June 30, 2013

Kaden's Story

There are moments in your life that can never be forgotten.  Sometimes those moments happen and you don't know how you will ever get through them or even if you can.  Often times these moments are unexpected, something you never saw coming.

Recently, our family went through a big change.  But before I just tell you what happened, I need to give a backstory for you to get the full appreciation of this event.  So here is Kaden's story.  It involves heartache.  But also triumph.

Kaden is my oldest son and is currently 12 years old.  He was born when I was 18 and in a toxic relationship to say the least. That relationship ended when he was about a year and a  half.  His biological dad didn't have much parenting time, but stopped coming by altogether shortly thereafter and Kaden and I were on our own.

When Kaden was 3, I got into another relationship.  This guy--let's just call him Ben (NOT his real name)---and I had been friends for years and years.  As I explained in my last personal post, we got pregnant only mere months after getting together.  Given that Kaden was so young and we had another son barely a year after we were together, Kaden started calling Ben dad by instinct.  It only strengthened after Conner, my younger son, started talking.  We never corrected Kaden.  At the time, we thought we would be together forever.

Kaden and Ben had a close relationship.  He had bought him a dirt bike and they went riding often.  He taught him how to ride a bike.  Kaden stayed home with him when I was working, so they spent all the days before kindergarten hanging out and playing around.

Ben's family was also very close to Kaden.  We would all get together for dinners and we even went on vacations together with my family.  Even though we all knew "the truth", it was never discussed.  Shortly after Conner was born, I even wrote a letter to Ben's mother thanking him for making Kaden such a part of their lives.  He called them Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, etc.

After being together for about four and a half years, that relationship ended as well.  Our relationship was not ideal, but it wasn't as bad as the first one.  Our break-up, however, was really rough.  I had found out he was having an affair.  And I left.  No questions.  Just done.

He didn't want to break up.  For months and months it was constant turmoil between us.  I won't go into detail, but it was bad.  We were able (somehow), however, to be cool with the kids.  For months and months after our break-up, we were able to communicate about drop off times and locations, etc. about the kids without filing a single document with the Court.  This parenting schedule included all three of my kids--Kaden, Conner and Brielle.

But given the turmoil of our breakup as well as the fact that I was working retail until late at night or early mornings usually and living in Denver--an hour away from Ben, I was having my mom drop the kids off to him for me.  This lessened the tension with us a lot.  There was even a time there when we were quite civil with one another.  He had moved into a new house and showed me around.  We would go out to lunch together or just call and talk to each other on the phone.  Just like friends.

But it didn't last too long.  Nine months and some change after we broke up, the worst moment of my entire life came completely without warning.  And it changed the lives of me and my kids forever.

This is the last "normal" photo of my kids--the day before the incident

On the morning of March 23, 2008, my mom went to drop the kids off to Ben as normal.  I think that Ben and I had recently been arguing about giving the kids medicine or something but other than that, there wasn't anything super crazy going on.  I had actually had that day off and my best friend, Chris, had stayed over at my house.  It was a Sunday morning around 10:00 a.m. and we were watching Roseanne or Golden Girl reruns or something.  Suddenly, Chris' phone rang.  It was my mom (I had left my phone on silent in the other room, not expecting any phone calls).  And I will never forget her tone of voice or what she said on the phone.

"Robin!  I need your help!  All hell is breaking loose here."  After some incoherent screaming and yelling she informed he of what had happened.  I wasn't there, but this is what I've heard to happen from my mom, Kaden and my mom's then long term boyfriend.

Ben was living with his sister at the time and down the street from his mother and stepfather.  As my mom pulled up to the curb to drop off the kids, his sister was standing guard at the door.  My mom thought this was odd, but shrugged it off.  Conner, then about 4 and Brielle, then about 2, got out of the car and went to head inside.  They were quickly rushed in by Ben's sister.  Again, my mom thought this was strange, but didn't ask anything.  

Kaden said "hi dad" and went to run inside, but was stopped by Ben grabbing the collar of his shirt.  It was then that Ben informed him that not only was he not his real dad, but that he was no longer welcome to stay at his house--that day or any other day.  Kaden crumbled to the floor--terrified, shocked, saddened and confused.  Conner and Brielle stared from the window.  Screaming and fighting ensued and Ben's parents from down the street came running.  As his mother approached the house, my mom looked to her--a very kind woman who always loved being a grandma--for help and asked her if she knew what was happening.  She refused to answer my mom for a while but eventually said to her "I know God damn well what's going on."  Come to find out later, the entire family had discussed this prior and knew that this was to happen on this particular day.  No warning had ever been given to myself or anyone from my family.  There was more.

After Ben punched my mom's boyfriend in the face, Kaden was rushed in the house by Ben's mother and held captive there so that he could basically be brought down a line to be told that his grandma was no longer his grandma, his aunt was no longer his aunt, his cousin was no longer his cousin and his papa was no longer his grandfather.  He was allowed to grab what he could of his belongings--half of everything he ever owned--with his two arms.  He had since asked for things that were left there, including his dirt bike, but they were not returned.  Eventually my mom got Kaden and was able to leave and call me.  

I remember hanging up the phone and looking at Chris completely baffled and in shock.  "Ben just told Kaden he wasn't his real dad.  FUCK!!!!"  I stood up, I walked to my door slammed it, screamed some obscenities and got in my car.  Even though it is easily an hour drive from where I live to where my mom lived (in the same town as my ex), I made it there in 25 minutes.

When I first saw Kaden, he looked like a ghost.  His face was completely expressionless and pale.  His cheeks were stained with tears.  We took a walk to a local general store, got a snack and sat out on the picnic table out front to talk.  We talked for a long time.  And I told him that I was so, so sorry that this happened to him.  I told him that Ben was not his biological father, but I was so sure he had been willing to be his dad.  I was not sure what had happened to cause this.  I didn't really know what to say and nothing I was saying could help.

