Boston Herald

Ask what God would think of fighting over child custody

by Beverly Beckham
Sunday, March 7, 1999
The Boston Herald

They appeared, not by heavenly intervention, not like the Ten Commandments etched by God himself. Human beings pasted these words on billboards in and around Dallas last week. There was nothing divine in the doing. But the message on these billboards? Well, they came from the divine.

``Let's Meet At My House Before The Game. - GOD''

``Keep Using My Name In Vain And I'll Make Rush Hour Longer. - GOD''

``Don't Make Me Come Down There. - GOD''

All right. So it's a gimmick to get people thinking about God. But what's wrong with that?

``You Think It's Hot Here? - GOD'' may make some crazed motorist just a little less crazed. And get her home safely to her husband and children who would have to endure a totally different life without her.

The billboards, which are going national, are a little like the ``What would Jesus do?'' campaign. You know, you're supposed to ask yourself what would Jesus do if, say, some guy cut him off in traffic? Jesus wouldn't curse him or chase after him or get so angry he'd go home and beat his wife. Jesus would shrug it off and even better, forgive the driver.

``That `Love Thy Neighbor' Thing, I Meant It. - GOD.''

Which has nothing and yet everything to do with one more unnecessary custody battle in which two people used to love one another, don't anymore and are determined to make sure the child they had together gets dragged into their ugliness.

The Herald's Andrea Estes reported the story Friday. It made headlines not because a 4-year-old Massachusetts boy is in the process of being divvied like up like some old china and books. This happens every day. This story is news only because the boy's parents are both women.

Of course their tale began in the usual way: Two people fall in love and they insist that they are different, that they are never going to part. They believe this because people in love cannot imagine a life without one another.

So this couple decided to have a child together, which is the normal course of events, though a little more complicated when you're a same-sex pair. But never mind. A little artificial insemination, a little luck and what do you know? They had a baby boy.

They planned to raise this child together. That's what they said. The now 43-year-old I.M. (Interest: Mine?), as she is referred to in court papers, who gave birth to the boy, and her 36-year-old partner E.O. (Exit! Out!) even signed a pact before the child was born outlining their mutual commitment to him. For three years the pact held.

And then it was over. Who knows why. The why is immaterial. They decided to split, never mind that this wasn't just about the two of them anymore. Never mind that they had made a life-long commitment to a child, never mind that that child was now in the middle of a mess they were about to make.

Enter the lawyers and the courts and the law. A Martha's Vineyard judge awarded E.O the right to visit the child twice a week, hardly shared custody. But I.M., who doesn't want the boy to see E.O. at all, cried foul and has appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court. ``She's (I.M.) finished and wants this person to move on,'' said her lawyer, Elaine Epstein.

Well, isn't that just dandy? She's finished with her partner. She doesn't love her anymore, or maybe E.O. is the one who fell out of love, or maybe it's mutual. Who really cares? The point is that a 4-year-old who calls one parent ``Mommy'' and the other ``Mama,'' who, let's face it, already has some serious issues to contend with, has to be ``finished,'' too. It doesn't matter that he loves them both. Ms. Interest Mine wants what she wants - sole custody - no matter who gets hurt.

It's the same old story, isn't it? Only this time it's two women tearing a child apart, forgetting, no, choosing to forget all their promises to the child and to each other.

Adults fall out of love. It happens. But children don't. It's bitterness and meanness wrought by adults that squeeze the love out of them.

``Need Directions? - GOD''

``Need A Marriage Counselor? I'm Available. - GOD''

``Tell The Kids I Love Them. - GOD''

Reminding people of God's love is the point of the signs. And the point of a custody battle? Is this love too? Great, wonderful parental love? ``Love One Another As I Love You - God.'' Hardly.

But that's what so many parents fighting to keep their children away from the other parent say: That what they do, they do for their children, when in fact, what they do, they do out of anger and meanness for themselves.