What does control mean anyhow?
According to dictionary.com it means to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.
Let me paint you a mental picture…
You have someone in your life who just cannot bear to keep their opinions about your life to themselves. He or she just knows exactly what you should do at every moment of every day and this person is not afraid to let you know. As a matter of fact, this person “thinks” that he or she is helping you but in fact, said person is driving you… INSANE! This person is not thinking about your feelings, considering your perspective or respecting your right to make your own choices. He or she is overbearing, relentless and constantly oversteps boundaries. You are a person with thoughts, beliefs, feelings, perspective, worthy of respect and the opportunity to fail. This person is trying to break your will, impose his or her views onto you by domination, direction and in some cases, commanding you to do THEIR will. I know because I have BEEN “this” person… Hell, I AM this person. I’m a mom.
As a stay-at-home mom of a toddler, my home can become somewhat chaotic in the sense that toddlers are in fact… chaotic. At one point, he and I were completely enmeshed together (I being the body and he being the brain, of course) and with each tiny achievement, this immobile, innocent, QUIET little creature became a walking, screeching, WHINING tornado with a will AND a way! From the point of complete dependence to partial independence, this little boy, chock full of my husband and I’s strong-willed DNA, has determined to live his own life regardless of my expectations for it. I mean, can you believe how inconsiderate he is of how much work I have to do and the plans I have for his life? I have to keep the house clean, organized and stocked, plan meals, go shopping, plan fun, educational activities, take care of the dogs, maintain the yard, blah, blah, blah, responsibility, responsibility, responsibility…. He doesn’t care! I want him to grow up respectful, loving, creative, obedient and loving God with all his heart, but does he consider MY feelings? I could have my head in the stove, hands black scrubbing off the cheese from last night’s pita pizzas and he “conveniently” has to go potty. But such is the life of a toddler… it’s all about him. And rightfully so. I am his teacher, his counselor, his playtoy…. it’s my responsibility to love, encourage, lead, and protect him. But how am I supposed to build a foundation for my child when mine is crumbling? I am exhausted, have no life, barely see adults and my time with God suffers because, well, who has the time? So when my outside life becomes chaotic, my inner life is in complete turmoil. And what happens then? I become a CONTROL FREAK!
Why does this happen you ask? I shall explain…
As women, God created us to be peaceful, loving, nurturing and posess a quiet spirit. Now don’t go all fem-Nazi on me… hear me out. Having a “quiet spirit” does NOT mean being quiet and mousy (mousie?). Anyone who knows me knows I’m NOT quiet. I am passionate, opinionated, loud and borderline obnoxious when I’ve had enough caffiene in me. I can be silly, goofy and outspoken. But when my SPIRIT is quiet, it is not looking for conflict, it is peaceful, respectful, still and overall stable. I know that this is not PC especially in today’s New-Age philosophies, but I am a traditionalist woman in the sense that I feel we really have to learn our place in society. I fully support strong, confident women in leadership roles. I believe women can bring a ton of diplomacy and critical decision making skills in a variety of positions from government to teaching. But I also believe in the empowerment of woman-hood to play the supportive role within the family and societal structure because of our naturally loving and peaceful demeanor. When we become overly opinionated (judgemental), overly “nurturing” (clingy), overly controlling (disrepectful), and overly chatty (gossipy), we are blatantly telling others that we don’t regard their own opinions, values, beliefs, perspectives, choices. And this goes for children as well. One of the most annoying habits of a control freak is the blatant DISRESPECT! I know our spoiled, entitled society has almost completely demolished the idea of what respect is, but it means that we honor, value, appreciate, lift up, and esteem others. For those of us who are in relationships or married, we have seen this blatant disrespect wreak havoc on our significant others because men NEED to be respected. This doesn’t mean that women don’t either, but when given the choice between love and respect, 9 times out of 10 a woman will value love GREATER than respect and a man will value respect GREATER than love. Of course the two go hand in hand, but they are also completely unique entities consisting of a variety of expectations, needs, and desires unique to the characteristics of each sex.
