After a long and dirty custody battle, the judge turned to six-year-old Gracie to see who she wanted to live with. Gracie immediately raised her finger and pointed at someone, but it was not her mom or dad.
No kid should witness their parents fighting all the time, but it happens more often than anyone would like, and Gracie had to hear her mother and father screaming almost every night. That’s why she hated returning home at the end of the day or on weekends. And it only got worse when her parents finally decided to give up on their marriage.
“I want a divorce!” Charlotte yelled on their last fight.
“ME TOO!” Noah responded.
Gracie had learned about that word at school because some of her private school friends have divorced parents. However, she wasn’t sure of everything it implied, which worried her. She heard a big slam on the front door, and her dad’s car left their driveway quickly. He never returned to their big house.
Gracie raised her finger and pointed at someone in the courtroom.
She saw him some days, and her mother was always angry about that.
“That man is an idiot,” Charlotte would mutter under her breath, but Gracie always heard her.
Her father was not much fun either.
“That woman is insufferable,” her father would say when Gracie had time with him, and she hated that too.
Both of them also asked Gracie to snitch on them.
“You can tell me if your father is ever bad, Gracie. We’ll use that against him in court. You are staying with me, alright?” Charlotte asked her seriously before handing her over to her father one day.
Later that night, Noah told her something similar.
“Gracie, tell me if your mother doesn’t treat you right. I’m fighting to keep you, sweetie,” her father encouraged, but Gracie had nothing to say to either of them.
She didn’t understand much about the whole process, but she somehow knew this wasn’t really about her. It was about winning. Her father wanted to win over her mother and vice versa.
“Therefore, your honor, my client should have primary custody of young Gracie, as she’s been a more present figure in her life,” Charlotte’s lawyer, Mr. Rothstein, said after a long speech detailing things Noah had not done for their daughter.
Afterward, Noah’s lawyer, Mr. Schmidt, addressed the court and described how Charlotte was a neglectful mother who only cared about her career and didn’t even comply with the 12 weeks of maternal leave she was allowed to take.
“Your honor, unlike most mothers, my client’s wife didn’t want to spend more time with her child. My client made more than enough money for her to be a stay-at-home mother, but she refused,” Mr. Schmidt argued.
“That’s an archaic and old-fashioned argument!” Charlotte yelled, although her lawyer tried to calm her down.
“It’s the truth! You didn’t want to be a mother! I told you to quit your job!” Noah shouted, also ignoring his attorney.
“Why should I quit? I made more money!” Charlotte countered.
“That’s not true! I had way more benefits! My job was more important to our city!” Noah added angrily.
“Why? Why is a man’s job more important? I deserved to have my career too! You promised having kids wouldn’t change that!” Charlotte screamed, tears in her eyes.
“If that’s so, why are you fighting so hard for custody? You have no time for her anyway!” Noah argued.
“You don’t want to spend more time with her! I’m her mother! She should be with her mother!” Charlotte argued back, and finally, they heard the loud, sharp clang of the gavel.
“That’s enough,” Judge Miller said, frustrated. “You two sit down and let your lawyers speak for you. That’s why you paid them. Now, it seems that we might not reach an amicable solution. Unless… could Gracie come closer?”
Gracie’s eyes widened. She had been in the back of the court watching everything and had not expected to be called at all. But both her parents waved for her to approach the judge, so she stood and walked to the front.
“Gracie, do you know what’s going on here?” Judge Miller asked the girl sweetly.
“You are divorcing my parents,” the girl nodded.
“Yes, they are getting divorced, but we are trying to decide where you should stay,” Judge Miller cleared up. “Can you point out who you want to live with?”
Gracie had no idea she would have a choice. She turned and looked at her mother, who smiled widely and wiped her tears. She moved her head to her father, who also grinned.
Over the past few weeks, they had both been nicer to her than ever before. They wanted to take her to the zoo and the movies. They promised lavish vacations and expensive gifts. Her father had already bought her a motorized toy BMW, while her mother showed her the tickets to Disney World, where they would get to meet all the princesses.
Gracie raised her finger and pointed at someone in the courtroom. The one person she truly wanted to live with. And it wasn’t Mom or Dad.
Lucinda detailed everything she did that Noah and Charlotte didn’t, but it wasn’t for the judge’s sake.
“I want to be with my nana,” the six-year-old announced, much to the shock of everyone in the courtroom.
“OK,” the judge nodded. “Ma’am, could you come closer, please?”
The older woman rose and stood next to Gracie in front of the judge in the big courtroom. Gracie took her hand tightly.
“Hello, your honor. I’m Lucinda Richards, Noah’s mother,” she said, smiling down at her granddaughter.
Six years ago…
Charlotte placed her newborn daughter in her crib and went to the kitchen, where Lucinda cleaned some baby bottles.
“I want to return to work. When we decided to get pregnant, Noah agreed that I could go back to work as soon as possible. I don’t want to give up my career just because I’m a mother now,” Charlotte said, sitting on a kitchen barstool.
“Alright, but what are you going to do?” Lucinda wondered, turning around and showing concern.
“I guess we hire a full-time nanny. Maybe she could live with us. We certainly have the money and the room. I’m already going crazy thinking about being at home four more weeks until my maternity leave is over,” Charlotte said, running her hands through her hair.
“But a child needs her mother for as long as possible. Charlotte, I’m afraid your life needs to change,” Lucinda added slowly.
“That’s not fair. No one expects Noah’s life to change. Your son went back to work two days after Gracie was born. No one puts these expectations on men,” she shook her head.
