Janet Jackson’s hit, “Control,” Kelly Clarkson’s hit, “Little Miss Independent,” and phrases like, “you’re not the boss of me” and, “I do it myself!!!” -all shrieked and sang from a set of toddler or tween or teen or young adult lungs can evoke a smile, a giggle, or a very real sense of dread, or all of the above.
I am the queen of control issues. I have to do it my way, in my time, the way I like it. I own my OCD as much as my teenager owns Blanky and Dog-Dog. I’m unashamed, and a bit defiant about it, if truth be told. In fact, I’d say the entire household is somewhat in the throws of control issues. My husband has piles of papers, gear, books scattered throughout the house, that he “will get to,” and we had better not attempt to touch anything of his. In fact, if company is coming over and I need to re-locate the pile, I am very careful to not shuffle anything in said stack. I learned early on in my marriage to just accept this aspect of domesticity, and to not try and help him organize in any way. Here’s another thing: I’m actually not super organized - OCD about things, yes, controlling about things, definitely! I have stuff in certain spaces, and as long as I can close a door (think cabinets, closets, etc.) on it, I am pretty lax on how it actually looks. My husband thinks it’s funny that he can ask me where anything is, even something that is his, and I’m able to locate it.
“Honey, a while back I got some stickers in an amazon package, and I know I put them in pile “x” but I can’t seem to find them... any ideas?”
Me: “hmmm, not really.”
“But if you had an idea, where do you think they might be?”
Me: “ummm... You might want to try on shelf in the closet that has your workout t-shirts on it?”
Sounds of rummaging, boxes tumbling, footsteps stomping, and then an exuberant “whoop” will be shouted, followed by, “Thanks, Babe!!”
It’s a super power, I’m not going to brag.
(note the not eaten food, and carbonated red juice in wine glasses)
When the kids were little, I had a very happy bit of control exerted over their toys, their clothes, food, bedtimes, snacks, friends, when they slept, where they slept, grooming, and the list goes on and on. I expected the regular push and pull of clothing and food choices, obviously, as they got older. I was “ready” for it. I prayed about these types of things as they got older (and still do) and they made their own friends and ventured into the territory of refusing to heed well intended advice about studying, how to treat people, and how to expect to be treated in return. While I maintain complete control over clothing in terms of modesty and how I expect private parts to remain private, they have all found their own sense of style, that is definitely not my style, and I’d like to think I’m OK with it all.
I remain a complete wreck, though over the things that I really don’t have control over any more. I’m terrified at times about how I don’t get to choose the drivers that are on the road with my new teenage driver. I don’t get to shield my tween from mean girls- even in homeschool circles, some girls are still mean. I don’t get to make sure that awesome boy of mine showers every day and shaves his face while he is off learning how to adult. I can’t force feed them all nutritional snacks and make them eat healthy all the time... and what about that water?!?! Two of my kids pretty much refuse it. No amount of coaching about how good they will feel, the acne will clear up, etc. will convince them that I’m right on this one. It’s maddening.
And here’s another thing: the control that my precious people have over me, now, is totally insane. Unconditional love is an overwhelming love and a fierce-protective love and a very forgiving love. I may hate some of the power struggles that have entailed at our house, and I definitely hate some of the outcomes of said power struggles, but even when it hurts, when it’s crazy, when we’re all exhausted, that serious-forever-consistent love wins at the end of the day. I can’t make my tween stop loving a certain pop star, for the love of all that is Holy (seriously), nor can I make her understand the health benefits of water. I can’t control how scared she gets during storms. I am so not in control of my son’s facial hair- he’s twenty- I get it (well, sort of). I can’t control my middle girl’s anxieties, or her sadness, and it kind of kills me a little each day.
This is what I do, though. I pray. I love. I offer advice when it’s asked for (and sometimes when it is not asked for). I pray some more. I seek godly wisdom. I read some books. I accept my children. It is so not easy, not ever, but it is working for us for the most part.
Keep calm, control what only you can, accept, and parent on!