REKINDLING NOT-FORGOTTEN BEDTIME RITUALS WAS DREAM COME TRUE
After three years I’m allowed to spend a night with my twins
Mancunian Beth Schlesinger (Alexander), who was divorced from her Viennese husband last month and with whom she has endured a bitter tug-of-love battle, had been barred inexplicably by the Austrian courts from having her five-year-old twin sons spend a night with her . . . until Sunday. She describes her sheer joy
LAST night I was able to read my darling boys a bedtime story and tuck them into bed for the first time in three years! A massive chunk of their early years robbed from us: precious nurturing and bonding time which we can never get back.
Rekindling our not-forgotten bedtime rituals was a dream come true and the boys loved being here overnight, at home where they feel most safe and secure. Judge Susanne Göttlicher finally decided on my urgent application (from January!) for extended visitation. Although I applied for weekends, she has granted me every second Sunday from 9am until 8.30am Monday, when I must return them to kindergarten. I still have to pay the visiting centre on Sundays but at least this is now reduced by half to 25 Euros.
Although Göttlicher acknowledges my argument that the supervised handovers are “expensive and must stop” as “fully understandable”, she has done nothing to alter my Tuesday visits.
I must continue to pay 50 Euros for the handovers outside supermarkets (a private arrangement by the father) carried out by a former employee of the visiting centre. In the same court order, Judge Göttlicher denied my two-week holiday application but has granted ONE weekend at the end of August instead. The wording of the order is unequivocal: I am on trial:
“Through this temporary order the court is giving the mother a chance to prove that she is able to use the more flexible overnight visits in the interests of the children,” she states.
“The mother must prove by adhering strictly to the rules that she is a trustworthy partner capable of cooperation.” No mention is made of the father’s cancelled visits or lack of co-operation over the past three years.
I must do everything exactly as prescribed. I must come alone to the kindergarten, I mustn’t speak to the staff and I mustn’t expose the children to any journalists during my visits but “obviously the mother is entitled to have contact with journalists on her non-visiting days”, she writes. One of the grounds for granting me overnight access is so that I “no longer have to simulate bedtime rituals during the day! ’She then quotes the Sunday Telegraph article:
“Inside a first-floor flat in central Vienna, a mother is reading her twin boys a story. Snuggled together in their bedroom, the four-year-olds, skin still pink from a hot bath, cling to the woman as she points at pictures and puts on different characters’ voices . . . it’s the middle of the day.”
The woman at the visiting centre called me on Friday to say 9am wasn’t possible and she could only come at 10. When I protested about the lost hour, she replied: “What’s the problem? You’ve got them the whole day anyway!” When your children are not with you, I don’t think you can understand how precious and sacred each moment together becomes. I went there at 9am anyway and she arrived at 9.20. Somewhat uncomfortable at the situation, she said she didn’t know she would be able to be there earlier. The father and children arrived at 9.55. It was such a luxury to finally spend a whole day together, without the constant pressure of clock watching, fearful of being a second later than 5pm and the threat of court action against me.
Despite my disappointment at only one overnight per fortnight, I still consider the extension to overnight stays a very positive step closer which only strengthens my resolve to continue campaigning for justice to bring my little boys home.
I thank everyone who has helped me get this far. I could never have done it alone and am eternally grateful that you have enabled me to stay and do all I can until this point. It’s outrageously unjust that we’ve had to fight this hard this long to reach this juncture but justice and sanity must and eventually will prevail.