How I Ruined My Family’s Sunday Afternoon

I couldn’t see a thing. All I knew was that the room was about 8′ x 5′ (2.4 m x 1.5 m). I sat there with my legs folded under me with my eyes closed. My mind wasn’t working; only the heaviness of guilt and regret was with me in the darkness. This was my punishment. I had it coming. How I wish I could take back everything I did. I didn’t want to leave this pitch-black cell, though.

After being frozen in place for what seemed like hours, I curled up on the floor, using an old musty cloth as a pillow. I didn’t want to stretch out; it would have been too much of a luxury, plus my feet would have been near the door. I never expected to drift off to sleep, but it had been an emotionally draining experience.

It all happened in a flash. One moment, I was checking my email on my phone, and the next minute, the fight broke out with no warning. They were going at it with everything they had. It’s a prison fight, I thought with horror. How could it be happening? What caused it? And right under my nose? How dare they!

After the bigger one got the smaller one down and began hammering his back with right-left combinations, I snapped.

It was one thing I lived in fear of, even as a dedicated, faithful Christian. The beast inside me reared its ugly head once again and took over. I got in each boy’s face and screamed at each one. “What are you doing?! You will not fight while I’m here! You,” I said, looking at my seven-year-old. “Don’t you realize that he is only five? Why were you beating on him like that? Huh?!”

“Scott, stop. You’re getting carried away.” Ayako, my wife, tried to calmly intervene.

“Don’t interrupt! I’m in the middle of disciplining them!”

“But, you’re yelling–”

“Didn’t you see it?! It was like a prison fight!” Now I was yelling at my wife.

I don’t remember what happened next. I was in such a crazy state of mind.

I used to punish myself by striking myself in the temple, cheek, and forehead. I was doing it again. Wasn’t all that crap behind me?

I had one of those profound moments during Mass earlier in the morning when my soul cried out to God. I was in up to my neck in a certain type of sin, and I couldn’t worship the Lord like I usually did.

That’s what sin does. It makes you think that once is enough. Instead, the cycle begins. Like a drug addict trying to go straight. One little snort or injection and everything will be okay. Just one fix.

But that’s not how sin works. The devil knows that one little slip and he’s got you. The feeding of the addiction happens all over again. The cycle is torture. Even St. Paul struggled with sin: Even though his mind said no, his flesh said yes. I always seem to forget about the rest of that verse.

His answer is to turn to Christ.

God told me in the middle of Mass that I kept falling because I was legalistically trying to avoid sin. What I didn’t realize was that I was using my own power. God reminded me that I must avoid sin out of love for Him and not because of myself.

When God speaks to me, I don’t mean that He speaks audibly inside my head like I’m a schitzo. It’s more of telepathy for lack of a better term. His Spirit connects with my spirit on a deep, primal level. I don’t even have to think of a reply; my soul responds automatically.

So there I was, my heart and soul transformed and touched by the hand of God. After Mass, as everyone cleared out, I knelt down in the pew and continued praising God and thanking him profusely for His gift of faith and forgiveness through Christ. Normally I get distracted and not pray after Mass, but I was deep in communion with the Holy Spirit yesterday, and nothing could divert my attention. How wonderful it was!

So how did I go from that mountain-top experience with God to being curled up in the fetal position in this dark, cramped room? It felt like my brain was swishing around in my skull; the dull pain was making me sick to my stomach. You deserve it, Scott. Serves you right for treating your two little buddies so horribly.

My oldest son is very sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily. He is excelling in second-grade reading and math. I am so proud of him. My youngest son is in kindergarten, and all last week he and one other student had the privilege of sitting at a special table in his classroom reserved for exceptional students. The little rascal didn’t even tell my wife or me, but that’s how he is. Very humble.

The three of us love playing soccer in the backyard after dinner. Both boys are playing in a fall soccer league now, and my youngest is the star player on his team. He gets the majority of his team’s goals each game. My two little buddies are the pride and joy of my life.

Seeing them both break down into tears as I screamed at them hit me like a sack of bricks afterward. When my rage was in full force, though, I wanted them to cry; I wanted to see their remorse and for them to fully understand how fighting would not be allowed.

I try very hard to be the best father that I can be. I love my sons more than I love myself. If they’re still hungry when we eat at home or at a restaurant, I am quick to share my food or dessert with them. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have shared with my wife. My food was mine!

