I Shall Not Want…Control

I had my granddaughter all day a couple of weeks ago. I try to avoid this on school days because the thought of juggling school with three kids at once nearly incapacitates me. I realize in writing this that I am speaking to mothers who have more than three children at home – all day, every day. Bless you, sweet mothers. You must be unflappable; clearly with nerves of steel. I, however, am not. I am one kid closer to the edge. I do know my limits.

We did a little school, and then I declared an extended recess. It was a Friday, and I figured this was a much better plan (for my sanity). So, I pulled out the big guns – the playdoh and a plethora of instruments to mold, mash, cut, and shape it. Kynlee was delighted with the Dora the Explorer cut outs. She made several Boots (the monkey), and so did Jamie. After a long afternoon of picking playdoh out of the carpet and the bottom of Kynlee’s tap shoes (because two-year olds wear tap shoes all.the.time), I had a brilliant idea. You know, one of those mommy-blogger Pinterest type of ideas. We took the party outside, and I gave them paint brushes with water to “paint” the deck. This eventually led to “cleaning” the sliding glass door windows. I sat nearby to observe, amused by my flash of lucidity.

Kids are funny and fascinating to watch, true mimics. Kynlee has to try everything the older kids try, at least once. I was quite amused by how eagerly she followed them around, doing what they do. Well, it wasn’t long before Jamie’s paintbrush became a weapon. He stopped painting and started running full sprint toward an imaginary enemy. “Charge!” he shouted, as he ran with his paintbrush thrust forward like a sword. Boys are such warriors, aren’t they? Jamie has the heart of a warrior. So, naturally, Kynlee was only a few steps behind. When she started running after him, she didn’t even know what he was going to do next. Talk about blind faith. Whatever it was, she was “in” –game to give it a try. I watched Kynlee raise her brush-sword, just like Jamie. But interestingly, she did not shout “Charge!” next. To my amazement, Kynlee dropped her brush, transforming it into a type of pointer, and then dropped her free hand firmly into place on her tiny hip, before she stated in her most serious, scolding voice, “I am in charge, you understand? She bobbed her blonde head with the words in a diva-like rhythmic yet authoritative manner. Uh-oh. Step aside, Beyoncé. There’s a new queen bee in the hive. Whoever her pretend challenger was, she sure told him.

I dawned on me that, in the span of a few minutes of play, I had just witnessed the difference between boys and girls. It was jolting to see how true to form we live out our wiring. Our brave-heart boys who fight anything that moves, and even things that don’t move. I watched Jamie beat down a gigantic weed the other day with a blue, plastic billy club. He “attacked” wearing yellow goggles (because everyone knows warriors wear goggles) shouting, “Hi-yah! You will surrender to me!” And then we have us girls…..born to run (or run over) something, or someone. We are large and in charge, aren’t we? Perpetually challenged by our innate desire to wear the pants around here. Thank you, Janet Jackson, for giving voice to my tyranny, “C-C-Control….now I’m all grown up”. Was it just me, or were her music videos mesmerizing? Maybe it was the giant key hoop earring she wore? I always wanted an earring like that. Whatever it was, she seemed to have the keys to her own kingdom. And I liked that……a lot.

I am becoming increasingly aware of my controlling nature. I see it especially in mothering my children. That’s what happens when you put the warriors and queen bees all together under the same roof. Power struggles are common place. On some days, I feel sorry for myself because God did not give me easy children, if there is such a thing. Maybe easy child is an oxymoron. All I know is that I am at a 1 to 4 ratio of “go with the flow” vs. “strong personality” children. That’s 25%, people. Hardly seems fair. Please, spare me the comments about apples and their proximity to the trees from which they have fallen. I know I’m intense. But I didn’t know what intensity looked like from the “other side” – trying to parent a willful, intense child, or more accurately rid the child of it by any means necessary. I think there should be some unwritten law that children get easier by birth order. Anyone? Let me ask you, have you met my youngest? I rest my case.

