Cygnet had spent the day with his father and I was due to collect him from his father’s house at 6pm. I arrived at 6pm on the dot and I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I knocked again. Still no answer.
I called his mobile phone. There was no answer. I called again. Still no answer. I called a third time and left a message.
I was starting to panic. I was starting to think that he had taken Cygnet away from me. In my irrational (and this was irrational) moments of panic, I contemplated the possibility that I might never see my son again.
Two minutes later they walked round the corner. Cygnet was on his father’s shoulders. They’d been at a party.
Order was restored and I was able to breathe again.
It has been a long time since I’ve had those horrible thoughts. In the early days after our separation, Cygnet’s father hated and resented me so much for leaving him that I believed that he might try to take Cygnet away forever.
More recently, our childcare arrangements are just about working and apart from the inevitable co-parenting obstacle, things have been going okay. There is no logical and rational reason for me to fear that my ex might take my son away.
Cygnet doesn’t share my surname. He has the same surname as his father. My ex and I were never married, but we were engaged to be married when Cygnet was born and I was expecting to adopt my ex’s surname when we wed. For this reason, we gave Cygnet his father’s surname.
According to government guidelines you need permission to take a child abroad from everyone who has parental responsibility. Cygnet’s father is named on Cygnet’s birth certificate and he therefore has parental responsibility. This permission really needs to take the form of a signed letter to be shown at the border.
Cygnet’s father needs my permission to take Cygnet abroad, and I need his. All is fair.
The thing is, because Cygnet shares his father’s surname, I don’t think that anyone would question Cygnet’s father. No-one will ask to see the signed letter of permission that I will give Cygnet’s father for their holiday this summer.
But because Cygnet and I don’t share a surname, they may well ask to see identification to prove that I am Cygnet’s mother and that I have permission to take Cygnet abroad.
The requirement to get permission to take a child abroad is a good thing. The irrational panic that I endured for about three minutes was enough to send me into a little frenzy of anxiety. I cannot imagine how horrific and traumatic it must be for any parent whose child is abducted.
I am not worried about Cygnet’s father taking Cygnet away without my permission, but I do wish that Cygnet’s father was as likely as me to be asked to prove that he has permission.
I guess it is just one of those things, along with a host of other things, that I will just have to get over.