I sometimes get angry with my sons for little things. Yesterday morning we had a fun day at the park. My kids love riding their bikes through a nature trail, stopping periodically to explore a creek or a wooded area that looks interesting. Yesterday, I took the photo at the top of this post It was in a wide-open field at the park. As I was trying to figure which angle of the log to photograph, my oldest son sneaked up behind me and yelled boo. He was laughing, having fun because he scared Dada. I responded by yelling at him not to scare me like that. He went away dejected.

My right shoulder and back were killing me from spending so much time on the floor in the small, dark closet. I turned over, tossed away the old cloth that was my pillow and roughed it some more. The more I was uncomfortable and in pain, the more I could atone for my behavior. In shorts and a t-shirt, the floor was feeling cold, but I was determined to keep lying there; hopefully I would catch a cold and suffer for several more days.

God, I whispered, help me. Help me in this situation. I created such a mess. Then I thought about how every action of mine, either positive or negative, affects my whole family. Just like when I was young. My father’s mood affected all of us and ruined so many happy moments. It tore me apart to see myself acting like my father who I still cannot forgive for leaving me nothing but rancid memories of my childhood.

I drifted in and out of consciousness in the darkness. Brief dreams floated through my mind. Suddenly I heard a female voice. It was soft and gentle. Perhaps it was an angel.

Scott. Scott. SCOTT.

Huh? I mumbled. Was I dreaming?

Get up. The voice sounded authoritative now.

No. I want to stay here.

Get up! The angel was yelling now. Don’t make me angry!

I was awake now, but I didn’t move. Stop yelling first.

Your sons are waiting for you to read to them!

It wasn’t an angel after all. It was Ayako, my wife. She is a tough little thing, so I knew it would be in my best interest to get up and go into the living room.

Before opening my bedroom door, I collected myself and prayed. God, you gotta help me. I let out a deep breath and opened the door.

My boys were on the sofa with their little books, waiting for me to read to them. “Dada! Come sit with us!”

They had forgiven me and were actually happy to see me. We read several books together, and then we played their favorite card game, Uno. My wife even came in from the kitchen and joined us for two games.

Later, after dinner, my sons and I went out back as usual and played soccer. A little while later, my wife came out for the very first time, and we played an aggressive but fun two-on-two match.

God had worked another miracle. Everything was back to normal, but I was still depressed and suffering from guilt.

I’m sure my family won’t forget what happened yesterday afternoon, but it was evident that they had forgiven me.

I don’t expect them to forget, though. How I wish they would.

Someday when my sons think back to their childhood, I don’t want my screw-ups to outweigh the fun times that we had.

I am still burdened by extreme guilt right now as I finish typing this. I had to take two Xanax tablets a little while ago to relieve the pain and agony inside of me. The pills didn’t quite do the trick.

I want to lock myself in a room somewhere because I am agitated despite the 2 mg of Xanax. I can’t do that, though. All I can do is rely on God, but I’m having a hard time surrendering right now.

~t

(photo by Topaz)

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About Topaz

I'm a college teacher, writer, and faithful Catholic. I do my best to juggle all of these while dealing with my mental illness -- a constant thorn in my flesh. View all posts by Topaz

20 responses to “How I Ruined My Family’s Sunday Afternoon

  • Jolene

    All things happen for a reason Scott, learn from it. Don’t continue to punish yourself for something that happened yesterday ….. you were forgiven, now ……stop the cycle. You don’t want to repeat the cycle that your father created…..so you have to work on stopping. It’s hard, TRUST me. I work every day at not being like my mother. ….but my children are the reason why I refuse for the cycle to continue.

    • Topaz

      Thanks, Jolene. No, I definitely don’t want to continue my dad’s cycle. I guess it hurts because I know my kids will never forget what happened yesterday. But I have to move on.

      • Jolene

        You will be surprised what you think they will hold on to. As you know, think that people will remember the worse in us….or can be quick to point out when we do something wrong. ….but you add happy memories and show that you have changed then those not so happy memories are just that………….a memory of a moment when their father lost his cool for a second. ~ Scott, there are times that I thought my kids would remember a not so happy moment……but they have no clue what I am talking about when I would bring it up.

      • Topaz

        Thank you. There were only a couple times that I lost my temper in front of the kids, but that was when they were infants and toddlers.

        I appreciate your sharing your life experience with me.

      • Jolene

        *hugs i apologize if i was a little to abrupt. Just don’t beat yourself up over it to much. you’re a good father and your kids adore you.

      • Topaz

        No, Jolene, you were not too abrupt. I’ve always had strong women in my life. You are a survivor, and that’s what I like about you. Your advice and compassion mean the world to me. ((hug))

      • Jolene

        Good~ I was hoping you weren’t sitting back and thinking “what has gotten into her?” hahaha

  • farfetchedfriends

    Sounds like the fam already forgave you. Now it’s your turn to forgive yourself.