“I know. I know. But you can ask him because I did scold him for putting work first,” Lucinda sighed. “But you two don’t seem to have the right priorities in place. Gracie needs you – both – to raise her, not some stranger.”
“With my job, Gracie will have everything all parents dream of giving their children. She’ll want for nothing. Private school, college, opportunities, and more! I think that’s good parenting. We’ll be there for her once our careers settle a little. I just need help right now,” Charlotte countered.
“Fine, Charlotte. But I think Gracie should be with her family. So, instead of hiring a nanny, how about I do it? I’ll watch her while you both work and stuff,” Lucinda offered.
“Oh really? God, Lucinda, thank you so much! That would be amazing!” Charlotte smiled in relief. “Do you want to move in?”
“Oh no, you or Noah can bring her to my house every day and pick her up later,” Lucinda shook her head.
“That sounds fair. We’ll pay you, of course,” she offered.
“No, don’t be silly. She’s my granddaughter,” the old woman refused.
Noah thought it was a fantastic idea. “I actually thought about it but didn’t want to impose, Mom.”
“A child is a blessing, not an imposition. I’m happy to do it,” Lucinda assured them, and a few weeks later, Charlotte went back to work, so they would drop Gracie off in the mornings and pick her up later.
The arrangement worked perfectly for a few months, but soon, Charlotte got busier and busier. Noah got another promotion and had to travel.
Gracie started sleeping at Lucinda’s house several days a week. At some point, Gracie was at her grandmother’s house from Monday morning to Friday night, and only then would they pick her up for the weekend.
Noah and Charlotte would buy her toys and never said no. They were at home but still more concerned about other things than their child. When Gracie started preschool, her parents’ marriage deteriorated. They started fighting over other people – things Gracie didn’t understand well.
Eventually, she had to beg her grandmother to stay at her house. The old woman was the only one who taught Gracie about life, good and bad, how to behave, be polite, etc. Her parents were only good for toys, money, and a little bit of attention.
When the judge asked Gracie what she wanted, there was only one correct answer.
“Mrs. Richards, are you willing and able to care for your grandchild?” the judge asked.
But everything was different. They wanted to reconcile.
“Yes, your honor. I’ve been doing it for six years already,” Lucinda responded. “Gladly, of course. I love her more than life itself.”
“Can you tell me more? I think two people here need to hear this,” Judge Miller said, pointedly staring at Noah and Charlotte.
“You’re right,” Lucinda said, turning to her son and daughter-in-law. She went into heavy and harsh detail about raising her granddaughter.
The old woman talked about Gracie’s chicken pox and how she had to cure her. Alone.
When Gracie acted out in school, Lucinda had to teach her right from wrong.
Gracie had nightmares when her parents started fighting, and she could only sleep well at her grandmother’s house.
Lucinda detailed everything she did that Noah and Charlotte didn’t, but it wasn’t for the judge’s sake. It was for them. Noah and Charlotte had been on their feet in outrage since they started screaming in court, but they sunk to their chairs as the older woman kept speaking.
Finally, Gracie’s nana stopped, and the judge looked at Noah. “Mr. Richards, how many diapers did you change while Gracie needed them?”
Noah couldn’t answer, but the silence was enough.
“Mrs. Richards,” Judge Millet turned to Charlotte, who had adopted her husband’s last name. “Do you know any of Gracie’s teachers at school?”
“No,” she muttered, looking down.
“Then, I’ve made my decision. Mrs. Lucinda Richards will have full custody of Gracie with supervised visitation from her parents equally,” Judge Miller declared, and no one objected. The judge spoke some more and wanted to proceed with the divorce matter.
However, both lawyers said it was better to continue at a later time. The judge agreed.
“Do we get to go home, Nana?” Gracie asked after everyone had stood.
“Yes, sweetie,” Lucinda nodded, and they left.
Charlotte quietly cried in a corner, and Noah spoke fiercely to his attorney. But the old woman and the little girl left.
To Lucinda’s surprise, Charlotte called later that day, and Noah did as well. They both wanted to schedule visitation. She expected them to fight over who got to do it first. However, they didn’t. They each took turns and acted civilly with each other.
Soon, Lucinda had them both over for dinner, and they saw how happy Gracie was with their grandmother.
“Gracie is better off with you,” Charlotte said quietly when she and Noah were leaving.
“Dear, no. She’s better off because your fighting has stopped. Can’t you see that?” Lucinda revealed.
Noah looked at Charlotte in hope and smiled. She grinned in return too. “Can we come more often?” he wondered.
“Yes, of course,” Lucinda nodded.
They had a special dinner on Friday nights but also visited Gracie after work every day – sometimes together, sometimes apart. Eventually, they took her to the beach without Lucinda, and it was one of the best days of Gracie’s life.
That day changed everything. Noah and Charlotte realized that all their troubles and arguments were inconsequential. They were always so concerned with one-upping each other. But everything was different. They wanted to reconcile.
They stopped the divorce proceedings entirely and cut back their hours at work to spend more time with Gracie. Months after that crazy day in court, Gracie moved back with her parents. They were all in therapy and trying to build a better and strong family together.
Once they settled, Noah and Charlotte renewed their vows and got pregnant shortly after. Gracie loved being a big sister. Lucinda still helped them occasionally, mainly because she wanted to be part of her new grandchild’s life too, but she was no longer the kids’ primary caregiver.
Her son and daughter-in-law were doing the work and actually raising their children, as it always should’ve been.
What can we learn from this story?
You don’t have to give up a career to raise kids, but you should strive for a fair balance.
Children know that affection and attention are more important than toys and money.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.