Monday, October 29, 2012

To be in control...

 "Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong."      -Oscar Wilde

I like control. Alot.

I like to know what the outcome will be before I start the procedure. I like to have a plan, a schedule. I think, if I had been raised in an environment where things were systematic and rehearsed I could have developed a very type A personality, and probably would have gone on to become a nurse or teacher or something else that requires an organized mind, someone in control all the time, very career driven.

But I wasn't raised that way.  I was un-schooled for a good portion of my childhood, I had parents that valued creative content over neat handwriting, original ideas over spelling and beautiful autumn days over finished math tests. I did learn how to read and what 2+2 equaled. But I also had courses in "Reading Out Loud." and "Sight Reading Music Theory in 3 part harmony."  Pretty sure your average public school does not teach those classes....

Of course that couldn't last, through highschool I got down to learning algebra and my parents tried their best to instil basic grammar - the jury is still out on whether or not that was successful... And off to college I went.

I got good grades in college, when I chose to (and thanks to my amazingly brilliant roommate that proof-read every single one of my papers before I turned them in, she gave them back bleeding in red ink from all my spelling mistakes). There was that one class where I downright told the teacher I was going just for a passing grade and would be turning in only the projects that fit that criteria. She laughed and told me no student had ever told her that before. But that was my last semester senior year and I was all done. Aside from that (She gave me a C-), I got mostly A's and a few B's and LOTS of "You have a very 'unique' writing style" from professors written on my papers.
 
I like to be in control. And in my house with my kids? I am in control 100% of the time. But as I have gotten older, I have noticed that the more in control I try to be in my own life, all to often, the less control I actually have. As my kids get older I have had to let some things go. And it is physically painful for me. I have had to let go some of the control over their education and socialization by sending them to school. I have had to allow them freedom of expression, something that came so effortlessly to my parents, has been difficult for me. Let them choose their own clothes? What!?! What if they choose wrong? So I have had to, little by little, allow them to do things on their own, so that they can grow up. I have had to allow my husband to be dad. A parent, just as much as I am. It really doesn't matter what he feeds the kids for dinner, as long as they are fed. Or what time they go to bed, or whether xy and z are all in their own neat little packages. What matters is that kids are happy and taken care of, and with daddy kids are ALWAYS happy.

Daddy took all three kids to a work party all on his own recently. This was HARD for me. Not only would they be out of my sight, out of my control - but it would happen in a house I had never been to before. I didn't know the environment, the dangers, the people. But I swallowed my panic, and made sure kids had jackets as they paraded happily out the door.

Of course my fears became reality as Taylor smugly informed me the next day: "Daddy let us have soda last night!" I paused for a moment, then simply smiled, giving her the expected. "He did huh? It must have been a special day." All the while breathing through my loss of control. It is good for me.

Yes, kids like (and need) alone time with Daddy. There is a freedom there that mom can't manage.

I have been reflecting on being a kid a lot lately. I think it is because my kids are growing like weeds  and it is making me sentimental. They are hitting some real "growing up" milestones like learning to read, and talking about philosophy and religion and GETTING it.

It makes me want to take a step back, freeze time and just reflect. There are some key moments that stick out in my memory from when I was small, some of them are there for an obvious reason. An accomplishment was achieved, a tragedy occurred, but many are seemingly random. However, as I look back, I can draw something of a map between remembered moments. I realize, that I can remember specific moments growing up, where I was allowed control.  It has made me look at parenting a little differently. I realize, how much of my personality was allowed to blossom because I was allowed freedom of control. And then I also look back and realize just how much was regulated, and how important that was too.

Of course, in a sense I cheat. Maps between childhood and adulthood are easier to draw for me because I have something of a handbook - 4 handbooks actually. I think I have mentioned it before that my dad wrote letters to us kids as we were growing up. My kids LOVE hearing the conversations that were written down, that I had with my dad and other family members. Transcribed word for word from when I was 4 or 6 or whatever age they like. It is funny, some of the situations I can remember growing up, are mirrored in these books from the point of view of my parents. What a parenting gift when I have a mini-me living within my walls. Of course what parent doesn't? We are all doomed two types of children. And I will even argue that if a parent chooses to only have one kid, both personalities will be present at different times because it has been written in the stars that it must be so.

