Today’s blog is difficult to talk about. It’s not easy, as it’s so personal.
While we were at the mall as a family outing earlier in the week, I promised Zander that I would take him to Walmart to buy a Five Night’s at Freddy’s plushie. Tonight, we had an opportunity to go, just him and I. It’s rare for this to occur because the other two children scream and beg if I leave them behind.
Tonight, the subject of Zander’s abduction came up. I feel caught off guard every time (luckily, it’s only happened about 3 times so far, and only recently). See, I had told myself that I would not do what You-Know-Who had done, and put Zander in a difficult position talking to him about adult, mature conversations.
I’ve held onto this attitude from the beginning. To me, this man never existed. I never talked about him. I couldn’t. It was for my own peace of mind, to heal. The man was an emotional and mental terrorist. Don’t be mistaken though.. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t exist to Zander. My entire family filled those gaps in for Zander that I refused to discuss. Zander was not exposed to the word “divorce” by myself or anyone in my family. Yet early on, You-Know-Who was talking to Zander about our entire sordid history to a 5 year old.
It actually started at 3 1/2, but that’s another conversation.
Subsequent emails to this man that it’s never okay to discuss these issues with a child, especially a child with a cognitive handicap, resulted in a stubborn stance of this is my right.
I was 9 years old when my parents divorced, and I know for a fact that my Mom did not have any discussions with me about it. I didn’t understand what was going on. My Dad was never around even during the marriage, so there was no difference to me. Maybe that time would have been more traumatic if my Mom had attempted to explain to me why there was a divorce. Zander was a baby when we divorced.
You-Know-Who was out of Zander’s life for almost the entire first 5 years. He tried to swoop in like an avenging angel declaring, “I’m the good guy, she’s the bad guy; I’m the real daddy, he’s the fake daddy.”
The only thing this achieved was to create confusion and turmoil in Zander’s young life. Prior to this, he was perfectly content knowing that he had two dads.
It was a helpless feeling knowing that You-Know-Who was having these conversations with Zander. Zander, who was essentially a blank slate soaking everything up like a sponge.
The point is, I saw how this affected Zander even from an early age, and I didn’t want to do that. I told myself and everyone else that I would not discuss with Zander what happened to him, what I had had to accomplish in order to get him back, and the suffering that we all went through while he was gone. He didn’t need to be told any of this.
Zander has been back since September 17, 2017 (when the flight landed on American soil), and I have managed to avoid these conversations for 4 months. From other anecdotal accounts, it’s normal for a child dealing with these issues to take several months to wrap their minds around what happened to them. I think Zander is coming to some realizations on his own. I think he even realized quite a lot from the very beginning. I simply refuse to be the one to bring it up. I refuse to ask him questions. He has brought up a few minor conversations prior to tonight, but tonight was the hardest.
Tonight, Missing posters from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children started it. Zander asked me, “Did I have one of those posters?”
I answered honestly, “No. But they knew about you, and I had a case number with them.”
Zander continued as we walked outside, “Why do Dad’s take their kids away like that?”
I had to explain, “It’s not just Dads who do this. Any parent can take a child away, and we also have too many cases of Stranger Danger cases.”
This whole time, my heart is pounding, and I’m hoping his attention will drift away with the breeze.
“[You-Know-Who] was so nice. But I didn’t want to be taken away like that.”
I mean, how do you even respond to this? I wish I had a therapist on call. We’re sitting in the truck, and my mind is going a thousand miles a minute. What do I do? Zander wants to talk about this, but I don’t. However, I don’t want him to think that what he wants to say is not important. I let him lead. The worst thing you can do with Zander is ask leaded questions that only require a yes and no response…we’ll get to that.
Similar conversations have been brought up before, and I have corrected Zander and explained some things on one basis. And one only.
Zander blames himself.
WHAT? Yes, he blames himself. This is why you never bring a child into these situations. NEVER.
Zander said, “It was all my fault because I said I wanted to stay longer.”
Mommy bear mode clicked into place. First of all, adult to adult, we know it takes years to understand manipulation tactics and controlling ways. The people capable of these tactics are geniuses. Children are not capable of seeing through it.
Me to Zander. “It is NOT your fault. [You-Know-Who] knew better; he knew exactly what he was doing, and it was not fair of him to ask something like that of you. He was planning on keeping you there long before he picked you up, so how can you possibly blame yourself? Besides, you wanted to stay longer after the first visit, and he told you no because he knew you had to come back. Same with the second trip; I know you had fun and wanted to stay longer, but we as adults know what is right and wrong. That cannot fall on you because you are a child.” Zander is quiet; thinking. “Did you bring up staying in Malta for a year, or did he ask you if you wanted to stay in Malta for a year for x, y, z reasons?”
