Parents often ask me what they can do to keep from wounding their children. My answer? They can't. And as horrible as this sounds, please know, this does not mean these children have to stay wounded. They do not. The following story poignantly illustrates this idea. It was written by Master Emergence Practitioner Fred Jackson, who has been practicing Emergence for close to a decade now. Even so, like most parents, Fred has expected that his loving awareness and conscious choices would prevent his injuring his son. They haven't.
So what's the point of practicing Emergence then? Simply this. Being able to recognize when wounds occur means being able to heal these wounds at the ideal time. What is the ideal time to heal wounds in children? Days and if possible, hours after the wound occurs.
What is also very important to know is that by healing these wounds, children get to permanently love that very thing that injured them. Sound impossible? It's not. In fact, the following story illustrates this quite well.
Finally, know that Fred suffered a lot as he wrote this story. As any parent would when realizing she or he had just wounded their child. Please know that it is his hope, and my hope, that any parents who read this story may find both relief from their guilt and hope for their child's healing.
Wounding My Son
"It is three am and I have held him for what seems forever."
It is three am and I have held him for what seems forever.
My mind is shrieking in fury at being held prisoner by his need.
I take a breath, remind myself he is my son, and lift him up again.
I pace the nine hundredth lap around his crib, wishing he would just go to sleep. I ask myself why he refuses to sleep. He begins to wiggle, I hold tighter.
He wriggles more. I hold tighter. He says, "Da Da." I ask him to be quit and go to sleep.
He doesn't understand I have waited all day to have ‘me' time and now his needs are taking priority. I can't stand it. If he doesn't go to sleep soon Ill miss my time. Why won't he sleep!
I know I'm blaming; I don't care. I bounce him some more and walk some and say to him, "Please sleep." He gets still. I get excited. I wait with intense urgency. He still doesn't move. I wait and his head lolls to the side; he is finally asleep.
I walk over to the crib and begin to lay him down. I can see my freedom. I place him quickly on the mattress and turn to walk out. I put my hand on the door and he moves. I stand still, barely breathing. I open the door and he grunts. I rage.
I breathe. I wait and he begins to move more and starts crying. I breathe.
I walk in, drop the rail, and scoop him up all in one movement. I breathe.
I place him on the bed and swaddle him again. I breathe.
He begins wriggling and talking. I shush him and tell him to stop and go to sleep; in fact, I demand it.
I grab him up and begin bouncing him and shushing him and pacing. I can't understand why he won't sleep. Really, I don't care whether he sleeps or not. I just want my freedom and his sleeping represents that to me. He has become a burden and an annoyance and I want to be rid of him. My mind cautions me and I breathe some more.
I tell myself he will sleep eventually; I am doing damage control to protect us both from how unsafe I have become. I no longer experience us as human beings, and I realize that my needs are waging war against my son. I am insane; the mental illness of being a "ME!" has entered the fray. I know we are in danger.
My sanity warns me of this and reminds me to connect before need.
Connect? Oh yes, connect; make Hawken more important than my need and that will help. But if I do, he will wake up and start playing with me. I decide to hold him gently and lay on the bed till he sleeps. (My son actually wakes now as I write this.) We both fall asleep. I have given up any hope of anything else and have settled on just getting some sleep. I fall asleep.
Some minutes later, he begins wiggling. I awake with fury. I abruptly drop him off my shoulder and growl, "Would you just go to sleep!!!" My son's eyes snap open and with a shudder, he begins to cry. As the tears fill his eyes, he begins howling, "Mama, Mama!!"
My insanity is shattered and I see my beautiful son. I see the fear and shock in his beautiful eyes and my heart breaks. Horrified I gently lift him into my arms and whisper over and over, "I'm so sorry little man. It's not your fault. Daddy was just crazy but he is okay now. Daddy loves you."
Over and over again I say this while I hold him. I know I have wounded him, but I am present enough to not indulge in my remorse and regret and I keep focusing on connecting with him.
Moments latter, Inetta arrives and says to me, "Its okay. I'll take him." Defeated, I surrender him to her care and leave the room.
I Realize I Have Wounded Him
"I realize with a sick heart that I finally have my freedom."
As I sit alone on the couch, staring at the door, I realize with a sick heart that I finally have my freedom. Now that I have it, all I want is to stay with him.
My mind begins to catalogue the events, and as the self-blame creeps in, I begin to imagine the damage I've done to him. What wounds will I have inflicted on my son? Will he be afraid of monsters in the dark? Will he ever lie back consciously? Will he go into shock whenever he is held? Is he prone to back and neck problems now, where I was holding him? Will he hate the dark and the dawn? Will he go into shock when he wakes up or goes to sleep? Will he hate me? Will our relationship be damaged forever? What have I done??? As I bleed in my torment, I fall asleep without realizing it.
