My 6 year old son wants to quit his Kung Fu class. Last time I drove him to the Kung Fu studio, he threw a tantrum and wouldn’t get out of the car.
I threatened him by explaining how he would not get Christmas or Birthday presents for 5 years to pay off the non-refundable tuition we paid for the whole year.
I shamed him by telling his younger brother what a big boy he was for not “crying like a baby,” even though I am reading Brene Brown’s research on the horrible consequences of shaming.
You see, my son cries more than any child I know. If you mix his eggs with too much soy sauce, he cries. If someone closes the door to his room at night, he cries. If you don’t put enough toothpaste on his toothbrush, he cries. All this crying drove me crazy until I realized why.
After a severe beating from my step-father, I was sitting on my bed with a switchblade on my wrist. I just wanted the abuse to stop. I started sobbing because I felt like such a wimp. Not only did I scream like a little girl while being beaten, but I didn’t even have the guts to jab the blade into my skin and end it all. Suddenly, my step-father pounded on the door and screamed, “SHUT UP BEFORE I COME IN THERE AND GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO REALLY CRY ABOUT.”
From that day on, I hated crybabies. When my girlfriends shed tears after I gouged them with hurtful words, I looked down on them with pity. When players cried for an end to practice after running liners, I made them practice longer. I took pride in the beatings I took on surfboards, skateboards, and snowboards.
When I was really young, I used to cry while watching Little House on the Prairie. I was what is now known as a sensitive child. That was before I had the compassion beat out of me.
“Visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers on the Children”
God gave me a mirror in the form of a child who is a HSB–highly sensitive boy. I now realize that I need to not only re-connect with my sensitivity and compassion, but I also need to cultivate that compassion and sensitivity in my son.
I cringe at all the times I made him wince by raising my voice or my hand.
My son was born to be what I have been striving to be–a compassionate man. Yet, I was determined to “toughen him up.”
- Andrew: My God, are we gonna be like our parents?
- Claire: [teary] Not me…ever
- Allison: It’s unavoidable, it just happens.
- Claire: What happens?
- Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.
Maybe there is a reason why The Breakfast Club is one of my all time favorite movies. I could empathize with John Bender–I felt the blow when he struck the air while acting out a conversation with his abusive father. I also vowed like Claire that I would never be like my parents. I would never abuse my children, but it was unavoidable. Although I didn’t beat the compassion out of my son, I was definitely wringing compassion out of him.
Thank God for my wife who is a psychologist and the book she gave me, The Strong Sensitive Boy: Help Your Son Become a Happy, Confident Man by Ted Zeff, Ph. D.
I now practice what I preach about compassion starting in the home. If I can’t cultivate the compassion that already exists in my son, how can I help myself and other men cultivate compassion?
I refuse to let my heart die. I choose to celebrate emotions, honor tears, and cherish connections.
I love you, Jett. You don’t have to take Kung Fu ever again if you don’t want to.
Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.
Have you been severed from your compassionate self? Do you know a sensitive child? Please share.