spike to the head, punch to the face

Two months ago I wrote about how it felt to hear my son refer to another man as "step-dad for the first time." I wrote about how that moment... that feeling... made me want to stop caring about anything - to give up in despair on this whole screwed-up human experience. But then I wrote about hope. I wrote about a son's love, and the grace to go on... to struggle to build something beautiful against a backdrop of ugliness. 

People responded in a number of ways, but for some reason Google decided to take just one of the comments and plop it into a spam folder, where I didn't see it until this morning. It has been a while and the tenor of that comment makes me think the writer has probably not stuck around to see what other horrible things I might post, but I still wanted to specifically answer her questions and charges, which I will make red to connote blood, and violence.  To the fray!
Dear Madam of the Internets:

I am writing in reply to your comment of several months ago, which accuses me of damaging my relationship to my son by "airing my dirty laundry," as it were, before the world. I think you're wrong. Also, I think that pretty much everything you said was wrong. For example, you said...

"It is obvious that your son seems to be excited about the situation and as painful as it is for you, you should embrace that excitement and happiness. As a mother of two, I put my children first (after God), above my relationship with my husband and above my own feelings and happiness." 
Although I question your priority-ranking system (which seems to me to treat people like objects), I am happy for you with your intact marriage and two children. I just don't think it's fair for you to come around and judge me as I try to cope with the most slow-healing wound I've ever had to bear. 

"You say that you don't care anymore, and I understand not caring that your ex has obviously fallen in love again, which can be a very hurtful thing for anyone, but did you stop caring altogether? What about your son?"
It's this question that makes me wonder if you actually read what I wrote, or if you just got the Cole's Notes from someone else. I don't really know how to reply to you on this, because we're obviously not talking about the same piece of writing. I care very much about my ex's major decisions. That is not, however, what this post was about. Let me just say, though, that the phrase "fallen in love again," does make me worry for your Disney-watching, Romance-novel-reading self.

"He is obviously a young kid and what happens when he learns to read and understand what you are blogging and also the discussion that it has caused? You do not want him to lose respect for you as a person, as a father, and all the people in your/his life whom he loves, do you? I would think that you wouldn't. As it is obvious that your blogging helps you to get out feelings that you have, some things should remain private, if you feel that need to write things down, is there a way you can just write it down in a place that your son will not find it and read it, or at least make it not accessible to the world. If, God forbid, that your son does read these things, he will know that they are not words that the whole world can read. I cannot stress enough the importance of a relationship with your children and the relationship they have with both parents....please for the sake of your sweet child do not make things so public. He will eventually learn to resent you!"
Let me be blunt: in so many ways, this was a poop-stain thing for you to write. It seems like you're trying to play on base human fear in order to get me to do what I will not do, which is hide the truth from my son. Granted, there are things I won't say to him - things that I believe will hurt him - but telling him that it pains me to have to live with the reality of a broken marriage is not one of those things. Again, I'd suggest you go back and read what I wrote, because not only am I affirming his love for a man whose relationship to my son I find painful, but I am also hoping to share it! This is a difficult, complex path I am walking here, one that I take not because it makes sense to me, but because I have faith that Grace and Forgiveness are always a better choice. So don't tell me what I should and shouldn't let my son know, and don't you dare bring God into it, as though you know for-sure-for-sure what God ought to forbid. I'd die for my son, and I'm trying as hard as I can to live for him, too. The random, uninformed judgments of a stranger don't help.

"No matter how horrible you think his mother is, he obviously loves her and the people in her life, and if he knows that you have broadcast to the world your resentment towards those relationships then it will build tension between you and your son."
Seriously? Seriously!?! The only reference I made to his mother was to say that she is getting married, and you deduce from that that I think she's horrible?!? Au contraire, I love my son's mother. I think she's wonderful, and a wonderful mother. Although we hold very different views on many issues (including and perhaps most significantly her decision to end our marriage), in some ways I communicate better and more lovingly with her now than I did while we were married. The blog post in question, for example, prompted a very positive interaction between us. Here's my guess: you are the one who judges her, but I make an easier, more convenient, or less personal target. Let's play the "blame the man" game! Hooray!

"Have a wonderful day. GOD BLESS You."
I know you'd probably be horrified to hear this, but in the context of the rest of your comment, it's impossible for me to read those words as anything other than an insult... almost a curse. God's not a weapon, lady, with which to club people. 

It was that little tag-line, actually, that prompted me to respond so loudly and publicly to your comment, because it comes across as judgement. And not just judgement as in, "I disagree with your course of action" (which would be legitimate), but rather the sort of judgement that borders on contempt. I don't know you, so I don't really care what you think of me, but when you judge me like this and then drag God's name into it, you make me want to braid some cords together and start busting stuff. Sheesh. 

I could have you all wrong. Most likely, you wrote what you did out of some sort of un-realized, un-faced fear in your own life. I realize that the internet is a public forum, and I don't want to ever discourage people from posting their honest opinions on the malarkey that I spew. I probably wouldn't speak like this to you if I met you in person (I'd think it, but I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to open conflict). Nonetheless, when you attack my parenting in this public forum and then rubber-stamp your opinion with Divinity, you're going to feel the Wrath of Josh (he said, chortling to himself). 

I wish you freedom, love, grace and forgiveness, and may God bless YOU, all over your FACE!



  1. Joshua,

    I really hope that anonymous reads this and absorbs what you've written because WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? Was this the first blog of yours that she had read? And did she read it while texting, applying makeup, and going through a drive-thru?

    I follow your blog AND know both you and your son's mother and it's obvious that
    a) you still care. A lot.
    b) you do not think your son's mother is horrible - you encourage me constantly to love her and to continue to be a part of her life.
    c) you live a very honest life and will NEVER be hiding the truth from your son. He will not grow up in an environment of fear and judgement. I guess that anonymous would not approve of Anatomy of an Effup?

    Love you,

  2. Josh, one of the things we get for enduring the drama and trauma of life-altering changes, in addition to the simple-minded flak doled out by those whose insecurities are triggered at the thought of going through a similar trial, is a picture of how disorganized and complex life can be. Having seen and lived it, however, I'm convinced it is the truer, purer, and better image no matter how hard it is.

  3. Yes, you probably nailed it. Her spew probably stems from some kind of personal insecurity. The nastiest things come alive inside the chests of the insecure making them want to hurt with hammer and tongs; it's pathetic and petty.

    I was watching the news with my dad the other day and they kept having stories about animals - injured eagles, orphaned bears, dogs - and my dad finally exclaimed, "all these stories about animals, what about people?!" and I looked at him and said, "I don't blame them for showing animal stories, have you seen the quality of people around the world? I'd rather hear about animals any day, and twice on Sunday."


    You crushed her. You probably didn't need that last line, imho.

  4. I'm gonna have to go ahead and agree with us, Jay.

    And Mark... I wasn't trying to crush her, really. I wrote that last line to be silly, because even when I'm using the unfair advantage of my experience as a writer against people who maybe aren't as good at getting closer with their words to expressing what's really going on in their heart of hearts, I want to show compassion and solidarity.

    And I agree there's generally a pretty low-quality person in the world, Mark, but every time I start to think it's someone else, I go and do something super-stupid again. I hurt somebody else, or damage something beautiful. I am you and you are me and we are we and so on.


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