On that note, when we feel stressed, anxious and like our outer life is out of control, we naturally begin creating rules for ourselves and others to live by in order for us to maintain some sense of control. Some of us struggle with this more than others but I do believe we ALL have this built into our character. So in our mind, we cling onto our ideals, beliefs and perspectives tighter than we ever have and any slight disagreement with these things becomes an attack on us as people. That’s when the guns come out… uh-blazin. That’s why our children cannot live up to our standards for them and we battle them because it’s our will and ideas for their lives versus theirs. And for my poor little toddler, he has no choice but to accept my will because I have the power to put him in time-out otherwise. True story.
So you’re a control freak huh?! Well, now what?
You find some peace and stability in the fact that even your young children are in God’s hands. We take our parental roles seriously, but must be careful not to take them so seriously that we forget to have fun and enjoy our children. I have really learned to let my son’s future rest in God’s hands. I can control what I feed him, what he watches and which approaches to use for discipline… all with the BEST intentions, and his future may look NOTHING like what I may have planned or expected. Besides, people do not exist to be what WE think they should be. They exist to be who God created them to be. And I have realized that as much as children need guidance and discipline, they also need empathy. I was so afraid of him ever having to face the difficult experiences that I have faced in life that I began to create all of these strict rules for him, setting him up for failure, thus recreating the very thing I tried so hard to protect him from. I forgot how hard it is to be a child discovering the world for the first time and learning to handle these intense emotions. I’m still learning how to handle my emotions. Why make it harder on him than it needs to be? Why make life harder for ourselves?
This is what we do to our children and ourselves. How many of us have been on the receiving end of our own criticism? How many times do we agree that we are our own worst enemies?! Because when things are out of control, we feel the need TO control. This is the very moment when we need to control the only thing we actually CAN control… ourselves and the way that we respond to situations. I have learned to stop myself from screaming when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end from all the incessant whining, and have begun to listen to my son and ask him what he needs. Rather than reacting from my instincts and primal emotions, I have begun learning to manage my emotions in order to respond the RIGHT way or the way that would best build up my little boy rather than tear him down. By all means, I struggle… and fail. Miserably at times. But I’m working hard. And we all are every time that our bosses gives a disrespectful demand and instead of punching him in the face, we smile and fulfill our duties. Or when our mother-in-laws lovingly show us a “better” way to arrange our living room and we respond with a “thank you so much for your perspective, but I like my living room the way it is,” rather than a loud “BUTT OUT!” We learn to take the high road. The road much less travelled and it is WORK. But we are faced with a bajillion situations within our lives that are just so far out of our control and we can either BE controlled or learn to control ourselves. There is nothing more stable than a person who can choose how they want to respond to any given situation regardless of how they feel. We must learn to dominate our out of control mouths, emotions and even abusive thoughts. We must take command of the power we have within to generate results that will bring life to others around us, not death. It’s easy to tell other people what they should do with their lives. It’s easy to give your opinion to anyone with an ear. It’s easy to explode when we’re angry, even if it’s justifiable. It’s harder to just listen, to be supportive and encouraging even when we know the right answers! It’s harder to focus on the positive than the negative.
The TRUE test of strength is how well we can control our actions even when we’re angry, hurt, or even abused. God sees our sacrifices and even holding in a well deserved “f-you” will be seen by him and awarded to us with an inner strength that no one else in this world could ever give us. Self-control is the fruit we bear when we are in-line with God’s heart to eat our negativity. Our little children are so sensitive to our words, emotions and body language. Let’s teach them that this world can be safe, loving and caring as well as demonstrate that they must live by rules and guidance. The world will only revolve around them for so long until they learn the harsh reality of life. And then, when they are frustrated and need a shoulder to cry on… let it be their mommy’s.