Sadly there have been times when the idea of ‘cutting the baby in half’ seemed to be the only compromise that wouldsatisfy the warring parties.
There are power dynamics at play in the minds of unwed parents and in the majority of cases it is the innocent children who are subjected to pain and emotional trauma.
It is becoming quite obvious in these cases that individuals who impose control measures on their former partners are attempting to manipulate the new Children’s Act.
The concept of shared custody is proving not only to be a thorn in the flesh, but very difficult to implement smoothly judging by the number of complaints that reach our customary courts on a daily basis.
While dads who are reluctant to be yoked by marriage greeted the controversial Children’s Act jubilantly, much more needs to be understood before the act truly benefits the children and not the fragile ego of the adults who use it as a means to get at each other’s throat.
As I take you through Lesedi and Sekei’s experience you will appreciate that there are gaps that need to be closed for all concerned to benefit from the law.
Lesedi and Sekei broke up after 12 years of going out together in a union that produced a 10-year-old son.
A year later Lesedi met a young man and married him.
Sekeir equested Lesedi to leave their son Beni with her parents when she moved to her matrimonial home.
She agreed to do that but little did she realize that Sekei was playing a game that would hurt her beyond words.
Much later when Lesedi wanted Beni to visit for the weekend, Beni honestly told his mother that Sekei had instructed him to have nothing to do with his mother.
To Lesedi’s shock her own mother also supported the directive.
This did not rest well with Lesedi who felt that they should get counselling and advice from the customary court.
When the parties appeared it was apparent that Sekei had been nursing a grudge following the couple’s split.
In his attempts to ‘get even’ he felt justified in punishing Lesedi for daring to move on.
And losing her son was the price she had to pay.
When Sekei made mention of Lesedi’s home with her husband his body tensed up as if they were aliens from another planet.
He strongly wanted his son to be confined to Lesedi’s mother’s place or to be with him.
It was a condition that had the full support of Lesedi’s mother who felt that she had to reward Sekei for his long-term relationship with her daughter, even at the risk of destroying the mother/daughter relationship.
Lesedi argued that she was simply trying to make life easy for her son by leaving him in a neutral place and allowing his father convenient access since the two had bonded powerfully over the years.
She also pointed out that she had no intention of sacrificing her mother/son bond for her marriage, feeling that her change of partner would not make her less of a mother to the son she had with Sekei.
It was one of those cases where emotions and egos rise and can swamp common sense and reason.
The only way to get to the bottom of the matter was to involve the social worker in assessing the case.
The social worker’s report revealed that the child desperately wanted to be allowed to visit his mother, but his father had been suffocating him with his prejudices towards his mother and her husband.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
There were just three points to consider:
Sekei had used his power and influence to persuadeLesedi to leave their son with her mother, using the opportunity to play on the mind of the innocent child by influencing him to reject his mother.
Lesedi felt betrayed by both Sekei and her mother who did not appreciate the sacrifice she had made in making it convenient for the child’s father to visit him on ‘neutral’ ground.
The social worker’s report confirmed that the attitude of an inward looking father had poisoned the fragile emotions of an innocent child.
Based on the social worker’s report it was apparent that the child wanted to stay with one of his parents on a permanent basis rather than with his grandmother.
The irony of the situation was that despite his possessiveness, it was obvious that Sekei was not emotionally ready to be father 24/7.
At best he could only be daddy via the grandmother.
In a judgment that should have been ruled by common sense rather than the court, Sekei was bound to lose the case since his principal motive for keeping the child was in order to hurt the mother.
It is one of the many emerging issues where individuals feel they can dictate terms and control the lives of former partners, especially where children are involved.
Changing times have seen the proliferation of relationships that have produced half brothers/sisters, stepmothers and fathers and the inherent complications that often seem to go with such unions when labels replace unconditional love.
In this I am reminded of a line from the great poet and mystic Kahil Gibran who wrote:
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
The full text is available in his book, ‘The Prophet,’ and can be found from an internet search of, ‘Kibran on love.’
If we are to stay afloat in the strange days that surround us – I strongly recommend reference to such timeless traditional wisdom.