Label Me A Loving Abuser

My 6 year old son would not get out of bed until 7:45 this morning. We have to leave for school at 8:15. Then he wouldn’t eat his eggs since he was distracted by his Pokemon cards, so I threw the cards in the garbage. This is when his meltdown started. It was 8 AM, so I asked him to put some clothes on which he threw back in my face. This is when my meltdown started. I grabbed him and put him in the car in his pajamas. Then I dragged him without shoes or a jacket in front of the whole school to his classroom. He was kicking and screaming the whole way, which is why I couldn’t put his shoes or jacket on.

The whole time I was seeing tunnel vision. I did not notice all the other kids laughing at my son or all the parents aghast at me dragging him across the rain drenched pavement without shoes. When we got to the classroom, I awoke from my sleep state and realized how much my son was suffering.

Onelove photoIt is International Label Day at Rarasaur’s house, so it only seems appropriate that I wear the label of abuser or bad father which is quite different from the photo I sent Rara with “LUV” scribbled across my forehead. But like I told Rara in the comments, “Labels like the ego are neither good nor bad. They are a necessary step in claiming our identities so that we can give them up to reach a higher consciousness or what Fr. Richard Rohr would call the Second Half of Life.”

One way I’m breaking the label of abuser is by how I treated my son after I realized that I was being irrational. As the survivor of physical abuse, I speak from experience when I say that although the beatings hurt, they were not the cause of the deepest emotional scars. What really tore me up as a child was the lack of compassion from my step-father and mother AFTER the beatings. No one ever comforted me and explained to me why I was beaten. No one put an arm around my shoulder and told me that the beatings were done out of love.

Jett at school

Photo of Jett Post-Meltdown

So I told the teacher that Jett would be late and we went back home. At home, I let my son pick out his favorite shirt. I washed his feet, fully aware of the religious connotations of this action, and warmed up his half-eaten breakfast. I explained to him how sorry I was for taking him to school in his pajamas, but also how sad I was that he refused to listen to me. I told him that I loved him, but I needed his cooperation if we were going to get to school on time. I also told him how to handle any teasing that the other kids might dish out today. I will make sure to check in with him after school and honor any shame he felt in front of the other kids at school.

Being a compassionate man is hard. Raising compassionate boys is even harder. Social conditioning and past scars take constant vigilance to overcome. The good news is that compassion is a skill that can be learned over time. We can heal ourselves and heal others in the process.

Although I am not proud of my actions today, I am thankful for the growth I displayed and the hug my son gave me when he finally got to his classroom.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you transcended your labels? How? Please share.

 

 

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40 comments on “Label Me A Loving Abuser

  1. Indira says:

    You have to be really brave to admit your fault and not justify it that’s what people do. You taught your son a good lesson also . thanks for sharing, it’s inspiring.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks Indira. I was just thinking about being a stay-at-home dad today. My sister-in-law told me that when her kids were young, she and other mothers would meet at the park to just cry. I feel like this blog serves a similar purpose. I can reveal my inadequacies and get some loving support. What a gift! Thank you. {{{hugs}} Kozo

      • Indira says:

        I’m trying but not able to write. You can write so well. Your posts are inspiring. I also need some where to cry but I can’t.

      • Kozo Hattori says:

        I feel you, Indira. It took me a while to find a safe space to cry, but when I did the tears came easy. I just read that a lot of anger is caused by sadness. I’m working to express my sadness to extinguish my anger. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

      • Indira says:

        We all know that we should live in the present so why its only past that bothers us. All write or wrong is the result of our choices still we cannot come out of it.