Let me summarize a real conversation with Jamie from our first day of school this year. We had made it through the school day without major incident, a minor miracle. Jamie was kind of cooperative…he was excited after all, it was the first day of school. I made a special dinner and cake to celebrate. Daddy came home in time to eat with us, a rare treat with his schedule. We each got a piece of cake, Jamie’s was a bit smaller than Chloe’s. But he is half Chloe’s age, so I cut the cake accordingly. And he didn’t finish his dinner – he never finishes his dinner. The WWF has nothing on us in watching our super-fly maneuvers to get Jamie to eat his dinner. It is always a super-smack-down wrestling event. And this night was no different. Jamie loudly let me know his cake size was not pleasing to him. I tried to redirect, be firm, be kind, be anything to get the kid to let go of his protest and just eat the cake already. Or at least let the rest of us eat our cake in peace. He eventually ate the piece I gave him, and I cleaned up the kitchen. After dinner, Jamie comes into the family room and announces, “I am not speaking to you anymore and I am not doing school because you didn’t give me big cake”. This kid does not concede easily. Isn’t that extortion or something? Does this sound extreme for a five-year old to say to his mother?

I had another situation a couple of weeks ago with one of my children. I also viewed it as “extreme” behavior. I tried to discuss with my husband, who found it quite funny. Before I knew it, I found myself saying, “If you come home laughing, I am not talking to you for a week”. Sound familiar? Suddenly, I understood Jamie’s logic in the cake stand-off. The bottom line is we are all trying to get other people to do what we want them to do.

C-C-Control.

I recently shared some of my kid challenges with a friend. She easily sliced and diced the issues at hand and talked, very unemotionally, through possible corrective steps to take. I listened, wondering why I can’t respond like her, and then realized it is because I don’t have the emotional space needed. When my kids behave badly, I automatically take it personally because it violates my law of control. They are not doing what I want them to do. The breakdown begins the moment they veer off my course. From there, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to complete and utter failure as a mother. Is this just me, or do other moms feel this way? Why can’t we separate (and deal with) our kid’s bad behavior without letting it equal bad mothering?

C-C-Control. That’s why. Because we’d have to admit we are not in control, and we are hard-wired to maintain control at all costs.

I watched Mom’s Night Out over the weekend. My first thought was, “At least I am not as bad as her”. The main character was basically a basket-case. Her husband found her sitting in a dark closet, eating junk food, and watching some video of an eagle with her eaglets. The woman was an incoherent, hysterical mess. What I realized though, as I watched, is this was her display of losing control. We may have different forms, but it’s the same root. All mothers have to come to terms with the fact that we cannot control our children. Kids just don’t stay within our carefully laid lines of acceptable behavior. Because they are people, not plants. Willful, sinful, foolish – just like us. As John Rosemond puts it, “born terrorists”. But we tend to forget this. We bear the full weight of responsibility, and take every misbehavior as a personal affront to our carefully constructed plans. I tend to overreact when my kids get it wrong, and project doom and gloom in our future. It wouldn’t take much more to find me in the dark closet on some days.

I just finished a book about Psalm 23, A Shepherd Looks as Psalm 23 . Somewhere in the middle of this book, I saw a flash of what was needed. More grace. Grace for the kids, and grace for me. To recognize the Lord is with us in the journey of motherhood. We are not alone, and we are not in charge. He is, and that brings comfort and rest in His Sovereign care. The book has helped me draw nearer to my Shepherd. I am learning to loosen my grip and reach instead for contentment found in Him.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).

I don’t know about you, but that verse is like gentle water to my frazzled soul. Thinking of motherhood like being a little flock led by a Good Shepherd frees me from my tendency to overreact to every wrong move of my sheep. We are all ultimately His sheep, even the stubborn, unruly, reckless ones who seem doomed to careen over the side of a cliff. His rod and staff comfort me, and them. We can abide within His fold in our parental responsibility to guide and train our children. We can trust His goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives…..in each clash for control that is part of our nature.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul” (Psalm 23)….

The Good Shepherd has a gentle way of leading us, mothers. He moves us to surrender control of ourselves, and our children, to His faithful hand. We cannot know the peace or abundance of His pasture until we lie down in His care.

I AM is in charge, you understand?

The sooner we do, the better for us and our little band of bedraggled sheep.

 

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