Dear Mary,

This is the first time in 10 years that I won’t be there to celebrate your birthday with you…

I’m sitting in your room on your bed as I’m writing this letter.  I’ve cried over every memory…your Easter rabbit with the broken ear, birthday cards from your dad and I and pictures I had printed out for you.  I noticed almost every single thing your dad and I ever gave you is what you left behind.  I understand, though, your mother would never allow such evil memorabilia in her home.  I haven’t found the strength to throw them out yet.  I feel like if I do that then you’ll really never come back…and my heart isn’t ready to face that reality.

I’m writing this letter on June 28, 2018.  I’m sure that day will resonate with you forever.  Right after we left the courthouse today, your dad removed all of your pictures, artwork and love notes you left all over the house.  Only memories of what once was remains.

Never could I have imagined that May 31st, 2018 would be the very last time you’d ever set foot in this house.  I always knew when you were here.  I could smell your pretty perfume or hear you playing a beautiful tune on the keyboard before ever seeing your smile.  You’d bounce out of your room looking so full of life and off to work you’d go.  I remember the first day you drove off in your very own car.  I stood at the front door and cried.  You were growing up so fast.

In the past two years since you’d lived here full-time, you’d blossomed into the most amazing flower.  Your self-esteem was high, your confidence was high.  You were excited about your future and couldn’t wait to get there.  We were so proud of you and your amazing accomplishments.  It made every single day in our 8 year court battle worth it just to see you making strides, gaining confidence and becoming independent.  We foolishly believed physically removing you from your mother’s grasp would end the alienating.

You told us more than once how happy you were that you lived here now and that you just knew you would become someone amazing because of it.  That’s what makes the truth so much harder to swallow now.

You weren’t always the awesome Mary we came to know and love.  I remember on September 24, 2015 you told a huge lie.  You’d struggled with lying since you were little.  Because of the lie you told that day though, the police showed up and more false allegations were made against your dad and I.  I could have yelled at you, but instead I sat on the front steps and told you that you were better than that.  I then said you were smart and beautiful and could do anything you set your mind to.  I also remember telling you that you needed to stop lying because some day you may tell a lie that you can never take back.  Someday your lie may change your life forever.  How providential those words would become.

You told us how sorry you were and that you’d never do it again.  We thought maybe it was a good thing it happened, maybe now you would see up close how she’d used you as a pawn in her twisted games.

We believed that you would learn from this experience.  We decided to forgive and forget.  After all, through tears you said you were sorry and you’d never do it again.

On October 15, 2015 we went to court to defend ourselves against your lie.  You didn’t know this at the time, but on July 23, 2015 your mother had been ordered to stop calling the police on us.  She’d done it so many times to create fear that finally the court stepped in and told her enough was enough.  You didn’t know that, though, the day you called her and told her to call the police on us.

Amazingly, it turned out to be a riveting day of court.  Your mother testified under oath that she didn’t want you and your brother.  She stated she would do anything to keep you guys from having a relationship with your father.  She also admitted to contacting DFS and asking how she could put you into foster care should she get custody.

That day, we proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had been intentionally alienating all three of you from your dad.  We thought it was a monumental day for parental alienation.  The alienation ends here, we thought.

On November 16, 2016, your dad was officially granted full custody of you and your brother.  We were told it was too late to fight for your sister.  Kaitie had been indoctrinated too severely into hating us, it seemed, and having her in our home wouldn’t be good for you and Liam.  So, we decided we had to cut her loose to save the two of you.

With full custody meant that finally your mother would have limited access to you.  We believed there was still time to get you away from her web of lies and deceit.  After all, you’d seen up close what your mom did to your oldest sister.  You saw your mom use fear to control her. You didn’t want that for your future you’d told us.

Over the next 2 years you thrived.  You got your first job all by yourself. You bought your car all by yourself. You got braces. You went to prom. Your confidence and self-esteem was through the roof.  The only place for you to go was up.  With each milestone, we celebrated.  And although we had an adjustment period, we continued to let you know we believed in you and would always be there for you.

You came to me and admitted that you had a problem with lying.  You were a new Mary, you said.  This Mary wanted to be truthful.  The old Mary is gone.  You didn’t want to be that person anymore.

Little by little, our trust for you increased.  Our schedules became so busy that sometimes days would pass before we saw each other.  I would send you Marco Polo videos checking in and giving you pep talks and atta boys.  Our lives were full of band competitions, girl talk, chick flicks, random celebration luncheons, laughter and baking.  I believed you had changed.

On May 31, 2018 you hugged me and told me you loved me as you left for your 2 week visit to your mother’s.  Your dad jokingly asked if you were coming back.  It seemed you were taking a lot of stuff.  You looked him right in the eyes and told him the extra things were for your older sister who was going without.  He thought it was nice of you to have such a big heart for someone who had been so deceitful to us and who had ultimately been alienated from us.  He helped you load those final items into your mother’s car.

You hugged your dad and told him you loved him.  He didn’t know that was the last hug he’d ever get from you.

It was June 13th, 2018 at 12:42 pm when I got the text from our attorney.  It said your mother had just filed for sole custody of you and your brother.  I thought it was a joke.

I rushed home to check your rooms.  There was no way you had cleaned them out. You said you were just taking over clothes that no longer fit for your sister.  It was a goodwill gesture you were doing, right?

After all, you were the new and improved truthful Mary.  You’d said on your way out the front door your life with us was so much better than your sister’s would ever be and there’s no way you’re not coming back.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into your bedroom and found it empty. I checked your brother’s room just to be sure. Empty.  While your father and I were at work making money to pay your bills, you’d been packing.