Zander’s instant response was, “[You-Know-Who] asked me, and I took like 2 minutes before saying, yeah….” Zander discussed some details, but it’s still not entirely clear when it was first brought up. He said he remembers talking to Grandma (my Mom) on the phone. He remembers You-Know-Who saying some things, then asking him if he wanted to stay longer. That he asked him all the time, but he never brought it up first. It wasn’t his idea.
Of course, if you hear You-Know-Who talk about it, he says, “It was all Zander’s idea.” Yeah…because blaming a child makes so much sense.
You-Know-Who has told anyone and everyone who will listen that I kidnapped Zander when he was a baby. That’s another conversation for a later time, but the point here is You-Know-Who attempted to convince Zander that his mother who raised him his entire life, was somehow this bad person that he shouldn’t live with anymore.
What parent in their right loving mind would do something like that?
I hate having to tell Zander that he was internationally abducted. I hate it. I hate this man more than anything, yet…it is so difficult to tell Zander this.
But it was so easy for this man to say an unnecessary lie to Zander.
There were some other interesting things said. Zander brought up how You-Know-Who tried so hard to convince him that I created “fake news” –
I must be so incredibly powerful and creative to manage this
-and he even showed Zander “evidence” that a judge declared that I kidnapped Zander. My eyebrows reached the stars at this point. “Yes, he showed me this on his phone where it said that you kidnapped me, and he handed me the phone to make me believe it. But I saw that blinking line and I thought to myself ‘what is this?’…and I typed in the letter ‘f’. Then I thought to myself that this is fake, and I hit the backspace and erased it.” Zander is laughing at this point.
Honestly, I don’t even know what to think at this point. There is no such document that I kidnapped Zander. I am amazed at the lengths this man took in order to convince Zander that his mother was some leper of a person.
I also learned tonight just how much Zander wanted to come home during the trial. What you all need to understand is Zander truly believed he was only going to be in Malta for a year (not that he understood the concept of time). From December 2016-June 2017 (month of the start of the trial), this child truly believed he was coming home soon (I have the audio recordings – evidence that was used at the trial). When Zander finally realized that he may never come home, he was very upset. He was told that it was up to no one except the Maltese judge whether he was coming home or not. Although my Maltese attorney tried to prevent Zander from being questioned by the judge, the judge wanted to speak to Zander.
Zander refused ♥
I wasn’t there, but from what I understand, Zander was taken into a private room with the judge. The judge came back out and threw his hands in the air and explained that the boy refused to speak to him at all. This was noted.
Zander finally let me in on this crucial, pivotal moment.
He told me tonight, “You know that judge who decided if I came home or not? If I had spoken to him, I wouldn’t be here now.”
I’m holding back tears now…as I type this. This innocent little boy honestly believes this. He believes he is truly responsible for all of this.
Then he told me, “[You-Know-Who’s-Wife] was so mad at me because I didn’t talk. Why did she get mad?”
An abductor does not act alone.
Grandparents are a common ally. New partners/spouses are another. I’m trying very hard not to be angry at these other people. I get that Zander is very easy to love. I also get just how manipulative You-Know-Who can be. He had me despising his own mother; until I met her and realized that she was a wonderful person.
I’m positive that I am a very hated person. He has them convinced that I’m some horrible person undeserving to mother Zander. He even had his American attorney convinced that Zander’s life was in danger because of me.
Therefore, I get all of this. I understand. I can’t blame them. They are not at fault just as Zander is not at fault. We are all victims of the delusions of a single man. I suspect he has a real disorder called narcissism; therefore, he is incapable of seeing what he is doing himself. He is convinced himself that I am the bad guy. Because he couldn’t possibly be.
He has everything backwards. He has always described my behavior and actions by describing himself, yet he takes all of his faults and dumps them on me. I’m not a psychologist so I can’t properly explain this…I don’t know the words. For instance, he told Zander that one time while we were in court together, I looked at him like [insert a mean grumpy face where you stare at the other person under the eyebrows < Zander showed me; it was comical]…and I remember that moment very clearly.
It wasn’t me looking at him. I can’t look at him. Seeing him makes me physically ill. My anxiety spikes through the roof. (he filed last minute to be physically present, much to my horror)
It was during my contempt case [because I was refusing to send Zander overseas]. We were all attempting mediation. Me and my lawyer on one side of the table on the other end, and You-Know-Who and his lawyer on the other side on the other end, with the psychologist beside me at the end of the table. I never once looked at You-Know-Who directly. I did from the corner of my eye a couple of times. He was not happy. And he was letting me know with his grumpy stare. I have 3 witnesses to this. Even the psychologist commented on how he stared at me.
I don’t understand the psychology behind this, but I do know that something has never been right in that department. I’m just beyond exhausted from it all.
Despite everyone -friends & family alike- telling me that I should talk to Zander, that I should answer his questions, and I should give him the basics of what happened…I just don’t want to.
“He’s old enough.”
No he’s not.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place.