This story is by Lynn Bowie and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
How do you tell a child the court system failed them? How do you squelch that feeling of a dizzy head, pained heart and burning gut when injustice prevails? All have witnessed it, most have felt it, and many have caused it. But when a child experiences this life provoking moment, the emotions are not the same as an adult. Their feelings of self-worth diminish, their faith falters and they feel guilt and shame. This isn’t a story about what happened to get this child there. It’s a story about the consequences of two adults who had sex, created a life, and then proceed to put that life in the hands of a court system who in six short hours determined the outcome and fate of that child’s psyche forever. If Liam had a voice and could put his thoughts on paper, it would sound like this.
I need to change my address.
My name is Liam and I am 7 years old. I have been a very good boy all year.
In case you don’t remember me, I have red hair, big green eyes and lots of freckles. I live in Florida where it never snows, but your sleigh makes it to my house every year.
If you have a few more minutes, will you listen to my story? I have so much to say and it’s hard to get out. You are magical, and maybe you can help me understand why this is happening.
I love my mommy and I love my Daddy. Did I do something wrong?
For a long time Daddy went to court. Mommy met a man in North Carolina and they got married. Mommy said I have to go live with them there. Daddy said no way I’m staying with him in Florida. It’s called relocation. Daddy lost.
In two weeks I will have to move to North Carolina. I am counting down. I don’t want to go, but I don’t want to hurt Mommy’s feelings either. The court says I am too young to make that decision.
Do elves poop? We are like the bears in the Charmin commercial on T.V. We roll around and play together all the time.
Daddy and I do cool things. We swim at the beach, play in the parks, visit the zoo, and go to the movies. I learn about sports, and we cheer for the Yankees and Broncos on TV. He packs my lunches, volunteers at school, meets my teacher, helps me with homework and even goes on field trips. No other Daddy does that.
Last week I got bullied at school. Guess who talked to the principle? The principle told daddy kids can’t leave the county, let alone the state. How did this happen?
Sometimes, he is bossy. He says “Take a shower! Brush those teeth! Wipe that butt! Wash your hands!” I do Santa. I listen.
I’m a fussy eater and daddy gets it. Pizza with pepperoni and black olives is my favorite. We call it a Liam Pizza. Do elves eat pizza? I like chicken, hamburger and even steak. Daddy is a good cook and knows how I like it. He knows that my food can’t be crispy or burned. Sometimes he tries to fool me and tells me fish sticks are really chicken nuggets. I eat them anyway.
I have a grandmother who I call Mooma. I named her that when I was a baby. When Daddy lost the case, Mooma sat in her chair and cried. I crawled up on her lap to love her. She said, “My heart has a big hole in it. When your heart has a big hole in it, remember we are thinking of you, and love you so much.” She cries all the time.
Mooma and I started drawing when my baby hands could hold a crayon. I watch artists draw on YouTube so I can get better. We shop for art supplies, sit for hours with colorful markers, and take our time to make the perfect picture. Sometimes Mooma hangs them up, and even frames them. When she asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I said “I want to draw.” Daddy said “Well, I can’t help you there.” I smiled “No, but Momma can.”
Mooma told me “Never stop drawing, Liam.” I told her, “I won’t Mooma.”
Grandpa Jim-Jim loves me so much. We play video games at home, and Frisbee golf in the park. Grandpa never cries. He’s mad because I have to leave. For some reason, I tell him things I don’t say to Daddy or Mooma. He knows how to ask questions without asking. He tricks me and then he tells Daddy and Mooma what I said. They say “How come he didn’t tell us?” It’s okay- I really wanted them to know anyway.
Daddy said it was up to the judge to decide. We weren’t sure what she was going to say. I said to Daddy, “Maybe a hurricane will destroy the house, and I won’t have to go.” He rubbed my head and said “Don’t you worry about those things Boo-Bear. I got you.” That was before court, when daddy thought he had a chance to win.
Then the judge said I have to go. I said the same thing to Mooma. “Maybe a hurricane will destroy the house, and I won’t have to go.” Mooma said “I know baby. We tried so hard to keep you with us. I’m so sorry.”
I was brave and wanted to cry. But, I said “I know. It’s the judge’s decision.”
I have a friend Mikey who is 6 weeks older than me. His mommy and my Mooma have been best friends before we were even born. Mikey lives with both his Mommy and Daddy. We spent our last Halloween together. I was Bonnie from Five Nights of Freddie. He was Spider Man. When it was time to say goodbye, we hid under the dining room table and wouldn’t come out. Please bring him everything he wants for Christmas! He’s a good boy, too.
I have a friend Georgie that I met in preschool. On my first day of school Georgie ran up to me and asked “Do you want to be my friend?” Georgie had so much energy and he always got into trouble. The teacher told Daddy that I was the only one who could calm Georgie down. Then, we were in kindergarten and the first grade together. I was mad because this year in the second grade, we weren’t in the same classroom, but we still see each other. Yesterday was his 8th birthday party. It was the last time we will play together for a very long time. Georgie still gets into trouble at school. How is he going to make it without me?
The more Daddy and Mooma laugh, the more it charges me up. Mooma is always taking videos of me dancing, imitating people, telling stories, talking in accents, and telling jokes. We watch them over and over and laugh so hard it hurts our bellies. I will miss that.
I don’t really want to go to North Carolina, but I don’t want to hurt my mommy either. She reminds me that she built a big house, I will have a big room, and I will make new friends. We will live in the country, with room to run and trees to climb. But, I won’t have my Daddy. If I stay in Florida, I won’t have my mommy.
When I was a baby, mommy and Daddy were together. I remember. Now I have a stepdad. His name is Andrew, but I call him Bobby. He seems like a Bobby. Daddy calls him the child. At least he’ll be fun to play with!
I will learn new things. Bobby drives monster trucks, shoots guns, and works on cars. Sometimes I can’t understand what they are saying, and don’t hate me, but I make fun of them. I’m the family comedian.
Sometimes bees buzz in my head and my stomach is sick. Sometimes I have bad dreams. I act different, I don’t feel like myself. I get in trouble because they say I’m not listening. Daddy says its anxiety. Mommy says “He’s fine. You’re putting that in his head.” I’m not fine. I’m scared.
The court decided that I can fly back and forth alone. I have traveled many times on a plane to New York and both North and South Carolina. But, I have never flown alone. Maybe if I could use your sleigh and reindeers it would be more fun!
So, Santa, please don’t forget me. I will be in North Carolina for Christmas with my new family. Please take care of Daddy, Mooma, Grandpa Jim-Jim, Nana and Grandpa Tom, Great Grandma, all my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, Mikey and especially Georgie. He needs all the help he can get!