Janine

Janine writes of her sorrow at losing contact with two sets of grandchildren, when vindictive women became involved with her sons and broke ties to the extended family.

Two of my sons and I have suffered greatly at the hands of vindictive women. These distressing experiences have been heartbreaking, really limiting my access to both sons and grandchildren.


Brendon and his son, Jamie

My eldest son, I’ll call him “Brendon”, had been through considerable trauma. (I’m disguising all the names in this story for privacy reasons.) As an 11-year-old he saw his father drop dead in front of him. I remarried three years later involving another adjustment in his life. He completed school, left home at 16, and at 19 he had a managerial role at a local supermarket.


It was here that he became an item with 16-year-old Sara who soon fell pregnant. Her church-going parents insisted on marriage, and I still regret going with them all to the magistrate. Her parents, based on their beliefs, claimed their young pregnant daughter would face ridicule and judgment if she did not marry.


Baby Jamie arrived six months later, a gorgeous little strawberry blonde. When he was only three months old, I got a surprise phone call from Brendon asking me to take Jamie for a sleepover. This was the first of many sleepovers as Sara was experiencing post-natal depression. I knew she was having home help but, unbeknown to me, short term foster carers were needed for Jamie.


When he was around seven months old, I was surprised to receive an invitation from Department of Human Services to a meeting regarding baby Jamie’s welfare and safety as the household had “become violent”. Sara’s parents declined their invitation. Brendon and Sara attended along with an existing case manager, foster carers, home help, and psychological support persons.


The meeting revolved around baby Jamie’s safety, but it was Sara, not Brendon, who was the perceived danger. Sara appeared bemused throughout the meeting. It was agreed that some of the approved support persons present would be available at short notice to take care of Jamie. Over the next 12 months Jamie did not live with me but I was a constant on-call companion.


The relationship between Sara and Brendon further deteriorated. They had amateur counselling from Sara’s mother, and also from the pastor’s wife who advised Sara to get Brendon out of the house. Brendon was only allowed to see Jamie in the very controlled atmosphere of her parents’ house.


I was to discover several years later when Brendon was happily remarried and once again a father, that Sara had carried out horrific abuse against my son and his property, claiming the significant damage was his doing.


By the time of Jamie’s last sleepover with me, Sara was living with another man. My distressed 2.5-year-old grandson revealed to me that he had been taught to call this man “Daddy”. I told Sara what I heard with the result that I was no longer allowed sleepovers.


I next saw Jamie in my house when he was four. Now remarried, Sara called with him to collect some of her and Jamie’s possessions, just in case he tried to come back to see me again to get them. As I walked with Jamie into the family room, he kept saying he remembered playing there with his friends. I hugged him, somehow knowing this would be the last time.


And so it was. No-one has seen him nor his mother since they moved interstate. Jamie is now 25. I still have the rug.


Aaron and his children, Jaydan and Olivia

About a decade later, Aaron, my middle son, met and married Diana. Their first child was a boy and at the time; Aaron actually joked with me that now I had a grandson I would be able to see.


Diana was an intelligent woman, a talented entrepreneur. Very soon after Jaydan’s birth she returned to work, her mother taking care of the baby. My younger son Mark and I were also asked to take care of Jaydan, one day a week. We did so for at least two years until Mark married and I unable to help due to both work commitments and study. Jaydan continued to have regular happy sleepovers at my home until he was six.


I was finding it quite difficult to connect with Diana’s strong character. I often had a meal at their place but the invitation was always from Aaron who always prepared the dinner. So, I was very surprised when, out of nowhere, Diana rang asking me to dinner. Jaydan greeted me with the news that he was going to get a little sister and her name would be Olivia. I expressed great joy, or thought I did.


A few weeks later at their house, I began talking about minding grandchildren and used Lily, Mark’s new baby girl, as an example. I was aware that Diana became very angry in her tone. Later that week Aaron rang me to let me know how offended Diana was that I was discussing Lily instead of yet-to-be-born Olivia.


Within weeks I was no longer allowed to visit. At first, I was able to see Jaydan at a neutral location, but this turned out to be at his school’s annual Grandparents’ Day. When even this was stopped, I approached the school’s chaplain who expressed sympathy. She extended an invitation to my son to see her, but he didn’t go. I’m enjoying my happy relationship with Mark’s children and his lovely wife and Brendon’s new family.


More recently some overtures have resulted in small steps towards reconciliation with the estranged mothers and I’m sometimes able to see these grandchildren at family gatherings during public holiday celebrations. I am now patiently optimistic.


Conclusion

These distressing experiences have led me to take more interest in men’s issues. Men have few, if any avenues for help especially in addressing the problems they face in relationships.


Brendon once told me, during the time of Sara’s abusive behaviour, that he had “picked out a tree”. It was his tree. He said that one day, if anything became too overwhelming, he would aim for it in his car. Instead, thankfully, he chose to drop out of life for a year.


When I speak to others of Aaron’s situation, the reaction is always the same: “Why doesn’t he grow some balls?”

As long as no one is listening, men must be feeling: what is the point of talking?