  2. cindy knoke says:

    Oh boy this one is harrowing.
    You are so open, insightful and willing to elicit feedback. These are significant character strengths and you have my admiration for your honesty and courage in putting this out here.
    I did group therapy for VERY SEVERE domestic violence and child abuse, treating mandated male and females for partner abuse, and parents who caused severe chronic brain damage in their children. Something everyone in the family got to live with everyday for the rest of their lives
    I did this for ten years for the DOD, each person was in treatment for a year, and before this I worked for ten years with child victims of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
    I learned a lot of really personally useful anger management techniques from this that I continuously employ in my own life.
    It requires cognitive-behavioral training which basically first teaches one how to deeply relax which is key to the whole program.
    Next one learns how to recognize signs of escalating stress, tension or anger.
    This early identification of anger onset, enables one to utilize the next component of the program, taking a time out to allow your anger to dissipate. This is quite detailed and one must practice.
    The advanced techniques cover cue therapy, systematic desensitization, and relapse prevention, just a host of techniques to put you in the drivers seat regarding your anger not visa-versa.
    It is empowering and effective.
    We have to learn new ways to manage our anger since we were not modeled it in our family’s of origin.
    The worst thing I think from a child’s perspective is the reality of public humiliation from a parent. Something I think you and I both experienced as a child and never want to visit on our own child.
    I hope this may be useful to you, but if not, please disregard with my apologies and respect.
    Hugs to you~

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Cindy,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and caring response. I had no idea that you were in the “trenches” for so long. I agree with everything you said. I had a girlfriend in college who used to call my anger my fire. She told me that if I ever burned her again, she would leave. It was amazing how she could see this fire before I even had an inkling that it was rising.
      I’ve been sensitizing my body lately, so I’m pretty good at feeling the start of anger. The odd thing is that this morning, I wasn’t overtly angry. It was more a calm numbness. I’m sure there must have been some latent anger, but it wasn’t a lot. I’m thinking that a stage after anger might be numbness, just not feeling. When we got to the classroom that is where my heart kicked in and from there it was a lot of compassion and lovingkindness.
      I agree with you about public humiliation, which is why I’m going to talk to my son about how school went today after the incident. I’m not sure if I can remove that shame, but I will do my best to help him shoulder the load.
      My goal is to break this cycle that was started when my step-father was beaten by his uncle. I am determined not to pass this anger and abuse down to my sons. Thank you for guiding me towards recovery. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

      • cindy knoke says:

        You will accomplish ‘breaking the cycle’ because you are remarkable my friend.
        Which is why I responded to this post.
        The “numbness” you describe is exactly the problem.
        You are smart to know.
        You need to be able to identify the feelings you are not aware of before you become numb.
        You learned this numbness when you were young.
        It takes insight and effort to overcome, both of which you have.
        Hugz back to you.
        PS- I was “in the trenches,” for thirty years, the last ten were not relevant to this conversation.

  3. utesmile says:

    Sometimes our patience isn’t as good as it should be and we explode too fast… as you did this morning…. reading furhter I am so glad you realised what behaviour you showed your son and you did then the right thing. I think you both have a learning curve and I am amazed that you are honestly tell us about it. Just think of the way you would have liked to be treated as a child. You cannot change the past but you can make it better for your children. Always act out of love not anger!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Great point about thinking about the way I would have been liked to treated as a child, Ute. I completely agree that we have a choice right here, right now to make things better for our children. I’m working everyday to raise compassionate boys, which requires me to become a compassionate man. It is a process, but I am bound to succeed. {{{Hugs]}} kozo

  4. […] Label Me A Loving Abuser (everydaygurus.com) […]

  5. I tried hard to comment here 3 times but I broke down & just can’t find the right words. I just want you to know I love & care about you as my friend. I support you through your ups & downs.

    Parenting can be taxing at times. Take some time for yourself when you can get it. (To regroup & just breathe.)

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Your love and care means so much to me, J. I know this was a tough incident to read. I know how hard this must have been on my son. My silver lining is that my son now knows that I make mistakes when I feel hurt or ignored. I hope that this shatters his image of me as a perfect person and replaces it with the warmth of a fallible yet loving father. Thank you so much for your kindness and concern. Surprisingly, I feel pretty good after blogging and receiving kind comments like yours. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  6. […] EveryDayGuru’s Label Day 2013 Post About How Labels Are Steps in Claiming Identity […]

  7. Alison says:

    (((((((Kozo)))))))

    (((((((Jett)))))))

    What a beautiful journey you are on together. All is well.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Your hugs are comforting, Alison. Yes, we are on a beautiful journey, but we often look outside the wrong window. πŸ™‚
      I asked my son if he was teased today and he said only by one kid. So we concluded that the one kid had the problem, not my son.
      {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  8. In his little eyes, you are Dad and he will always love you…that’s why they get over things so quickly, the love in their hearts is immense.

