LongIsland.com

Life is Fragile

Written by fatherfrank  |  31. October 2008

Nurturing a marriage, raising a family and supporting your family is a very challenging dynamic. You are not given a playbook or handbook to guide you and help you navigate life s complicated landscape, as you begin adulthood.
So much of what we learn about life and living, we learn for better or for worse, from our parents and from trial and error. Life has changed so radically in the past 30 years. So many of us begin adulthood without the effective tools and skills to manage life appropriately; we set out on life's course hoping to make it.
Technology has given us instant access to information through instant communication with the simple tap of a key. Unfortunately, too many of us are not skilled enough to use this technology in a positive life-giving way.
Our children are being exposed to a wide range of complex human experiences with little preparation. At best, our sex education is weak to poor. Our children are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex at a much earlier age. They are resilient, and most of them believe they are invincible!
Married life today has many more challenging dynamics to cope with. For the most part, marriage preparation continues to be inadequate, as the divorce rate in our country skyrockets. Couples continue to struggle with basic life issues as they attempt to be present to each other and effectively parent their children.
Life is hard and oftentimes very fragile. It's still easy to get distracted by the craziness all around us. Too many good married couples let life's craziness create an unhealthy distance in their relationships. Raising children, pursuing a career and making ends meet are often the excuses couples give for why they drift apart.
TJ and MJ have been married for 21 years. They've been together for almost 30 years. They gave life to three beautiful children: a son 19, a son 17 and a daughter 15. TJ and MJ both work and have very successful careers. They have both received promotions and generous salary increases.
They decided that they wanted to build a bigger home and move from the South Shore to the North Shore. With their new home came the added stress of spending more money than they had anticipated; that stress spilled over into their personal relationship with each other.
As their children grew older, the relationship stress they felt as a couple became more evident. TJ felt the children should be raised one way, MJ felt the children should be parented another way.
The discipline of their oldest teenage son became more and more of an issue between them. Mom was regularly tolerating his illegal drinking and use of pot. Dad had a hard time with that approach. He and his wife would fight on and off about him and how to deal with his poor social choices.
Their marital dynamic was in trouble. As a couple, they grew apart. It was never real fighting, yelling or screaming, just emotional distance between them. They became like ships that pass in the night.
About a year ago on a Friday night, TJ came home from work. His oldest son had been drinking. He was loud, obnoxious and was giving his mother a hard time. His father attempted to verbally intervene and calm his son down. He asked them to back off. His son became even more enraged. He followed his father up the stairs shouting after him. His dad went into his bedroom, shut the door and locked it.
His son began banging on the door. He was relentlessly banging and cursing. TJ opened the door and his son charged at him. TJ pushed him away. He lunged again, spitting at him. TJ pushed him back a second time. This time, he had to block a punch from his son as he pushed him off. TJ s son fell to the ground and hit his head on the bedroom door frame.
His head was cut open and bleeding profusely. His mother took him immediately to the local hospital emergency room for treatment, and his dad followed behind them in another car.
Due to the bleeding he was seen immediately. It was worse than they initially thought, but not so bad that he needed surgery. When asked about how the injury occurred, his mother said that there was an altercation between him and his dad.
The seriousness of the injury led the emergency room nurse to file a child abuse complaint against TJ. After hearing about the nature of the injury, CPS felt it was not just child abuse, but a real assault. The police were called.
No one asked TJ his side of the story, as he sat for hours in the waiting room. The police arrived, took down the information given by the hospital and made the decision to arrest TJ and charge him with assault. The police did not seem interested in hearing TJ s side of the story.
That awful night changed TJ's life forever. It began an emotional roller coaster and nightmare that still continues. TJ pled to a lesser charge, initiated counseling immediately after he got out of jail that weekend and still sees a licensed clinical therapist weekly on his own. More than a year later, he is still not permitted to have any contact with his oldest son.
Unfortunately, his wife used that horrific night as a springboard to announce that she wanted to end their 21 year marriage. After that announcement, she also indicated that she was not interested in counseling. She painted a very grim picture of her husband, the father of their children. She indicated to anyone who would listen that she was afraid of him and his violence.
Prior to this horrible episode with his son, which his son admits to provoking, TJ had an impeccable record. His personal reputation was unblemished. He was never in trouble with law enforcement. He had never even gotten a parking ticket in his life.
An order of protection was imposed upon TJ right after he was arrested. He was told to have no contact at all with his older son and was forced out of his home. He was allowed limited visitation with his two other children. His wife sought an additional order of protection for herself, citing that she was afraid of him and that she felt her life was threatened.
Meanwhile, there was no evidence or history of any kind of violence in TJ's life. To the contrary, everyone who has ever interacted with him is shocked at the circumstances. They only knew him as a laid-back caring dad and neighbor.
From the moment TJ pushed his son off him and he hit the door frame, he realized he had made a mistake. In every court appearance and at every evaluation, he has taken full responsibility for his response. He has acknowledged that he should have responded differently, no matter what the circumstance.
Unfortunately, the system failed this father and his family. Counseling was never mandated for them as a family. To this day, the oldest son, who was the victim, was never mandated to counseling.
Every evaluator and every therapist that has worked with TJ has confirmed that he is not a risk or threat to anyone. They urged family counseling. They also strongly recommended that the orders of protection be dropped.
To date, they have not been dropped. At his sentencing last month, a new order of protection was imposed for one year regarding his oldest son. No counseling was mandated. When and if the order is lifted, it will have been almost three years that he has been banned from any contact with his oldest son. He was forbidden to attend his high school graduation this past June. He has not been allowed to send him a birthday card or a gift. There is something profoundly wrong with a system of justice that contributes to destroying a family rather than contributing to its healing.
P.S. this father was never given an opportunity to tell his side of this tragic story for the record.

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