My wife wakes me on the couch, and I go to bed for a couple more hours of sleep.
I Heal My Son's Wound
"The next morning I am awoken by my little alarm clock named Hawken."
The next morning I am awoken by my little alarm clock named Hawken.
I wish he could have slept a little longer and am cranky that he didn't. I then realize how my self-centeredness never ends and silently, I admonish myself.
Then the night's events slam my mind and I run to his room.
I open the door and walk to the crib and look at him. He looks back, and I imagine there is distance between us. I pick him up and he is wet. I don't want to deal with this but know I have to. I take him to the changing table.
I abruptly drop him off my shoulder and place him on the changing table. Startled, he looks up at me and begins to wail, his eyes well up with tears. I recognize then how I am in shock and know he can see it in my eyes. I know also that I have just replicated my movements from the night before and that my eyes have that scary shocked look to them.
For a moment I begin to despair and succumb to self-blame and self-hate. He cries louder. I realize that it is not the time to indulge in my blame, as it does nothing for either of us and leaves him even further alone.
I realize then I have an opportunity to heal his wound directly. I take a breath, say a prayer, and begin to repeat last nights sequence. I place my hands in the same spots, and I lift him up to my shoulder, then I bring him back down and growl, "Will you just go to sleep!!!"
He looks up at me and wails. My heart hurts.
I take a breath, lift him up and do it again. This time I try to tickle him and make how I say it a little more playful. His crying falters.
Encouraged I do it again. I add more tickle and say it like Cookie Monster. He looks at me puzzled, and I nuzzle his ribs with my face.
I do it again. I tickle him and demand in a sillier voice, "Will you just go to sleep?" and finish up playfully biting and nuzzling his ribs.
This time his eyes go wide for a second, and he looks at me startled, then puzzled, then he giggles.
Joy fills my heart.
I do it again and again, until we are laughing and playing, all the while repeating the wounding script.
I remember the diaper and begin to change him, as he says, "Da Da" and "Bear" over and over.
I am crying with relief and joy. I begin to tell him about how Daddy was overwhelmed and in shock last night. I tell him it will happen again, and I promise him that I will not leave him alone with the wounds; that as long as I am alive I will always help him through it.
I tell him that Daddy is sometimes mentally ill, but that he has learned how to handle it like a conscious and sober man.
I promise him I will always work it through with him. I tell him that I will teach him to be a Conscious Man, so that his children, and his family, and all that he loves will need not suffer alone.
I See the Proof of Healing
"I realize he didn't even flinch."
I was tired that morning and I think it took all of an hour before I was cranky and snapped at him again, "Will you stop doing that!!!!" But as crazy as I was, he simply looked at me and smiled and said, "Da Da."
Immediately, I saw his bright eyes and snapped out of shock. I then realized that he hadn't even flinched and that his only visible reaction was love.
He saw me in my insanity, experienced my shock and blame, and stayed conscious. He is three feet tall, I'm over six feet. I could see that my son's consciousness is now tempered and that he is no longer vulnerable to being wounded by someone snapping at him again. In fact, as I have seen over and over again, it has become a loving event between us, and that we both heal together. I snap at him less and am much more loving to him when he is struggling at night.
Even so, I continue to look for places where he goes blank. I am determined to see this through for us. I know I have been successful so far. I can now see my son as needing his father rather than as someone who is deliberately denying my need for freedom.
Even more, I now see how it is our struggle not just his or mine.
Surprisingly, I am learning to love the needs of others as much as my own. Hopefully my son will continue to see his father's love, even when it fades for a moment. Ultimately, I hope that the mental illness in my family will give way to peace and understanding and trust. Not that we have to perfect but that our endeavor to stay connected to each other be trustworthy.
Be that as it may, the truth remains, that I wounded my son. In a moment of blame and insanity, I wounded my son. As emotionally violent as I can get, as conscious as I am, my guard slipped, and he caught it directly.
I was devastated when I saw what I had done.
I'll never forget the fear in his voice as he cried out, "Momma, Momma!" In fact, as I write this, I vow to never forget again and to continue to work on healing whatever illness exists in me.
Writing this is one way to make sure I remember. I also write this to remember to feel grateful for having learned how to recognize wounds in my son. And how to heal these wounds. I also hope that by sharing this story with other fathers and mothers, that they may benefit from my son's and my suffering.
Know also that in order to write what I have written here, that I have had to do many things in order to consciously witness what I did. I've fasted, and backpacked, and journaled, and suffered, all in hopes that I may keep growing and learning from this experience. And I have. In fact, I am now coming to realize that I can be trusted even when I am desperately needy.
The thing I am most proud of though is that I now know I can wound my son and still be a good father. Even when I am at my worst.
I know this because I also know I will never allow my son to remain wounded.