I've been temporarily absent because I've been completely drained by the court case brought against us by B's parents. I'm not sure how much I want to talk about it, really, but I think I have to say *something*, because the whole debacle has been such a huge thing weighing us down for so long. Not having it draining a large chunk of our energy any more is going to make an enormous difference to our lives.
In essence, B's parents have been trying to push us around for our entire married life - that's fifteen years, give or take. It got a lot worse after the children were born. Before then we had just gone with the flow because it was easier to do what they wanted than make a fuss. The year L was small and I was sickly-pregnant with N and had post-natal depression and Pa died and various friends died and we went bankrupt and lost the business and our house, things came to head. Ridiculously, over arrangements for L's naming ceremony.
After that, B decided he didn't want them in our lives any more and I pressured him to keep in contact for the sake of the children. Retrospectively, it was the wrong decision.
However, things trundled along with us trying to bash out some sort of relationship that involved them seeing the children and not having enough input in to our lives to think they could take over again. Sometimes it was better and sometimes it was worse, I think depending on how we were feeling and how aggressively they behaved. All the time, we have been thinking 'What is best for children? What is best for the children?' and all along our answer to ourselves has been 'Some sort of limited contact so they can get to know their grandparents, where the grandparents can't bully them as they have been doing us, and where we, the adults, have as little to do with them as possible'. Latterly, B has not even been able to speak to them when we have met to hand the children off, he has been so distressed.
As the facilitator, I think I have been seen by them as the person standing between them and their son and grandchildren and a lot of the bile directed at me has been because of that. I don't think that excuses it; but it is a reason. What is inexcusable is the way his parents have 'gaslighted' B's cousins and aunt and convinced them that their actions are justifiable. 'Gaslighting'. It's a thing. Look it up. Also look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder because that is the only thing I can think of that would explain my mother in law's behaviour.
It has been an utterly grim few years from 2008, when they started threatening us with social services, legal action and, bizarrely, removing themselves completely from the children's lives, often simultaneously.
Now, however, we have a court order that dictates how often they can see the children and how they communicate with each other. The court thinks it's reasonable, the solicitors think it's reasonable and most importantly, CAFCASS think it's reasonable - they are the body that looks out for the well being of the children in cases like this. It is extremely validating that they agreed that what we have, all along, been offering, actually IS reasonable. There is flexibility built in to the order for more contact in the future if seeing them is positive for the children. Because it is written out, it means they can't muck us about. They can't change their minds at the last minute, they can't suddenly say they aren't coming because the arrangements we have made don't give them enough time with L; they can't use their interactions with the children to try to manipulate and bully B.
In the end, at the court on Tuesday, we reached an agreement between the two parties, rather than forcing the court to decide in a Contested Hearing. So both parties, us and them, have agreed that what we negotiated was okay; and the judge looked it over and essentially rubber stamped it. There is a lot of stuff in the 'Preamble' - the bit at the beginning that sets out the expectations between the parties for the contact to go smoothly - about them backing off and leaving us alone, not contacting our friends and families, not involving L in adult affairs; and not staying in our village. They *really* didn't want the thing about not staying in the village in there in writing, which was bizarre; I guess staying close by gives them an opportunity to physically intimidate us. However, we finally managed to get them to acknowledge we do not want them to come to the village unless they are dropping or collecting the children. I have no idea whether they will stick to it.
It is a really strange feeling to feel safe.
B and I were discussing this yesterday. It's really, really strange to acknowledge that they have been emotionally abusing the two of us - and particularly B - for years. Over the last couple of weeks, various professionals, legal and psychological, have validated that for him. He says he's in a strange place about it and he might want to use this space to write about it himself.
For me, I am relieved it's over. Positive things *have* come out of this all. I didn't realise quite how many friends we have - I suppose you don't until something like this happens. We have so many, many people who have been around us through all of this in all sorts of different ways and offered us support of all different kinds. And through it all we have been living in Holland and dealing with N's deterioration; and friends have been supporting us with that as well.
We want to have a life now. To the best of our ability, we want to grab it with both hands, use all this space - time, mental and emotional energy, physical energy - that has been sucked in to this abusive black hole - and get on and have some fun.
Are you coming with us?