My wife's best friend's sister lives a few hours from us. The sister is divorced. There are three kids from the marriage and the ex-husband lives nearby and has a regular visitation. My wife's friend calls up, distraught. Her sister is afraid her ex-husband is planning to violate the terms of visitation. I am only slightly acquainted with the divorced couple.
Normally, I don't do drama. If my wife's girlfriends call with a crisis, the most I will do is tell my wife they called. I've even asked people to call back and leave all the gory details on the answering machine so I don't have to be the messenger.
But I see a chance to make a difference here. My wife's friend is also my friend and this story has all the classic signs of a father being unfairly accused. I tell my wife's friend (truthfully) that my wife is not around but can I help? She is happy to begin spilling all the details. The three boys spent most of the summer with their father and are now back home with their mother for the school year. The youngest of the boys (9) is sad at the idea of going back to just seeing his dad every other weekend and is asking to stay with him more than that.
At this point, my wife's friend feels it is necessary to advise me of her ex-brother-in-law's failings as a father. When the boys were first born, he moved to his mother's house and left his wife alone to keep the house and care for the children. It doesn't sound like there was any infidelity involved. It sounds more like an all too common, ill-suited couple who found out quickly they didn't have what it takes to face the challenges of marriage and parenthood. In other words, neither of these people gets any awards but neither can either of them be held fully to blame for the mess they have made of things. All the traditional accusations are being flung. The ex-wife is afraid her ex-husband is planning to kidnap the boy. We all know such an accusation can only lead to bad things for the father and no repercussions for the mother.
My wife's friend is planning to travel the several hours to be at her sister's side and wants my wife to come along for moral support. (My wife's friend is a recovering alcoholic with only a few days of sobriety under her belt. Not everyone will see it this way but my wife and I do like this person and don't want to tell her "not my problem." Anyway, if she weren't in such a fragile condition, I would never have heard of this whole soap opera.)
I think I am in a unique and possibly advantageous situation. My wife is potentially part of a gang of banshees descending on an unsuspecting fellow who had the audacity to bond with his son over summer vacation. I have one tiny fingertip of influence in the situation and I plan use it shrewdly with the hope that this shitstorm doesn't have to end with the misery the current circumstances seem to dictate.
My wife and I are on the same page: she is going along to stand by her friend, not to get involved in another family's issues. To the extent that my wife's presence involves us in the situation, my wife's friend seems to be at least partially receptive to my perspective on the conflict. My own expectations are not lofty. If I can get my wife's friend to sit down with her sister's ex and get his side of the conflict, I will call that a small victory in a thick forest of injustice. She will have to put aside her natural desire to show solidarity with her sister but I think she loves her nephews enough to look for a peaceful resolution.
I will post more as it develops but it might be next week before I have more to add. Any insights are appreciated.