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“High, low, everywhere we go, on Chitty Chitty we depend.  Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang our fine four fendered friend”….the merry little family sings as they head off to the beach for the day.

As a child I escaped into the fantasy of that movie.  I loved Truly.  I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world in her fancy white dress, singing in her garden with the white swing contrasting the green grass.  She was everything I longed to be when I grew up.

Of course, I really longed for the childhood enjoyed by Jeremy and Jemima.  I could not imagine being put to bed and sung to.  I couldn’t fathom hearing a kindly, “Come along now children,” when I typically heard a grouchy, “Hurry up!  Get your a$$ in gear!”  For all of my dad’s gruffness though, he shared one thing in common with Caractacus Potts.  They both valued the place of a mother in a child’s life.

My own mother was neither beautiful nor gentle.  She did not wear white dresses or sing.  She was cruel, very cruel.  She didn’t feed us.  She didn’t clean house or do laundry.  She didn’t help with homework.  She never showed up anywhere on time.  Our teachers always had to sit with us and wait after everyone else had gone home for the day, including the other teachers, because Mom got to talking on the phone and forgot she had children.  She did other things, too, sick things.  However, that didn’t matter as far as my dad was concerned when it came to respecting her as our mother.

When Mom was dying she did try to make amends with my brother.  He would have none of it though.  A lifetime of her selfish neglect (and she treated him well) soured him on anything she might say in her dying days just to ease her own conscious.  My dad was disgusted and in a rare moment of confrontation with my brother told him, “By God, Son, you can’t talk to her like that!  No matter what, she is your mother!”  He said the word “mother” as though there was a certain prestige attached to it.

In my beloved movie the little troupe is returning home, and the children have blissfully fallen asleep in the backseat.  Truly kindly says, “You are more than just a father to those two children.”  Caractacus glances back at the sleeping children and responds tenderly, “What they really need is a mother.”

Why do some fathers no longer have that understanding?  What happens in a man’s mind that can allow him to devalue the mother of his own children?

I have spent the last year immersed in a custody battle with a man who was never actively involved in his children’s care.  When he lived with us he would often sit, watching cartoons, and tell the kids that he could do anything that mom does.  He would arrogantly threaten to home-school them and to bake cookies, and the kids would protest because they knew he could barely read and didn’t know how to turn on an oven.  He bragged to me that he could easily take over my job as a mother, but I could never do his work.

I’ve been following the horrific plights of two mothers who have lost their very young daughters.  One was denied visitation by her ex-husband for nine full months.  Her four year old daughter finally got to see her for Mother’s Day.  The mother kept the little girl longer than she was supposed to before returning her, and the father had her arrested for kidnapping.  She was convicted and may likely go to prison.  The other mother simply didn’t recognize that her abuser was filing for divorce and requesting custody.  She was at home fixing his dinner in an attempt to appease his recent aggression while he was plotting and filing the papers that would forever alter hers and her daughters’ lives.  Now, when she returns her preschool aged daughters to their father and they cry for their mama, he coldly drags them into his house and away from the person they long for.  [You can follow her at http://www.facebook.com/4AutumnIvy; please pray for her situation.  They go to court tomorrow at 2 p.m.)

I cannot fathom the disconnect that must happen in a human brain and heart that will justify denying a small child its mother.  I cannot fathom dragging a crying child away from the person who birthed it, nurtured it, and cared for it every day all day until the day he decided to use that child as a weapon.

Someone needs to tell these men, “What they really need is a mother.”