us. I do not blame her. Moms do not blame their daughters for any of this. We are not mad at them. We just want to be able to see and love our daughters and keep them safe without any control or interference by others.
I would give anything to have my daughter back home living with me full time like she always has for her entire life. I miss our mother daughter days. I miss us going to the park and the beach. I miss us going shopping at the mall. I miss us going to Disney World and Animal Kingdom. I miss us going to the Zoo and the State Fair. I miss our mother daughter lunches and manicures. I miss our movie dates. I miss us going to see Broadway Shows at the Performing Arts Center. I miss us going to see Disney on Ice at the Forum with friends. I miss us going to concerts like Demi Lovato and Katy Perry with friends. I miss going to her dance classes. I miss volunteering at her school. I miss going to Girl Scout meetings together. We had so many good times together. I hope she remembers.
I would never keep KJ from seeing or talking to her father as he has done to me. Because I know that would not be what is best for her. As her mom, I want what is best for her. She needs to be allowed to freely love both of her parents. All kids should be allowed to freely love both of their parents. As a parent, it is not OK to let our own personal feelings interfere in the relationships that our children have with their other parents. Just because KJ’s father may not like me does not mean that he should not allow KJ to see me or talk to me and vice versa. It should be about what is best for our daughter, not us.
Izzy, I know that your mom loves you more than life itself. She would give anything – and I mean anything – to have you a part of her life again. She misses you and thinks of you every minute of every day. She would give anything just to have you call her and say hello. I know this because she is a mom just like me. And this is exactly how I feel too. I also know this because she talks about you every single day. Just like I talk about my daughter every single day. She loves you and she misses you terribly just as I love and miss my daughter terribly. There is no distance that can ever come between the love of a mother and her daughter. Nothing that has happened can ever negate that love. That is a bond that cannot ever be broken. Mothers fall in love with their children before they are even born. There is no other love or bond like that. The love between a mother and her daughter is unconditional. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is pick up the phone. There are many other girls out there just like you and KJ. Going through similar situations with their moms and dads. You are not alone.