I don’t think of myself as someone with control issues, but sometimes I take a closer look, and a few things float to the surface. Maybe more than a few. It’s uncomfortable for me to think of myself as a controller, because I’d like to think I’m at least within striking range of a healthy psychological outlook. A girl can dream. :) Discomfort, though, does not have to be abolished. At times, the very fact that I’m uncomfortable gives me a significant clue that change is just around the corner, whether I’m ready to change or not. Thankfully, I’m learning, with God’s gentle but firm hand, to embrace change with peace of mind, but I feel sure I need practice, especially when I think of some of my control issues:
1. If I put everything in my house in the right place, my life will be under control. This is a subtle form of control. It looks really good to others, particularly when they come over. No one walks into a tidy home and says, “Wow. Your home is neatly arranged. Are you trying to manipulate your possessions in such a way as to make your emotions more palatable?” But, at times, I admit, that is one of my motivations for cleaning up. If the living room is strewn with toys at the end of the day, I’m not relaxed. I feel like I left part of my job (teaching my children respect for their toys and for the neatness of our home) undone. “So what,” my sane self asks. “You leave the ironing undone and you sleep fine.” True. I’ll need to work on this one. There’s a balance between comfortable tidiness and rigid organizational framework. Blossom might disagree with me on that; she never met a tidy place she couldn’t turn into a creative crafting spot, complete with paper bits everywhere.
2. If I worry about you when you’re on a trip, nothing bad will happen to you while you’re traveling. Relax, everyone. I didn’t indulge myself in this one while Honey was on his birthday weekend. It occurred to me, of course, but this ain’t my first rodeo. I remind myself that this is one of the logic traps that sounds right even though it’s false: I worried that harm would come to you. Harm did not come to you. Therefore, worrying prevents harm. The fact is, any time I say goodbye to a loved one, it could be the last time. Accidents happen. Other people do sometimes intend to hurt you. Diseases weaken, and sometimes kill, us. Can I control this? No. That’s unnerving. Worrying seemed more proactive, somehow, until I realized how much time I was spending on complex, intricate plots in my worries. Once I worried for ten miles about the possibility that I could have driven off the highway where there was inadequate railing installed and a deep plunge down to a spot that was difficult to see. I was worrying about something that had already not happened. That silliness became the first step toward freedom from worry for me.
3. If I demonstrate that I understand your side of an issue, you won’t think that I’m an intolerant idiot. Again with the good-looking control issues. People like to be understood; people like other people more when those other people accept them freely. I am particularly sensitive to this one because I am fortunate enough to have a diverse range of friends, many of whom hold at least one strong opinion that I disagree with. I want to hear them out. I love learning from them, and I love hanging out with them. At the same time, I have to keep an eye out for the all-too-human tendency to want everyone to like me and think I’m so informed and judicious in my opinions. At the end of the day, I want to enjoy the positive aspects of listening to other people without basing my self-esteem on their opinions of me.
4. If my kids behave well, or accomplish much, I’m a good mother. I’m the poster child for nice-looking neuroses, it turns out. That’s a little disappointing. It’s certainly important to teach children socially appropriate behavior and manners, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings if they go ahead and say something cute or precocious while they’re meeting others. But let’s face it. Most of us are good mothers regardless of how our kids behave at any given moment. We provide the necessities and many extras. We lavish love on our kiddos. We’re teaching valuable lessons about how to handle their emotions; appreciate their strong, healthy bodies; and think for themselves. We’re not, however, in control of how they turn out. Can you call to mind an example of good parents whose kid seems like a train wreck? Or vice versa, a dysfunctional home life that produces a child whose accomplishments defy rational explanation? I battle this temptation by remembering that Jesus didn’t always do what Mary had in mind for Him, either, and yet she is remembered as an excellent mother. Full disclosure: I understand that Mary had unparalleled child-material to work with as she parented, and I don’t think any of my children are the actual, literal “Son (or Daughter) of God.” :) But there is hope for me, for all of us, and for our children, in freeing ourselves from the “behavior=parenting grade” model.
What about you? Any control issues you want to bare for us here? I’d love to hear your perspective.