Steve Monforto, a Phillies fan who’d been trying his entire life to catch a baseball in the stands, finally managed to snag one during Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Nationals. Delirious with joy, he handed the treasure to his 3-year-old daughter Cecilia, who promptly threw it towards the field. Did Dad reprimand her for unceremoniously tossing his ball? Freak out, or reveal a smidgeon of disappointment? Nope—this stellar parent immediately hugged his girl, shielding her from the frightening roar that erupted from the crowd.
For his sterling performance, Monforto and family were presented with all kinds of Phillies memorabilia, including a ball encased in glass. They spent the week on the talk show circuit.
Why did this become a major news story? I suspect it’s because we’re all sick of the hatred and vitriol in the news lately, so a slice of parental love and sacrifice came as relief, a welcome reminder of human kindness. It was reported as a story that every parent could relate to—and I’m sure that’s true. But I have to be honest: if it was me who’d caught that ball, and my kid threw it back, I would not be applauded, invited onto the Today show and showered with baseball gifts. No, the sad truth is, I would have been sent directly to Social Services without passing Go, because my gut reaction would have been to yell at the kid. I’m not saying I would have killed or even hit her, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve yelled. With the camera on us. With all of America, where Blame Mommy is a sport almost as popular as baseball, watching me. Even if I did manage to restrain myself, I’m fairly certain the incident would’ve become a source of resentment, feeding my sense of mother-victimhood for the duration.
I’m not proud of this. But am I really the only parent in America who would’ve felt this way?
And now for some real rage! Leydi Mendoza, a 22-year-old specialist in the New Jersey National Guard, was granted daily visitation and weekly sleepovers with her two-year-old daughter, after months of fighting with her former companion, the child’s father. Daniel Llares, who cared for their daughter while Mendoza spent ten months in Iraq, decided it would be “too confusing” for baby Elizabeth to spend time with her mother. This despite a written plan worked out with military officials for both parents to share custody of Elizabeth upon Mendoza’s return. Llares thought it would be disruptive for their daughter to spend extended time with “a mother she doesn’t really know or recognize that well.”
This is the kind of story that makes my blood boil. I’ll believe Llares’s concern is for the kid when pigs fly. This is just old recycled bullshit disguised as parenting theory, aimed at punishing any mother who dares leave her child to do something, anything, else.
Unsurprisingly, this situation is becoming more and more common with the increasing number of women in combat overseas. The Pentagon doesn’t keep statistics on custody disputes, but military family counselors report at least five situations like Mendoza’s in which a mother returns from fighting for her country only to have to fight for her child. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act protects service men and women from losing jobs or homes, but not access to their kids. After all, it’s wasn’t a situation much encountered when it was men coming home–most mothers welcomed Daddy’s presence after periods of single mothering. Now that the gender’s reversed, it’s a whole new ball game. The law, always late to catch up, is trying, with legislation pending in a few states.
“We are asking these women to sacrifice for their country, and we need them,” said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who advocates for female service members. “But there’s not enough being done to help support them and their families when they get home.” How unusual. When you consider the way mothers are treated in family court—despite popular perception, women face major disadvantages when it comes to child custody—on top of the shameless history of how veterans get treated in this country, I fear for these mothers and their children.
Says Llares’ lawyer, Amy Lefkowitz, “He’s very grateful for her service to our country. He just wants to do what’s in the best interest of their daughter.”
Yeah. Sure. Meanwhile, Mendoza, previously amenable to sharing child custody, plans to press for full custody of her daughter.