Friday, October 30, 2015


Zoe, your lunchbox is ready for you!
Tomorrow Zoe will make the long journey from Stockholm, via Copenhagen to New York to be with me until Christmas. Excitement doesn't even begin to cover my happy feelings but mixed in with that is also worry. I'm terrified that last minute he will change his mind and tell me I can't have her here anyway. I'm worried sick that if I say something wrong, do something he doesn't like, he will refuse me to see her, even if I come to Stockholm. Since our disagreement about her future, he has used my time with Zoe as a sanction against me (last time I requested flexibility, he instead swiftly took away three weeks of our already agreed time she would have with me) so now I am scared every single minute I don't have her. My heart won't settle until I have her in my arms. When I talked to her Wednesday, she said she couldn't wait to hug me tight and me packing her lunchbox every day. Those are the priorities of a 5 year old. 

At least this time I got a notarized letter; I'll be right at the airport and she is traveling with my brother whom I trust above all. Tomorrow evening, if all goes well, I'll be the happiest mom ever.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where are you local?

A comment I have recently stumbled upon in my general social media news feed is the point about how people shouldn't ask "where are you from?" but "where are you local?" It is of course relevant to not just to me (I usually add, "but I haven't lived in Denmark for nearly 15 years" to my answer to provide some context), but particularly to Zoe. She struggles with the questions that she gets about where she is from ("Mommy, where am I from?"), if she is in fact Danish (Danes are notorious for asking this if they detect a slight accent) and where she lives ("but mommy, I only live in Stockholm because Daddy won't let me live with you all the time"). I try to provide her with preemptive answers and explain that she is unique and that she can say she is Danish because her mom is.  But one place where we are both local, is in New York.

I was catching the subway to work rather late in the morning because I had had two phone meetings with people in Sweden earlier when I happened to walk into the subway car where a friend/colleague was sitting. We said hello and chatted, agreeing to catch up properly over coffee next week. As I walked out, I casually mentioned that this was strange, it happened to me all the time in New York but never in Copenhagen or Stockholm. I have bumped into friends here numerous times, from the actress sisters who live over on the lower east side to Zoe's friend's mom when we went to the upper east side for music class this summer. I even met a student's roommate on the subway without knowing him at the time, but he was reading the book that my student had written so I walked up and asked how he knew the author. I really enjoy that it is possible to casually meet people. New York is a very small world. And I'm local here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

New York miracle

Zoe is coming over to stay with me in two weeks from today. After negotiations, more negotiations and me giving in, her dad finally agreed to let her come over here for the two months when I have her. I had looked into going back, but now it seemed I could stay here doing my job. At first I didn't want to believe it, but the next day I could not stop smiling. I could eat again, laugh again. The most real thing came when I talked to her yesterday and she said, overly excited: "Mommy, do you know, do you know? I'm coming over to be with you!" We virtually hugged and she said she couldn't wait until I would put her to bed by lying next to her, rubbing her back.

I slowly started planning, signing her up for drama class (the same as this summer) and a new ballet class which is much closer to where we live and cheaper. I looked at the school program and discovered what I had not considered: The after school program is full. I have to pick up Zoe myself 2:40 pm ever single day. While having a full time job. And then I saw it as a blessing. I'm going to spend every single afternoon with my daughter, taking her to playgrounds, baking bread, going to museums (on the free days) and having fun. We are going to sing and dance and chat and laugh and just be her and me. I'll be at work at 8:30 and I'll just have to cram in as much as I can and work a couple of hours again when she is asleep. And I can't wait.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Game over

My phone rang at 2 am in the morning New York time. It was Zoe. I answered happily but still partly asleep. "Mommy, do you know where my baking set is?", she asked as this was the most important thing in her life right there and then. I explained that we had left it at grandma's place and that we would get it next time were were there. "I want to bake a pumpkin cake", she continued and I promised that we would do that as soon as we were reunited. It was early Saturday morning in Stockholm and I realized that she had woken up by herself and decided to call me from her own phone. Nobody else in her house were awake. We chatted for a bit more and I told her that she could call me any time before we said goodbye. I fell back asleep with the phone still in my hand.

It was such a relief to see that she could finally call me on her own and that she did it. A few days later when she called to say goodnight and get a story (or two) she cried again though. "Mommy", was all she could say. She wore her bracelet, the one where I have the other heart part, which I was also wearing. I told her that no matter what I would convince her dad that she had to come over here. And if he still wouldn't let her, I would come back to Stockholm for two months.

On the train home from half a weekend in New Jersey, visiting a friend who had offered to cheer me up and distract me with red wine and good food, I mentally started going through the things I would have to do if she would not be allowed to travel here. Zoe's dad was still refusing me to take her here, saying we didn't have an agreement but since I thought we did have an agreement, I did not know what to do other than keep asking him. After making this mental list of things I would have to do if I had to go back to see Zoe for two months (quite my job here, losing most of my income for two months, losing my deposit on my apartment because I'm leaving with less than a month's notice, kick out my own renters in Stockholm, cancelling my committee meeting in December etc), I realized that this is not an option. I have to get her here. My head started spinning. What more could I offer him? Money? More time with Zoe when we get back? Because the game is over. I can't stay here for much longer. If I can't have Zoe here, there is no way I can be in the US. And circumstances seem to be dictating my next cross-Atlantic move.