The next day you were to come back to our house at 5 pm.  At 4:04 pm, DFS called with a list of 27 accusations made by you and your brother.  The DFS agent said she deemed our home an “unsafe environment” and was refusing to let you come back.  The 8 year nightmare had begun…again.

After hearing the accusations, it was obvious you had helped concoct the ridiculous allegations.  Only you could’ve given details about our lives to make the stories seem more plausible.  You were almost 18-years-old but again you had played right into your mother’s hands.

I found your journal while I was packing up your room.  You must’ve forgotten it during your rush to finally be free from all the abuse.  In those pages, we realized your mother’s indoctrination had happened long before you’d ever come to live here full-time.  Those pages revealed a darkness in your heart we never realized was there.  The damage had been done when you were just a small child.  Nothing we ever did was going to erase her imprinting against us.  You had been her soldier of hate from day one.

You wrote about how much you hate me and never want to see me again.  You also wrote about how being with me is ruining your life.  You wrote about feeling sorry for your dad and wishing he could’ve actually been a “good dad” but it was “too late.”  My favorite entry, though, was when you talked about how awful it was to spend your 16th birthday on the beach in Florida. That must’ve been so difficult for you.

So, today as we climbed the courthouse steps one last time, I felt a total and complete peace that I haven’t felt in 10 years. You were there with your mother, brother and sister.  Your mother’s attorney had already filed emergency motions to have you speak to the judge about your abusive life with us.  I can only imagine how much worse the accusations were by now.  After all, you’d had almost a month to memorize your scripts at this point.

As our attorney walked up to your mother’s, all of you gathered around to hear the news.  You were ready for the fight.

All of a sudden, something you’d never thought would happen, happened.  You were told your father was giving your mother sole custody and had requested to never see you again.

Your mother immediately screamed in anger after hearing how little child support she would be getting.  You looked shell-shocked before bursting into tears.

In that moment I wondered, were you crying because you realized you just got played again by your mother?  Or were you crying because you realized I was right and you’d finally told a lie that you can’t take back?

The minimal child support your mother will receive each month won’t be enough to live on and since she has defaulted on nine credit cards, has had a car repossessed in the past two months and lives on prepaid electricity, you may need to get another job.

We are considering the child support a small fee to pay for the guarantee of never seeing you again.  You see Mary, we can no longer trust you in our home, in our lives or in our hearts.  You have been used by your mother against us for the last time.

Starting this year, you will get your wish…

From this day forward, you can count on me for zero support.

Never again will I make you partake in celebration lunches, pep talks, paint parties, ornament decorating, Easter egg painting or spontaneous trips to the pool.

Never again will you have to endure my support at your band competitions, track meets or awards banquets.

You will never again have to put up with my home cooked meals or trips to Florida, Washington D.C. or St. Louis.

From this moment forward, I promise to never include you in another family get together, cookout or holiday dinner.

Never again will you have to hear the sound of my voice that you “hate so much” that you wrote about in your diary.

Don’t bother looking for us at your senior high school graduation ceremony this year Mary, we won’t be there.

And starting this year, never again will you be used by your mother to try and tear your dad and I apart.

Never again will you be able to claim false abuse or have the police summoned to our door.

Never again will you be used as a spy in our own home to gather information to be used against us.

Never again will DFS call with a list of your baseless accusations.

Never again will you look us in the eye and lie to us.

You and your hate can finally live with your mother forever.

So, as it turns out, parental alienation does end here Mary…just not the way we’d hoped.

On your mirror you left the words “Trying to Forget You.”  I will always and forever wonder…Is it us you’re trying to forget? Or the girl staring back at you that had a thousand possibilities?

Actions have consequences.

Happy 18th Birthday, Mary.


For more information about our story and why we speak:

Why Parental Alienation Speaks

6 thoughts on “Happy 18th Birthday, Mary

  1. I feel the sting, the emptiness, the injustice, the fury that internally demands justice, and never gets it. Your story could be ours. The ugliness has tortured my mind wondering if I should leave my marriage. Being labeled damaged goods, abuser is more than I signed up for. Prayers.

    1. Kristine- Thank you for sharing your heart with me. I feel every single word you wrote. I have so been there. You are not alone in your emptiness and fury- it’s exactly why I have to share the good, the bad and the ugly. This 10 years has been the absolute hardest thing I have ever done and people just like you coming forward are what keeps me writing. There is absolutely no justice in any of it. THANK YOU!

      1. Wow… I had no idea you were going through all of this Cheryl. My heart hurts for you and your husband. Through all of this you have an amazing and strong story to tell that will help and inspire so many others. You’re beautiful inside and out and I hope there’s nothing but peace, happiness, and contentment in your life as you deserve everything wonderful this life can give. Miss you ❤️

  2. Really powerful Cheryl. So sorry for your struggle. I hope this next chapter brings some peace to you and Jack!

  3. As a stepmom to my 2 stepdaughters for the last 18 years, I am heartbroken to feel like your story could have been mine. All the details including the allegations of abuse, hating my voice, tortured vacations…all of it. We thought we were saving our youngest, but the truth came out about 18 months ago. The conversation you recalled about the lying could nearly have been verbatim from my own experience. We are now alienated by both the girls who are now 23 and 18. They continue to tell everyone we emotionally and verbally abused them “their entire lives.” They say they hated being here and there are no happy times…even though we have videos, pictures and memories to prove otherwise. They have cut off all contact with me and their siblings who range from 19-12. The 19 year old is telling her dad she will consider a relationship with him if he will be “her dad and not my husband.” The good old divide and conquer. Her specialty. Thank you for giving us a space to feel seen. We live in a place of feeling like people just don’t get it.

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