    P.S. OMGosh you are SO human! 😉

  • latelywonders

    Ah, my dear friend,
    I have two sons who are close in age like yours, but now they are older. So, let me say this, first I acted like that a lot toward my first son. I actually wrote a post about it. I didn’t even realize I was doing and how I was hurting his little feelings. I thought I was being strict. Although it seems as though your sons have forgiven you, and I’m sure they have, I (speaking from experience here) would go to them and apologize and ask them what they felt when it happened and if they had any questions. I would also tell them that sometimes adults act like crap and need to take a time out, and that’s what happened to you.
    allow them to speak to you about what happened and what they felt then give them reassurance that you are trying to be and do better.
    You didn’t ruin their day. you messed up a moment.
    also, I would thank your wife for joining in on soccer and getting you to come read to the boys.
    God forgives your sins, all you have to do is accept the forgiveness, and make a conscious effort to do better.

    p.s. just the fact that you are trying to be different from your dad puts you ahead of the game. also, you’re not gonna be able to always stop the boys from fighting. sometimes it’s good to let them “duke it out.”

    • Topaz

      Wow, thank you so much for your words of wisdom! There were so many nuggets of information in your comment. I will print it out so I can digest it all.

      I apologized to them and hugged them in my room away from my wife.

      You’re right: I will thank my wife for helping me to snap out of my difficult time. I have apologized to her about my behavior.

      If you could send me a link to your blog post that you mentioned, I would really appreciate it!

  • pat

    Dear Topaz: I commend you for your humility. God absolutely loves the humble in heart. Were you the person who connected with me? I don’t know, it must have been something I wrote that linked us. Maybe God. I have been going through a hard time for a while now with my disease. Bipolar. They just cannot find the right combination of meds. It gets exhausting on certain days but I try to remember to praise God anyway. I don’t always remember b/c I spend too much time crying or just being plain ole angry. Anyway, some of us live purgatory on earth. Not all of it but a large portion for those of us with mental illness. If only our loved one’s knew the prison we fall into every now and then. But it’s okay now. They don’t have to understand anymore now that I fully understand the cross that has been given to me. It’s a gift, although it sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes. God has given me the wisdom to know that I am not the one to feel sorry for. I know that I will be okay and my prize will be the Kingdom of Heaven (I hope that is not being too proud to just assume that I am going to heaven.) It helps me to know that through this gift I am able to offer it all up for my salvation, the world’s salvation, family, peace in the world, souls in purgatory, etc. I am right there with you. I pray for the mentally ill every day and now I am able to put another name to my list in addition to all of those that I do not know. Peace and love of Christ be with you and your family. Your boys are blessed to have a father like you. In Christ, Pat

    • Topaz

      Pat,

      I really appreciate your thoughtful and honest comments. It really is difficult for loved ones to understand what we go through.

      I have made some strides in regard to my illness. I am on too much medication, and sometimes the only thing that can calm me down is Xanax. Despite my coping skills and prayer, I still find myself reaching for something that is basically a bandage.

      Please know that I am here for you if you ever need someone who can relate to you. I am so happy that your faith is helping you. I find that the closer I get to God, the better I can handle life’s struggles.

  • Kaela Moore

    LatelyWonders’s comment is exactly what I was going to say. Be open with your boys. Apologize and let them talk to you about it. Make sure they know that you’re human and humans make mistakes. THAT will make the most impact on them.

    You are human. We have flaws. We struggle. We stumble. “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” (Prov 24:16) Only the sick need Jesus. He is very obviously doing a work in you. Be open with your family, be vulnerable, and forgive yourself—because if Jesus has forgiven you, who are you to withhold forgiveness from yourself? You are loved completely, and completely covered in His grace.

    Remember 2 Cor.12:9. Tattoo it on your forehead!

    • Topaz

      Thank you, Kaela! I have since spoken with my sons and let them talk about it with me. It has helped tremendously.

      I appreciate the scripture references. I have written them down on paper (not on my forehead!) and will study them more in-depth. Boy, it sure is easy to forget about Bible verses when I’m having a rough time. I thank God for putting people in my life like you who remind me of God’s Word when I need it most.

      • Kaela Moore

        I’m so glad to hear you talked to them!

        There have been times in my life when I’ve written important verses down on an index card and kept them in my pocket so could pull them out whenever. Fixing our mind on what is true completely transforms our lives.

      • Topaz

        It sure does! I keep a Bible at work and study verses every now and then. That’s okay, but I like your idea of having key verses already written on note cards. Thanks!

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