The first type of child every parent must learn to suffer through is the child that is just like them. The reason for this, is to teach us humility, and perhaps to answer the prayer of our parents ("I hope someday you have a child that puts you through all that you have put me through!") The second kind we must all learn to endure is the complete opposite of us, usually the perfect mirror of the sibling that pushed our buttons the most while growing up . My sister and I used to laugh and tell one another that someday we would each have a daughter, and hers would be exactly like me, and mine would be just like her.

We were deadly right.

The reason for this, is the same reason we had that sibling in the first place. To learn to laugh in the face of insanity. The insanity being of course the sibling that, according to you, is always wrong.
 
But my memory of growing up is so spotty, perhaps that is normal? Perhaps it is hereditary as certain members of my family have a reputation for being "forgetful." 

I can remember clearly the first time I asked my mom how many cookies I could have at a party. And she said "you are old enough to know what is ok, you choose." That memory is strong. But there are so many holes. Times I feel should have been remembered, that are not.

For instance, I have no memory of this:

"Hello Daddy."
"Oh, hi Sarah."
"Mama told me to call you at work."
"Oh yeah? What's up?"
"It's out."
"Out? What's out?"
"My tooth is out."
"Your tooth fell out?"
"No - I think I swallowed it."
"Oh no - Sarah!"
"I was eating toast."
"What are you going to do Sarah?"
"Nothing."
"Will you finish your toast?"
"I already did."
"Wow, your first tooth. I think I'll write that on the wall somewhere."
"No! You can't."
"But I want everyone to know."
"It's not allowed."
"No - well, I guess you're right."
"Goodbye Daddy."
"Goodbye Sarah."


See? Control issues as a 6 year old. But no real lasting memory. I wonder if my older sister, the one exactly like my now 6 year old (Who has already lost 5 teeth) can remember such a monumental occurrence as losing her first tooth.  And yet several pages later it is barely mentioned that I helped to lay new bathroom tile, and I can remember that vividly!

I remember once as a kid, asking my mom what we were going to do that day, and getting the response: "We will just play it by ear." and it caused panic. I can remember that panic. Because I needed a schedule.  I envied kids in school, and I can remember this - not because of the friends or the lack or parental presence, but because they got a schedule! The joy I felt in college, going to my first class, knowing EXACTLY what would happen next. I can remember it vividly and it still thrills me.

As a pre-teen and beyond I put together a schedule for myself and followed it religiously. I remember it started at 8:15 and went through until 7pm. Breaking the day into 15 minute increments, each with an assigned task/activity - some as simple as "Play cards and listen to music." Some mental professional out there is probably shaking their head at this, thinking "an 11 year old with every moment of everyday scheduled by choice? Must be early onset ocd!" But it really wasn't. I just liked to be in control, and honestly at that age I didn't get much. My mom had a baby and a toddler in the house to care for, so I was left mostly on my own to plan anything that needed doing. And so I did.

I still get a certain level of anxiety facing a day with nothing planned.I tell people that I am a stay at home mom, but I don't stay at home. I go OUT of this prison of a house and explore. I wish so badly we had gardens, museums and zoo's close by, those were my freedom as a kid. And my kids would LOVE them.

I like control. But as I get older, I am learning that there is freedom in giving up the reigns. The joy I see in my kids eyes when I tell them they get to choose. The relief I feel when someone else plans dinner. These are good things! I'm tired. And I realize that it is ok to let someone else be boss for a time. God has been training me for something, I can tell. I have been put into situations where I get to stand by and watch a lot lately. And it has been good. Hard, but good!

So today I will be out of control. I will not go to the gym. I will have a second cup of coffee. I will only fold laundry if I want to. I may even let the kids have some soda! Perhaps we shall go outside and sing at the top of our lungs until the neighbors come out to join us. Perhaps we shall sit inside and watch movies way past our bedtimes. I think I'll let the kids decide. Perhaps I shall let Kaylee choose lunch and then the big kids can do the dishes. Then we shall built a pillow fort and leave it up all night and the next day. Today I shall be spontaneous and not scheduled. Today I shall get the answer wrong and be ok with it.

But first a fussy baby is up from her nap and I need that second cup of coffee....

There are lots and lots of people who are always asking things,
Like Dates and Pounds-and-ounces and the names of funny Kings,
And the answer's always Sixpence or a Hundred Inches Long.
And I know they'll think me silly if I get the answer wrong.
So Pooh and I go whispering, and Pooh looks very bright,
And says, "Well, I say sixpence, but I don't suppose I'm right."
And then it doesn't matter what the answer ought to be,
'Cos if he's right, I'm Right, and if he's wrong, it isn't Me.   - A.A. Milne

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