  9. You know what I love about reading your posts Kozo? You are honest and humble even as you talk us through a challenge. It may not have been easy to admit to all this especially with that cute photo attached, but it was real and I appreciate it. β™₯

  10. Rohan 7 Things says:

    This is a great point Kozo! Lashing out and losing our temper can often be an all but involuntary action. That doesn’t mean that it’s not hurtful, but as you say it’s the dialogue that comes after, when tempers have cooled, that is so crucial. Talking the issue through in a calm manner and then making up and having a good laugh is so important.

    Really good post, I never though about it like that before!

    Hugs.

    Rohan.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Rohan. I like your point about the dialogue the comes after. What if world leaders could take this point of view? Wow. Dialoguing with those who hurt us or whom we may have hurt.
      Sorry, I haven’t been around lately. Been a bit swamped over here. Will drop by soon. Also, I still want to do a Skype interview in December with you. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

  11. jawad says:

    Hi Kozo,

    I just read your post _/\_ – I ‘lost it’ with my nine-year daughter this morning and the for a few minutes my frustrations and irritations spilled over into cross words and loud voice. She was getting ready for a school fund raiser (Mufti day) so she was allowed to wear home clothes at school (we have uniforms for school here in England) and it was ‘taking too long for me’. The thing I notice is the resistance to admitting my actions and I see pride gets in the way. Often this manifests as my justifying my actions.

    Its so refreshing to create greater ease around these experiences and appreciate your blog.

    warm wishes to you and loved ones

    Jawad

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Jawad. I have a suspicion that all parents have a meltdown every once in a while. Most meltdowns aren’t as public as the one I had, but they happen nonetheless. I see these times as crucial for showing our children that we are not perfect, but we are willing to admit our mistakes and continue growing just as we expect them to continue growing. I hope my son realizes that everyone makes mistakes, but “real men” are willing to apologize and open their hearts to others.
      {{{hugs}}} to you and your daughter. Kozo

  12. lauriesnotes says:

    Wow. I had a rough afternoon with my daughter and also caught myself..trying to be on time to an appointment..as she splashed a huge puddle of water all over the floor.. I also survived physical abuse and yes, it was the after part that was the worst. I have taught my daughter that it is possible to have a few tough minutes and then get back to working together. She reminds me I said 3 not so nice words..but we did get back on track and I called the lady I had an appointment with. I was so relieved when she started singing pretty quick. My husband has so idea how hard I work at being calm with my daughter.
    Oh, the mindfulness program..My husband talked to his bosses..the principals at the school yesterday and I was disappointed that they are so fearful. Tough sell here in the valley. The lady who is so skilled here is transitioning to the bay area for that reason. There must be another door for me here. πŸ™‚
    Much peace,
    Laurie

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, Laurie, the after part is the worst, so I’m glad you got your daughter singing again. We are all human and make mistakes, but we can also make up for our mistakes with forgiveness and compassion.
      So sorry about the mindfulness program. I wonder if you could show the administrators the Thich Nhat Hanh video that shows the value of compassion which is cultivated through mindfulness. Actually, any Thich Nhat Hanh video will do. πŸ™‚
      When one door closes, another immediately opens. We just have to find it. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

      • lauriesnotes says:

        Thanks. I think anything that sound slightly related to the spiritual or religious is too scary..especially here. We didn’t even use the word mindfulness too much. The principal was afraid it could be controversial. So the lady I connected with is planning to hold a free presentation for all educators and then offer a day long and group coaching.
        That’s the plan right now. She is offering to mentor me in exchange for help with getting the word out and arranging a place. I of course am looking to learn all I can and explore what I may want to study.
        For now, I am in the school as a mom – taking with me all I have learned..I worked as an aide for many years in special ed but never went on to get a master’s degree. So I’m interested in coaching and mindfulness and am getting ready to print some of my posts as meditation cards. If you cross anything interesting I’d appreciate anything you have. Also excited about the compassion work with men. My husband has been more compassionate after I stopped trying to push the mindfulness. He may be less pressured and participate this way.
        I am hopeful that more people are healing and opening a little more.
        I appreciate you taking the time to write. The link you sent me led me to some good research that I was able to pass on.
        Thank again.
        Have a nice Thanksgiving.
        Hugs,
        Laurie

