One of the worst things about this custody order: an injunction in it says I can only feed my son food that is approved by the ex.
You read that right. If the ex says I can’t buy my son a slice of pizza at a ballgame, I can’t buy my son a slice of pizza at a ballgame. If she says I can’t let him eat my mom’s cooking, he can’t eat my mom’s cooking.
And so far, I’ve never been able to feed my kid a slice of pizza. And he’s never eaten food cooked by his paternal grandmother.
Quick background: My son has a food allergy. He can’t eat products that contain peanuts or tree nuts. He can eat everything else, just not nuts. It’s important that food labels are read and restaurant staffers are questioned so that his food is not contaminated.
But he is only allergic to nuts.
I know how to ask questions and read food labels. And in the time I’ve had possession of my kiddo before this order was put in place, I never had to use his epipen or take him to an emergency room because of accidental exposure to peanuts or tree nuts. Also, my family loves my son. They know he has a food allergy. There are people in my extended family who have food allergies. Everybody wants to keep my kid safe.
Yet my ex has engaged in a form of demagoguery that has fooled those in the legal and food allergy community into thinking that I can not be trusted with my son.
When I signed the hideous Rule 11 agreement that contained this injunction, I thought it applied to both of us. I didn’t take it literally. And because there was no pre-approved food list attached to the agreement, I thought the injunction meant, “don’t feed your son food that could hurt him.” As I wrote in another post, during the negotiations that produced the Rule 11 agreement, my ex and her attorney came at me with so many demands that I figured giving in on the food injunction was a win win, because surely, the ex would not want to keep our son from eating food that he enjoyed.
But I was wrong, way wrong. The ex takes our son to restaurants and cooks him anything she wants. But every time I pick him up, the ex packs with him an ice chest full of food. Most of the time it contains this: a turkey sandwich. Some fruit. Some tomatoes. Some carrots. Some pita chips. Yogurt. Cubes of cheese.
He can only eat from that ice chest. And he knows he will bring the wrath of God from his mother if he eats anything other than what is in the ice chest (or what is on a pre-approved food list). And not only must I stick to the food list, some of the food must be a certain brand. Whole Foods for one item; HEB for another.
So, when I take my kid to Top Golf or Main Event or a University of Texas football or basketball game, he will not let me buy him a hot dog or a slice of pizza or a hamburger because he is afraid his mom will be angry with him.
This is sad and pathetic. In my son’s eyes, his mom is the boss, even when he is in my possession. I’m no more than his glorified babysitter.
As a runner, I like to eat healthy — fish, clean carbs, etc.; but because none of the food I like to eat is on the food list, I am prohibited from feeding my son those items. Instead, the protein portion of the food list is filled with chicken nuggets, bacon, pot pies. And that’s what he eats most of the time when he is at my place. I can not expose him to the kinds of food I eat. (So as not to make the kid feel bad, I don’t eat my “good food” when he is at my house. I eat what he eats and do everything I can not to throw up.)
Again, none of the items I want to feed my son have peanuts in them. But the ex is just being difficult. She does not want me to enjoy our son the way she does. I’ve asked her dozens of times and written her emails to let me expand what I can feed our son. Every time, her answer is basically, “you better stick to the order.”
Because I can only have 32 hours every other week with my son, and because I can only feed him food from a pre-approved list, I do not take him to Dallas to see my family or friends. I mean, what’s the use. When we get to Dallas, it’d only be for a few hours before we’d have to turn around and go back home. And even if I took him on such a quick trip, what would I do if we ran out of the food that his mom packed? Force him to eat at my mom’s, or a restaurant in town? If I did that it would put my kid under too much pressure to chose between what I want him to do and what his mom wants him to do.
When that has happened in the past, when my kid has done what I told him to do, his mom has found out and grounded him (took away his toys, made him go to bed early, etc.)
One day, me and the kiddo went walking around Town Lake in Central Austin. It was one of those hot summer days, well over 100 degrees. We stopped in a store and I bought each of us a gatorade. Midway through drinking the gatorade, my kiddo asks me not to tell his mom that he was drinking a gatorade because it wasn’t on the food list. This was just a few weeks after the Oct. 2014 Rule 11 Agreement and I was still thinking that the ex didn’t literally mean that I was only to feed the kiddo what was on the food list. So, I told the kiddo that everything would be ok, I’d tell his mom that it was hot out and we had gatorade instead of water.
When I dropped him off that day, I told his mom about the gatorade and she was livid. “Gatorade is not on the food list – you violated the order. If you do that again I am going to take you to court.” We argued and I drove off, and right then and there, I knew that the food list really was not about our kid’s safety; there are obviously no nuts in gatorade. No, the food list was about the ex’s need for power — power over me. And that unknowing judge, when he ruled that I breached contract, gave the ex all the power she needed.
The ex participates in many food allergy awareness groups here in Austin and helps put on the annual food allergy walk. She has used her ties to the food allergy community, which includes a very prominent Central Texas allergist, to paint herself as an angel, and to paint me as a monster, as someone who is either reckless about the way that I feed the kid or does not care that he even has a food allergy.
In my next post, I’ll tell you how the prominent allergist as well as other family health professionals have conspired to help the ex delegitimize my relationship with my kid.