This past week, I was reading through US Weekly while in the pumping room at work. Typically, there isn’t enough time to actually read the articles so most of the time I just browse and look at the pictures. When I saw the above picture, however, I nearly spilled breast milk all over myself. Upon first glance, and if you don’t know the back story here, this just looks like a picture of a happy couple with their happy little baby. The man is Bode Miller. He is with his new wife, who is holding his son “Nate”. What this picture doesn’t show, however, is that Nate’s name is actually Sam (Miller decided he didn’t like the name the child’s mother gave him, so he started calling him something else) and the chic holding him isn’t his mom. Sam’s mom, ex-Marine Sara McKenna, is the woman who Miller describes as a “fling”. A woman he treated like dirt upon finding out she was pregnant (see text message quotes below), and a woman he appears to be attempting to ignore as a permanent part of his son’s life.
Many American’s cheered for Miller during the Olympics – he was an alpine skier trying to set world records. This US weekly article paints Miller as a loving father who is fighting for custody to his son. What it doesn’t mention, however, is what this man said to the mother of his child before he decided he wanted to take her to court.
“I’m not going to do this with u Sara. U made this choice against my wish and gave me no say. U are going to do this on your own.” Miller told the child’s mother, ex-marine Sara McKenna.
“Having a once a month Dad is not something he deserves, and you should take the chance to walk away while I am still agreeing to it.” Miller continued.
After the above text messages, McKenna decided to move to New York in order to pursue her degree. Given what Miller said that he didn’t want to be a father, she went ahead and moved while she was pregnant. After she moved, however, Miller changed his mind. McKenna was then slammed by a New York judge for moving while pregnant. The custody battle continues, but what is concerning to me is the dangerous precedent that appears to have been set in this case. Now, in addition to women having to fight to protect their children, we are going to be told when and where we can travel while pregnant. McKenna was essentially treated by the courts, and by Miller, as an incubator. As soon as she had the baby, Miller started to call the child something else and flaunted his new wife as if she was the child’s biological mother.
What This Means:
As I looked at this picture, I tried to understand why it made me so damn angry. It wasn’t the fact that Miller seemed happy with his new wife, or even that the new wife was holding the child (in an ideal world this child’s step mom should love him). It was the fact that I can imagine how McKenna must have felt when she saw this picture. So many women are seen by the court system as “scorned”, but instead of sloshing all of us off as scorned, try and imagine how it would feel to have the person you love most in life taken from you by someone who views you the way Miller obviously views the mother of his child.
Here is a man who basically told his ex to abort the child, and when he changes his mind – our courts hand him access on a silver platter. Should he have contact with his child? Of course he should. He is his father, and by all indications he doesn’t appear to be dangerous. That said, he should be encouraged by the courts (if not out right forced) to at least pretend to respect the child’s mother. If he cannot even acknowledge the name the mother picked for the child (when he was mysteriously absent from the birth), this is clearly a problem.
When I was in court, I was terrified. I was terrified that my son would be hurt (given the fact that people around my ex kept getting killed). The other day, I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I hadn’t been as concerned about Prince’s safety. How would I have felt if I just didn’t like Luc as a person, and didn’t think he would be a good influence on Prince. How would I have felt if after treating me as someone he had just used and abused, he had thrown me aside as he moved in a new woman (and took family pictures with my son as if to show that I had been replaced). I would like to believe that I would have been strong enough to just be happy that he loved my son, but I think the truth is – that might be asking too much of most of us.
Impossible Super Human Strength:
The courts continuously ask parents to lay their humanity at the doors of the court before entering the court room. When we act human by crying or expressing fears, we are punished. When we leave relationships where we are treated poorly, and then have to hand our children over to an abuser, we are scared. When woman (and men) have to turn their children over to someone they cannot stand to even look at, it is going to cause tremendous pain – even if you know that your child should have access. The courts do not punish parents for behavior that is not conducive to raise a child. So most of the time, the co-parent is left in a position to just bite their tongue and try not to show the very raw human emotion that all of us would feel if put in the same situation.
This picture made me sad for all of the men and women who have safety concerns about the person with whom they are forced to co-parent. It is sad and scary because Family Court is a place where emotions run high. It is scary because even without a security concern, most people who have gone through Family Court would not be able to look at this photo and not get heated about it.
Looking at this picture made me terribly sad for this little boy. He deserves to have his mother and his father. Even if the two of them are not together, he deserves to have parents who can respect each other. He deserves to be called by his birth name.