So, my son had a breakdown. When I say breakdown, I dont mean a temper tantrum or a quick lashing out at the unfairness of the world. No. When I say breakdown, I mean the type adults go through, when external pressure, clashes with internal needs. THAT kinda breakdown! It broke my heart to see.
Whats worse however, was realizing I was the cause, of this momentary mental breakdown. I am a part of my sons mental duress, And at that I am sheartbroken. For that has never been my intention or goal and yet somehow, it is exactly what Ive help create.
So, at that, let me break it down before you jump to conclusions and call child protective services on me.
The break down
Recently while hanging out with the family. My kid, jumping on his trampoline, laughing and joking as he was playfully throwing punches and kicks at me. I joked about him needing more practice to take me down. Little did I know how serious and emotionally invested he was. Until i watched him collapse down and begin to sob uncontrollably.
Instinctively i found myself diving to the floor to scoop up this 8 yr old boy and had flash backs of the baby I’d once held. That precious premie that used to fit in the palm of my hand. I remembered that crying baby I had sworn to always protect and take care of. As i held this now, crying big boy, my heart broke. The drastic switch from sweet playful child, to devasted mess scared me. My sweet precious child was having a break down before my eyes. Right in my arms, and I knew. I had failed him. I knew, I had caused my son to breakdown.
So we sat there and he wept and cried as I pleaded to know what was wrong. In an instant it all come pouring out. In between sobs , and gasps, moans and whines. He spoke of how bad he felt, so guilty and horible, for feeling like he’s fighting me! Feeling like hes ALWAYS fighting me. That he he has to always be ready to fight… me. He wept of how he loves his daddy, and how he doesnt like fighting with me, and how hurt he feels when I’m riiding him, disciplining him, working against him. How it makes him feel, that he has to work agains me. That we are not on the some side! He pleaded with me, that he doesnt want to feel like I’m his enemy. My heart broke.
What are we doing to our children?!
I think of all the jobs and positions I’ve worked, and how it felt to be ridden and critized for my work. I think of all those that have seen, quit jobs, leave companies, had career changes , and those that suffered complete meltdowns… due to such stress. It seems inevitable that any child living under such duress, would feel that way.
As I listened to him, break, in my arms, pleading for my love. All I could wonder was what in the world have I done to my child?! Here he was, pleading for my unconditional love, which he couldnt see, past all of the tough love given. Never did I see how controlling or possesive Id become. Heaping so much pressure and expectations on my child it was breaking him.
Change starts with me
I now realize something has to change, I have to change. This is just another reminder of that.The ways in which I’d allowed my ego to take the lead. Insisting that he needs to act according to my standards. Was really just using him as a reflection of myself. Then scolding and trying to change him, when he eventually fell short. Such pressures are enough to make any adult cry. Let alone a child still figuring all out.
And for a parents of such a child, these moment are mirrors. Teaching lessons and opportunities for growth.
A reminder to keep growing and getting better at this fatherhood thing. As he provided a mirror that allowed me to see my flaws in this moment, rather than just seeing his. Particularly, the flaws of the ego. Where I feel a need to control my child, to make him comply. Or to make him act and be a way, that is appropriate for ‘MY’ child. Messed up fallicies, I learned in my own up bringing to be sure. Ones I do not want to pass down.
Finding a balance
So here I am, at this new starting point. Having to figure out the balance between giving discipline and guidance a child does need. And the open nature freeflowing experience of unconditional love. As a Dad, my love has alway been unconditional. Yet, its also been my job to teach and guide. Especially for a young black man in a dangerous world at times. But here we are, as important as it is for me to give guidance and teach how to act in this world. Its also as important, to get my own ego out of the way a give that open nature love. That is supportive, ecouraging and fun for my son. Not something i can answer in this blog post… but something that will take a regular minful effort to maintain.