      • Kozo Hattori says:

        Laurie,
        You don’t need a Master’s Degree to teach mindfulness. You just need to be mindful. πŸ™‚
        I think this is a great opportunity for you to learn from the lady who was suppose to run the program. I’m starting with my sons and see what spreads from there. Adyashanti said focus on the small things and the big things end up coming to you. Hope that helps.
        Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

      • lauriesnotes says:

        Your comments are always helpful..if just for the encouragement..but there is more than that. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.
        L

  13. The older I get the calmer…the less ‘things’ matter. Doesn’t matter if he’s late to school Kozo – gentle start to the day is more important πŸ™‚ Hope the day ended well once you reconnected after school.

    You make a good point about mother’s groups – I’m sure a support group of some kind would be great Kozo, getting together with other parents…and/or a counsellor of your own – you do so much to try and help bring compassion to others, take care of yourself as well friend πŸ™‚

    (PS I don’t believe that beatings are done out of love, there is no place for them in my opinion)

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Annie. Sounds like you are heading towards selflessness. Next step, enlightenment. πŸ™‚
      I really think that this blog and BFFs like you help me through my days and challenges. I might not have a group of parents, but I have some open hearts and minds to share with. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo
      p.s.
      I agree that violence is never the answer, but anything with love is better than the same thing without love, imho.

  14. Eileen says:

    I definitely had a short fuse when I was younger and one of my five children seemed to unconsciously know how to trigger it. I often had to go to the other side of the house for a while for fear of doing him harm. Of course now that he is grown, we both realize that we are very alike and it was irresistible force meeting immovable object!

    Thanks as always for being so open and real.

    We finally developed a chart with a points system with our kids for work and behavior. Some was just because and some was rewarded or withheld. We tried to establish related consequences for behaviors ahead of time…..just matter of factly sitting down with the children in a calm time and atmosphere, so there would be a rational and pre-established consequence when things were about to go ballistic. It helped most of the time.

    I like the way people, even parents, now say, “Don’t go there right now!”

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Haha, Eileen, I love “irresistible force meeting immovable object.” Like a rock and a hard place. Reminds me to soften and “love my enemy.”
      Love the points system chart. We have tried reward charts, but we need to make a more complex one like the one you mention. Also, love “don’t go there right now.” Great tips, my friend.
      {{{hugs]}} Kozo
      p.s.
      Fr. Richard Rohr agreed to an interview on January 10th. I’m so excited. I really think you will love Fr. Rohr. He has some great perspectives on contemplative Christianity. Stay tuned.

  15. D. S. Walker says:

    Hugs Kozo. You are a good dad who had a bad moment, and being brave enough to admit when you are wrong and working to correct parenting mistakes will help definitely help to break the cycle. Sometimes our children need to know we aren’t perfect and that we too can learn from our mistakes.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Exactly, D.S. I really believe that we need to show our children that people are imperfect. What makes us perfect is forgiveness and compassion. I hope I was able to show my son this. He has been very loving with me lately, so it seems it worked. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  16. Aussa Lorens says:

    Wow. I was riding the stress wave as you described your morning with your son– I don’t have kids but I have nieces and nephews and I have seen my friends and family dealing with these sort of meltdowns… they happen. But what does not usually happen is for a parent to apologize to their child and comfort them in such a profound way. Your story absolutely blew me away– I think your son is lucky to have such a father. I can’t imagine my own ever apologizing to me in a way that was not designed to manipulate or take advantage in some way.

    If I have a label, it is probably “victim.” *sigh* I haven’t talked about that one on the interwebs so I’ll just leave it at that for now. I hope I’ve done my part to remove it but I know that it still sneaks in and influences me from time to time.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Thanks, Aussa. Yes, I’m hoping to break the cycle of abuse by doing something different–showing vulnerability and imperfection to my son. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
      I, too, know the victim label well. I’m trying to remove it as well, but it still sneaks in. Self compassion seems key. So does forgiveness. Glad we can support each other in subtle ways. {{{Hugs}}}} Kozo

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