Today marks one year since my biological father passed suddenly. I’m not sure what to think or feel, let alone write here. But I wanted to acknowledge the uncertainty and make peace with it for today, so here I am, freewriting to help me process what’s going on inside.

We weren’t close when he died. We hadn’t talked in 11 or 12 years, and we had also spent 7 or 8 years before that without speaking. That means he missed more than half my life. Do I have regrets about that? Sure, I do. I’m human, afterall. I have a lot of questions about his life without me and my brother in it. I have to live with the fact that I’ll probably never know what he was like, except for a few tweets I saw and what is public on his Facebook page, and maybe a few questions I can ask of people who did know him at the end of his life (if I can ever bring myself to ask). We never had an adult relationship. He never met my son, and I don’t think he knew he was a grandfather. All I have are my childhood and adolescent memories, many of which aren’t good or comforting. Should I cling to the ones that make me smile, ignoring the painful ones? Is that doing myself a disservice, or is that being kind to myself? What will I share with Jax some day?

Those are some of the thoughts that run through my head today and occasionally at other times. I don’t know what to do with the questions, the emotions that range from sadness to anger to guilt, or any of it.

How do you forgive someone who is dead? I tell myself that he was mentally ill and also in physical pain, and my empathy for those who struggle helps alleviate some of my pain about our relationship. I tell myself that because he wasn’t in my life, I was able to be closer to my stepfather, who has been a strong, positive influence for 30 of my 35 years. I remind myself that life would have been very different for me, my brother, and my mom had she not divorced him when I was little. I think about what I know about his relationship with his third child, my half-brother, whom I first met at the funeral, and I take comfort in thinking that my dad learned from his mistakes with me and my brother and was a better father to his third child. I tell myself that I have learned from those mistakes, too, and that I am a better parent as a result.

I guess the best thing to do today is allow myself to grieve for the relationship I didn’t have with my dad after the age of 15. And breathe.

 

Nothing makes me happier than Jackson’s recent curiosity about the alphabet and how to spell ALL THE WORDS. Actually, that isn’t true. Last night, he surprised me by getting very angry over a hyphen. It was the cutest thing. Look for me on Vine (as jamesandjax) or scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to see 6 adorable seconds of Jax getting upset over it (he doesn’t want letters to move, whatever that means). He takes his punctuation very seriously–as we all should!

We often play a “game” (it’s really more of an educational app) on the iPad called Endless ABCs while I make dinner after work. It is the greatest toddler app I’ve downloaded yet, and if you have a toddler and an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend you check out this fun app. The app takes Jax through each letter of the alphabet with adorable fuzzy monsters who act out the word being spelled, after Jax drags the letters onto the outline of the word. Not only do the letters make the sound when you touch them, the narrator also defines the word once it’s been spelled out. According to the app (although we have yet to experience this), the words also change with increased use.

So last night I was making a fancy dinner of fish and chips while Jax played with the app, and when he got to the letter X and the inevitable x-ray, he asked me to come help him. He was confused by the hyphen in the word, having never seen a hyphen before. So I explained to him some of what I know about hyphens–which is a lot, given my day job as an editor. I’m not a huge fan of hyphens and usually eliminate them unless they are absolutely necessary as determined by Webster’s.

Yet I tried to be fair and unbiased as I explained appropriate hyphenation to my 3 year old. (<— Look, ma! No hyphens!)

Apparently Jax isn’t a fan, either. When he didn’t appreciate my explanation of why the hyphen is necessary, as deemed by both Webster’s and Endless ABCs, in the word x-ray, he angrily yelled that he didn’t want to play Endless ABCs anymore. Then he pressed the Home button on the iPad and began sulking in that typical toddler way.

He hasn’t gone back to the app yet. I think he’s going to need some time to heal. I’m hoping that the next time he opens it, we’ll have a different–unhyhpenated–X word! Like xlophone or xenon!

 

What comes to mind when you hear the word “tantrum?” Perhaps the phrase “Terrible Twos?” Or maybe you are so far removed from toddler tantrums that you chuckle and conjur up a memory of a time when your little one threw a fit over something ridiculous. If that’s the case, don’t stop reading—I need you here!