Kaden was only 8 years old.  He had already been abandoned by his biological father, raised by a man he believed to be his father for four years and now didn't know up from down.  He sat there quietly and then, he started sobbing.  "No dad!  No daddy no!  Please don't do this!  Please don't leave me!  I'll be good!  I promise I'll be good!  Daddy don't go!  Don't leave me!"  He just kept repeating it as I held him and stroked his hair.

The next couple of years were extremely difficult.  Kaden got into fights at school where he used to be a social butterfly with lots of friends.  He got constant stomach aches and headaches.  He was withdrawn.  I put him into counseling with an amazing woman.  He saw her for about three years.

It wasn't only Kaden that was affected though.  My younger son, Conner, was extremely scared.  He was still pretty young, but he is literally a genius.  He remembers everything all the time.  He always looked up to his older brother.  Suddenly, he was pulled between his dad and his older brother.  He went through times where he acted out (he was usually very complacent).  He felt guilty for what happened.  He was nervous for years afterward that his dad would do the same thing to him or that I would leave him.

The relationship between my boys struggled for a long time.  Kaden resented Conner because he got a dad.  Conner had been "chosen" by Ben and Kaden got left in the dust.  Conner just wanted things to be fine.  He wanted to follow his brother around, but his brother no longer wanted anything to do with him.  Conner went from spending every day of his life with his brother to only seeing him about half of the time.  He didn't know that Kaden wasn't his whole brother.  He was a middle child, now he was the oldest child when he went to his dad's house.

My daughter was too young to really be affected.  She doesn't remember a time where her brothers were always with her.  But she did act out a bit after it all happened.  From the moment she was born, her and her oldest brother were extremely close.  She called him "Ne-ne".  He would get her dressed in the morning, make her breakfast and she constantly held on to him.

The first time the three of the kids saw each other again was so difficult.  The younger two had been at their dad's for parenting time for a few days.  When they came back, Brielle did not leave Kaden's side.  So many questions, so much confusion.  Conner would talk about "his dad" and Kaden would correct him--telling him that no one could call him that anymore.  I would have remind Kaden that Conner and Brielle could call Ben dad.  It was heart-wrenching.

I never got an explanation from Ben as to why this happened or his though process.  I don't really want one.  For me, nothing could justify what he and his family did.  I have not talked to any of his family in any way since this happened.

Things were very difficult for a long time after that.  My boys had to learn to re-trust me again.  And Conner had to re-trust his dad again.  Kaden struggled/s with trusting men in general.  The two boys constantly struggled with each other.

I started dating Patrick about two years after this happened.  I was nervous to ever bring him around the kids and especially Kaden.  Obviously, though, Patrick did meet Kaden and the other kids.  It did take some warming up but eventually the kids saw what I saw in Patrick--a gentle, loving and responsible man who gave his word and followed through on it.  Kaden took to Patrick not long after he moved in.  He wanted to do everything with him, he looked up to him, he even started dressing like him.  Patrick taught Kaden things and Kaden would listen.

When Patrick proposed to me, it was one of the best days of my life.  I warned him at dinner later that evening, though, that I probably wouldn't be able to change my last name to his.  The therapist had told me this about Kaden long ago.  He had originally had the last name of his biological dad, but I had gotten it changed at the recommendation of his therapist to be the same as mine.  She worried that a disrupt in that connection--both of us sharing a last name--would make him feel, again, like an outsider.  It was at this point in our conversation that Patrick told me that he wanted to adopt Kaden.  And even though I was extremely happy during the proposal, it wasn't until this moment that I cried tears of joy.

As per the law in Colorado, we would have to be legally married in order for Patrick to adopt Kaden.  It wasn't long after we got married that we started the process.  With my background in family law, I drafted up the paperwork.  I hunted down Kaden's biological father and had him sign consent forms to give up his rights (he was happy to do so, worried only about whether or not he would continue to owe child support that he had never really paid).  Patrick submitted several background checks.  And after several long months, we got a Court date.

Originally, the clerk had told us that it would only be a relinquishment hearing--meaning that it would be the hearing wherein Kaden's biological father could be made aware of his rights and/or object to the adoption.  Because of this, we chose not to bring Kaden with us to Court.  We didn't want to run the chance of Kaden running into his biological father.  When the situation first happened with my ex, I told Kaden that he had a biological father and even half sisters and a half brother (his biological dad has three other children now) that we could find if he wanted to.  He never showed any interest in doing so.  In fact, the opposite--he was disgusted at this request.

So we went to Court.  And not only did the relinquishment go off without a hitch, but the adoption was granted!!!  Patrick was officially a dad, Kaden officially had a father and I officially have the best husband in the universe.  Kaden, meanwhile, was at a baseball game with my best friend Matty.  We told him later that night by presenting him with the Adoption Certificate.

His reaction?  See for yourself:

This story is personal, yes.  And it is very involved.  If I were to tell you the entire ordeal we've been through, it would take months.  But if this story tells you anything, I hope it tells you this:

No matter how grim your situation seems, no matter how broken your heart is, no matter how much faith you lose in humanity, no matter how sure you are that things will never get better--have faith.  Have faith in yourself, your journey and in other people.  Because if you are patient, if you are a good person and if you try your best to be your best self, good things do happen.  And our case, they couldn't have worked out any better. 

As this post posts, we are having a bbq to celebrate with all of our friends and family.  We are celebrating Kaden's journey to get here--four long years of sadness.  We are celebrating Patrick becoming a father.  We are celebrating an end.  And a beginning.

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