Musings From a Control Freak Learning to Relinquish

Musings From a Control Freak Learning to Relinquish


It seems every parenting decision today comes with a whole slew of research behind it. We’ve been conditioned to be hyper aware of every move we make, careful of the potential outcomes of every wrong turn, every slip up. We’re trying to shape these perfect little humans, but do we ever stop to consider why we’re convinced that perfect is best? We don’t need to be giving our children the ideal version of everything, and what would it really teach them about life if they always got the best of the best? I haven’t always been able to stand back and see this so objectively, but as it turns out, as I’ve been trying to teach my kids lesson after lesson, what seems to be happening instead is that they are teaching me.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve had to take a reluctant step back from my son’s care. I’m at a stage where I can’t be there for most of the wake ups, the breakfast routines, the bedtime stories. And do I hate to admit that I don’t always love Dad’s way of doing things? Have I been guilty of worrying whether my son would pick up some less than ideal habits that weren’t of my own carefully researched choosing? Ugh. I’m ashamed to say that I have. Especially considering how exceptional of a father my husband is.

So what is it, this obsession with controlling every aspect of parenting? Is the honest answer that I think I do it best? Let’s say it is. Why am I so attached to my kid always getting the “best” version of everything? Is that really setting them up for success? Dad gave him food that was way too hot the other day, something I would never do because I’m perfect in every way right (HA!). My son spat it out and instantly started screaming. And what did that teach him? To test his freaking food before every bite thereafter. Genius. And the award for safety lesson of the week goes to Dad, not mom, who is too busy sheltering him from the realness that is life.

There are fundamental things all couples disagree on. They warrant discussion, debate, and in some cases full out mediation to come to any kind of agreement. But for the most part, having radically different parents now seems like a pro and not a con. To see two people putting their differences aside to love each other is beautiful. To have an atheist and a spiritual gangster coexist is wonderful for my children to witness. I can be too nice, and my husband can be too harsh, and I think it will be just fine for my son to see how both work. Or when each might be most useful. I think the fact that my son can watch my husband and I debate fiercely over things and then kiss each other lovingly before bed will make him a more accepting and tolerant person. I think we’re effortlessly giving him a fair chance of being flexible and adaptable in a world where there are a hell of a lot more than just two ways of doing something. We could use a little more letting go of our way being the only way, and teach our kids how to figure out which way is best for them. Maybe we can even teach ourselves in the process.

I was with my mom a lot growing up. She was a stay-at-home mom, and my brother and I went home for lunch every day. My dad traveled a lot for work, so I spent a solid chunk of time with my mom. I still ended up as much like my dad as I am like her, and my brother and I are radically different. While our surroundings helped shape us for sure, they weren’t the main factor. We still turned into exactly the people we were meant to be.

It didn’t take long after becoming a mother to learn that I don’t have control over everything I thought I would. But I’m only now realizing it’s not a bad thing; it might even be better this way. Because when I concede a bit of the control I normally hold so tightly, I make room for my kids to teach me new things. Like how to let go. And through letting go, I give my children the gift of new perspectives, new climates, and new experiences. Sure I feel guilty when I realize my son has spent his entire Saturday running wild around the house. That’s not what the literature says is best for his development. I didn’t spend half an hour on the alphabet. I didn’t take out any puzzles, or color-sorting games. But my son is currently stirring a soup he made me out of broken bits of crayon inside my best Tupperware, and I feel like this is infinitely more interesting than whether he knows Y is for Yacht (yes, my two year old’s alphabet book thought “yacht” was more appropriate than “yes” or “yellow”).

My kids are going to be exposed to a lot more than my partner’s swearing, mismatched outfits, or too-hot eggs. They’ll experience much worse than my emotional outbursts and inability to engage in winter activities. They’ll watch me try and fail repeatedly to get things right. And they’ll be best equipped to handle life if I expose them to what’s out there, instead of only the carefully researched, curated version of the world I’ve been clinging to. If I want my children to be able to cope, I have to give them a life that allows them to. And then I have to step back and give them the opportunity to show me the marvel that they are.

Previously Published on medium

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