Shortly after Jax turned 3—and I do mean shortly, as in that very same week—the tantrums kicked off like a fireworks display. Actually, each tantrum is more like a fireworks grand finale!

My happy little boy now raises his voice at me and tells me daily how I displease him. Sometimes he says this outright, as in “Mom, I am SO mad at you!” Other times, he chooses to have a complete meltdown in a public place.

Here are some of the moments that produced these meltdowns:

  • I cut his grapes in half. He cried and yelled at me and refused to eat them.
  • I told him he couldn’t sleep naked because he might pee in his bed. His response? “I want to pee my bed, mom,” shouted at the top of his lungs, oh maybe 25 times.
  • I turned left at a green light. He saw the opposing traffic’s red light, thought it was my red light, and yelled at me for not stopping. He got upset until I drove past our house and found a red light to stop at before returning home.
  • I cut his grilled cheese into triangles instead of squares. After he scolded me for this, eventually he ate the sandwich because I distracted him with his new favorite show, Special Agent OSO. Whew!
  • He had to pee during a playdate at Barnes & Noble. I took him. He refused to pee there. He had his worst tantrum yet. I calmed him—eventually, out in my car (after carrying him through the store as he smacked my face repeatedly). We went back in to try again because he promised to go potty like a big boy.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat again, this time with a lot of pee all over the place.

I think you get the gist. I have morphed from the fun mom who takes her well-behaved kid everywhere (eg, playdates, amusement parks, you name it) to a mother who is so anxious that every little thing she does will spark the next hour-long meltdown that she walks on eggshells.

I don’t want to be that mom. I want to be the mom I was when he was 2.

My usual method (which I explained in this post) of sharing a time-out with him in his bedroom works only when we are in our house when the tantrum occurs, and when we have a good 20 to 30 minutes to calm down. I need something that will quickly end the tantrum when we are out in public.

Is there such a method, or am I delusional? Is this just another phase of childhood that I have to ride out until it becomes a memory that I chuckle over in a few years?

Should I be reading a book about gentle discipline? Or should I just stock up on wine and refuse to leave my house for the next year or two?

I get why he is having tantrums, I do. And I feel bad for him. But I also feel bad for me, because being on the receiving end of this behavior is possibly the most frustrating thing in the entire universe.

Help!

photo by: · skëne ·

Disappointment, like shit, happens. None of us are strangers to it, of course. Can you imagine a life of wishes always being fulfilled? Sounds totally awesome, but also completely unrealistic—wait, what’s a stronger word for unrealistic?

When I got the email this week from BlogHer’s Life Well Lived, selecting me to respond to the question “How do you deal with disappointment, and what lessons do you have to share from those experiences,” I didn’t have to dig deep for my answer to at least the first half of the question.

It seems disappointment does not travel alone. It is often accompanied by sadness or anger, or any combination of many different emotions. In my experience, the worst companion to disappointment is sadness and the best is anger. Sadness combined with disappointment results in my closing myself off—from the world, from the things I enjoy, from things and people that would help me get over my disappointment. If I can’t rile up some anger or a plan for the future, if I am saddened by the disappointment, I admit to retreating into books, tv shows, bubble baths, and pajamas. However, anger combined with disappointment motivates me. It is easier to plan for or make changes—whether life-altering or minor—when I am angry.

So when I am disappointed, I try to feel angry if at all possible, because it’s a defense against allowing myself to be hurt in the same way again. Doesn’t always work, but at least the promise of protecting myself feels like a step in the right direction.

I don’t feel I have any amazing tada! lessons to share with you from the disappointments I’ve felt. I’m a work in progress, just like you. Well, and frankly my memory really sucks. Who wants to sit in front of the computer racking their brain to recall past disappointments in search for a pearl of wisdom that resulted?! Not this girl. I’d rather just move along.

But wait! Maybe I do have some advice—don’t let your hope run wild. Don’t make too many plans. But if you must, be sure to share those plans with anyone else involved. Get on the same page. Talk about the plans. A lot. But without investing too much hope in them.