After I had read two stories for Zoe, we said goodnight. She told me it was just the girlfriend that evening, her dad was at a cafe (probably out for work dinner) but that is was okay. After all, I'm glad they get along. She is a good friend for Zoe and that's all that matters.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One way back to Stockholm

I'm livid. Nothing less. There is nowhere hiding it and I'm not going to keep quiet or be subtle anymore.

There are two things you have to know to understand this: Firstly, when sharing custody of a child, one parent can deny the other one taking the child outside the country of residency. Mostly this is due to fear of kidnapping but there doesn't need to be a stated reason, if one parent says no, you should not do this, it can lead to custody taken away. Secondly, when sharing custody and there is no written explicit visitation agreement, one parent can limit or deny the other parent visitation (i.e. being with) the child. Just by saying no. The other parent then has to go through the court to get a settled visitation schedule.
After Zoe's dad's and my negotiations about her future residence and schooling broke down (partly because it was all demands and threats from his side, nothing constructive, nothing that would give me an option for seeing her even close to 50%, him turning down any of my counter suggestions) he refused to let her leave Sweden. Let me repeat this: leave *Sweden*. Flybaby, who has spent countless hours flying from one country to another, who is an American and Danish citizen, who has the vast majority of extended family in Denmark and her mom in New York. Basically, he told me, unless I give in to her staying (forever) in Sweden, he would not let me take her outside Sweden from now on. About a week ago I then flew to Sweden to see her (I had been working towards deadlines 12 hours/day until then); last minute he hesitantly agreed that I could take her to Denmark if I bought a return ticket for her as evidence she was coming back. But even after this week, I am still due to see her for two and a half months this fall, as we are still sharing her time between us. But he is ignoring my requests to send her over to New York to spend time with me here (our face-to-face communication broke down long time ago and we are now emailing and talking through lawyers). Zoe keeps asking when she can come over and I keep saying, I don't know but if we both ask him, he might see the sensible in that a 5 YEAR OLD GIRL SPENDS EXTENDED TIME WITH HER MOM.

This morning, after a week in Copenhagen, I put Zoe on a plane as an unaccompanied minor back to Stockholm and got on a plane back to New York myself. A plane I have begged her dad to let me buy her a ticket for as well, for months so she could fly back with me. I was in the air when I discovered the entry in our still shared calendar. I gasped so loudly that two other passengers turned towards me: He had bought tickets for him, Zoe and the girlfriend to go on holiday to Greece in two weeks time. Without consulting me. On dates spilling into what we long time ago had talked about being my dates. So after refusing me to take her outside Sweden, he now makes his own plans to do this.

I'm so frustrated and angry, I can hardly think. Zoe and I cried our eyes out this morning when we said goodbye at the gate, me hugging her, she telling me that she would tell her dad right away that she wanted to go visit me in New York. Now all I can think about is staying on-board, taking the plane back to Copenhagen, going to Stockholm and just forget about New York. I mean, what does it mean anyway? A dream job, a boyfriend, the penthouse in a high-rise in Brooklyn, close local friends? It all means nothing compared to my little girl. Nothing.

I was going to give her the life I always wanted, living in New York and having all the opportunities of dance, acting classes that I never had the opportunity to take (and believe me, she is talented, her teachers are raving about her), good education, being in the middle of everything. Instead I'm going to give her (and me) the life I never ever wanted, living in a country I dislike and find utterly annoying, in a job I literally hate.

Monday, October 5, 2015


At the aquarium yesterday

Zoe fell asleep with her head on my stomach, so even though I was still fully dressed and had my contacts in, I stayed there in our bed for another 15 minutes, just enjoying her warmth and her breathing. She had been slightly restless after spending most of the day at my aunt's place (while I went to give a talk at my old university) and getting back just in time for a game, story time and bed. While we were lying in bed she started talking about family and I told her how I lived with my mom growing up and went to visit my father on the countryside during the weekends. We would take a walk each evening saying good night to the cows and look at the stars. "What did your father do?" she asked and I told her he was a school teacher but before that he was a television repair man. "He fixed your television if it was broken?", she asked and I explained that for most of my childhood we had at least four televisions, three tape recorders and two VCRs in the house at the same time, all in different working conditions. But he made sure there was always at least one working television where I could watch Muppet Show. Just two days before I had nostalgically introduced Zoe to the Muppet Show, which she had thoroughly enjoyed and watched with me. I also told her that my father taught me a lot of stuff about stars and planet. "Did your dad know a lot?", she responded and I said he did. "My mom knew a lot of things and my dad knew a lot of other things, that's the good thing about having two parents". Then she told me again what she has told me 100 times. "I wish I just lived with you, Mommy". I agreed but also said that she would always have both her parents and live some time with each of us.

Tomorrow is our last day together in a while. I'm planning to make pancakes for breakfast, take Zoe to the national museum and possibly the movies to see Inside Out (if she wants). We are going to have sushi for dinner with my mom and then pack up our suitcases. Wednesday, Zoe is going back to Stockholm and I'm going back to New York. My heart is going to break into two pieces, one for Zoe to keep and one for me to hold on to until I see her again.