This year is about to finish and I don’t know exactly how to describe my feelings about it. It was the year Ricardo left us – so, a big deal of it was filled with grief. As any grief, it was unique and mine. I had good days and I had very bad days. I had happiness and laugh and an enormous love in my chest when his presence was almost palpable and reminded me of his wonderful sense of humor.
‘I am gonna miss you’, I messaged him towards the end. ‘Why? Where am I going?’, was his answer. I do miss him deeply but I have the peace of someone who did everything it was possible to do. The bless of the time to say everything I had to say. And the love that was shared and said and done in big and very small, tiny things.
My son, grieving his own way, had different ways to say he was missing his dad. I had to learn to read the signs and bring the subject. Yes, Ricardo is always part of our lives and we talk about him, his cancer, his passing, and his talented life above all the other things with some frequency. Silence doesn’t help and I do believe that bringing him to our daily lives makes life without his physical presence easier.
This reminds me of one thing I learned in a 12-step program: secrets are poisonous and very dangerous for us. So, Ricardo’s cancer and his whole process was never a secret, specially and most importantly for Ian.
It was also the first year I had to parent Ian by myself. Or, better yet, I had to parent Ian with my partner parenting him sometimes. So, I had to be extra-careful and make sure everything was fair. This was not always the case and, I must say, it was an exhausting task. Well, parenting is an exhausting task. Period. Parenting by yourself is 24/7. And having someone who you have to somehow pay attention is even more.
I started looking around for words like ‘defying’ and ‘blended family’ and found some books that didn’t help the way I needed, but then towards the end of the year someone put ‘Setting limits with your strong-willed child’ in front of me and it changed the way I parent Ian. See a blog post about the book here. Not an easy task but definitely possible and a pleasure to see something working. I was very close to desperation…
I also got some help. A chat with his Grade 1 teacher ended up with a recommendation for him to participate in a program called ‘Right from the start’. A constant communication between me and the person of the program allows me to repeat some ‘commands’ at home and I ended up learning some nice techniques as well.
‘This is not open for discussion’ is one of them and this simple phrase saved my life a few times. He noticed the change and started complaining about it. Well, this is not open for discussion, Ian. So, as you see, I still use it from time to time. ‘You need to take responsibility for your actions. You are in control of your actions’ was another one. I don’t know how many times I heard that I was responsible for something he did!
‘We can choose how we respond to a problem. We have a choice and can turn a problem into a bigger one or a smaller one. It is up to you!’ This one was specially efficient when we told him supper was served and he immediately threw his iPod under the TV. He lost his iPod for good as this was the consequence of throwing it around the house and he made a huge deal of something that didn’t even have to be a problem.
Of course, these phrases can be used for so many things in life, but it was my parenting rule that taught me them. Far from being natural, I still have to breath deeply and give myself a few seconds to think about a strategy when he starts being defiant or, like yesterday, when he still throws a huge tantrum in public. But I do believe I have a better control over my feelings and most of the time I can understand his reasons behind it. Yesterday, for instance, he was very tired and hungry and this didn’t help.
‘Power struggles’ are less and spaced between them and I do get my way most of the time. Miracle? Far from it. Simple options with consequences. You say, you act. But, again, I do have to think about the consequences. What is logical. What is fair. I am being able, for the first time in my short life as a parent, to think before I say something, knowing that what is being said should be follow through. I’ve been suggesting the book to any and every parent that crosses my way as I can say, now, how enjoyable it is to be a mom of a strong-willed child.
And let 2014 begins…