I still have hundreds of vignettes, little treasures, that I can call up from those days. The boy who wouldn't visit made it so clear, when he did come, that he was so glad to be with me. We sat in the kitchen and talked about what he wanted to be when he grew up (“a lawyer, like my dad”) and how he was worried about going to a big high school soon. We discussed books he wanted to read and movies he wanted to see, and we made plans for the summer. He wanted to come with us to Lake of the Woods again, and asked me to get him a new wetsuit so he could stay in the water longer with Big D. He talked about how he'd been falling out with some of his friends at school. We didn't just live in the present, as many estranged parents and children do. I made sure we always, always discussed the future and made plans. When I drove Dash home he said, “You know, Mom, I could take a bus to your house, couldn't I?” and my heart leaped and broke at exactly the same time. Both of us were trying to find ways to defy his father. But the reality was that we were heading into a trial over his custody. Dash was kept right up to date with all the grisly details. According to Peter, Dash had known everything “from day one.” He wrote that, “Dash has been always, without exception, fully aware of what has been transpiring, and said and written, etc, throughout these past 7 years.” And, “Dash is going to hear about this this afternoon, as soon as he gets home.” Dash said later that he read everything that came to the house as he was given ongoing proof about how imperiled he was. Peter faxed me a note in April 1996, a couple of weeks before the trial, after yet more missed visits had forced me to try and have him cited for contempt of court again:
"Dash becomes disturbed by process servers on our home doorstep, presenting documents of accusation against his father, of Contempt. But not for long is Dash upset. Very brief indeed is that. He quickly graduates to a thoughtful analysis, and a resulting displeasure with, and resentment of, his mother and her lawyer . . . for this invasive conduct, and for the making of these accusations, which he sees not only as false, but also, even worse, as offensive, small and mean."
In court, Dash would say he sometimes sat down and read the affidavits himself, and other times he read them with his dad. "Take a look at this!" Peter said they exclaimed to one another. When I found out later that Dash had a reading level that roughly followed his emotional level - suspended at a Grade Four - I knew that Dash wasn't reading those documents alone. I read an article written by Dr. Peggie Ward of the Children and Law Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, who wrote that, "The willingness of a parent to directly involve a child in the litigation should be a red flag that the parent may well be using the child to further his own agenda, even if the child is apparently acquiescent."
All I could do was hope the judge would see it, too.