That’s some shitty advice, though, isn’t it? It’s like I’m saying to never be hopeful about anything in order to avoid disappointment.  What a downer.

Hmm, I guess that’s actually what I’m saying. Yikes.

But what else I’m saying is that I’d rather have hope—even with disappointment—than no hope, no plans, no goals, no dreams. I’d rather have the experience with the disappointing outcome than not have had the experience at all.

This quote from Henry David Thoreau makes me feel a little better:

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

Are you still following?

So, what lessons have YOU learned or advice do you have about being disappointed? Share here or join the conversation over at BlogHer, where you can also enter the Life Well Lived sweepstakes!

 

Today started out great, as I woke up in a good mood and guzzled my first cup of coffee in 5 days (thanks to finally healing from the dreaded nasty stomach virus that plagued my house). Then things quickly took a turn downhill. But guess what? With a bottle of water, some good music on my iPod, and the guest post below from my friend, Yuz, from Not Just About Wee, things are looking up again.

Please read what Yuz graciously shares with us about forgiveness, and give her a big heartfelt welcome to James & Jax:

I really struggle with the notion of forgiveness. I cling on to my anger & resentment like toddlers do with their beloved comfort toy. I take my anger & resentment with me everywhere I go & would never ever consider parting with it, as it’s been a type of protective shield of not allowing anymore pain in, as well as repelling the potential for hurt. The negativity I harbour has also become the flint that ignites all my excuses to forgive whomever or whatever. And so the cycle continues & I go nowhere fast.

I understand the notion of forgiveness & can see how others can forgive, but somehow I’m still unable to apply this to my own life. I know that  being angry & holding a grudge helps shield me from future hurt, but it also chips away at my overall happiness; however, I suppose you need to weigh up the value you put on certain things that have happened & if they don’t threaten your contentment & safety then forgiveness has the potential to be easy. I also know that just because they/you have forgiven someone or something it doesn’t mean you will ever forget what happened. Forgiveness & forgetfulness are mutually exclusive & seldom go hand in hand.

What do I need to do to forgive someone? Can I find a template on Google to learn how to do this? Is this something that can take a long time, because I’m really impatient. Is there a right way to forgive someone? How does it feel? Will I ever be able to let this person into my life again?

I know that forgiveness can be simple. For example, when Orli is rude or naughty & apologises to me, forgiveness is simple. Forgiveness can also be incredibly difficult. I can’t ever see myself forgiving my third grade teacher for calling me stupid in front of the class as it affected my confidence for many years. I know my memories of this event are through the eyes & emotional maturity of my seven/eight-year-old self, but even if this had happened today it would be just as hurtful & impacting.

The word forgive has many definitions, one of them being “to grant a pardon.” Simple, isn’t it really? Oh, you did something completely hurtful to me, no worries, I shall grant you this pardon to absolve yourself of all responsibly. Yeah, I don’t think so. This definition also reminds me of the Kings & World Leaders that pardon criminals or the innocently accused of a life behind bars. I see this type of pardon as “letting the person go.” I’m not sure I want people to get away with hurting my feelings or mistreating me. Why should they go about their life without ever accepting responsibility of their actions?

Maybe it should read, “to grant yourself a pardon from allowing that person from affecting you any longer.”

See it’s complicated. And not easy.

When looking at the word “forgiveness,” the word “give” is smack bang right there in the middle. How is it that I’ve never seen that before? Have I been blinded by my anger & resentment? I think so. Simply put then, forgiveness is a gift we’re all able to provide ourselves. The word itself has given me a tool to move forward with. If I can change the way I think about & feel about forgiveness, then perhaps, I’ll be able to forgive those who have either hurt me or been apathetic towards me & be free of holding onto useless & wasted energy & no longer give myself the excuses to remain stuck.

I now see forgiveness as a means to provide myself with permission to start, stop, move on or whatever I need to do for myself in order to curb the anger & resentment & live a fuller & enriching life, with more room for love & hope. It won’t be easy as I’ve got a lot of hang ups to work through, but at least I’ve got something to start with. Now that the word “give” stands out in the word forgiveness, I owe it to myself & my family to “give” it a go.