Sunday, November 28, 2010

Am I Really In Control?

Does. Not. Compute.
Control. I have a need for it. It gives me a sense of security to have some control over my day and how things are going to go. My husband teases me about my need for order and planning; but the need runs deep. When plans go awry I short circuit like one of those old movie robots, chanting "Does not compute! Does not compute!" as I anxiously try to reassess.

My husband, bless him, is much more laid back than I am. He likes to wing it and be more spontaneous. I loved this when we were dating; now that we have children it makes me a bit insane. And yet, I do wish I was a bit more like him. On a day to day basis, he is so much less stressed out than I am. Sometimes I think he enjoys parenting more than I do. He is not thrown for a loop when things don't go as planned (probably because there never is a plan) and he certainly is a lot less exhausted at the end of the day.

What am I trying to control, you may ask? Well...on any given day, probably just about everything. It is no wonder I am so exhausted. I tell myself that I do it because it helps provide a sense of order in what would be an otherwise very chaotic life. With almost 4-year old twins there is a certain amount of chaos going on each day. If I can minimize any extra chaos by planning and preparing, then I feel it makes my life easier. But is this extra involvement really making things easier? Perhaps, if I just let some of it go, instead of experiencing more chaos I would actually feel more at ease. 

When I became a SAHM, I threw myself into this role with passion, as I had done with every job I had before it. I read every book I could get my hands on and went to every lecture I could find; in short, I was going to arm myself with as much knowledge as I could and be the best SAHM I could be. I read a quote recently about the multitude of parenting books available these days: 
"These books, and the myriad others like them, hold out the promise of a healthy, civilised [sic] venture, where every obstacle, every bedtime, every tantrum, is something to be mastered like an exam at school."
This stopped me in my tracks. That was exactly what I was doing. Trying to have an answer for everything my children did. Trying to know every trick and master every nuance of parenting as if that would give some sense of order and control to my days. More importantly, it would also mean I was skilled at my job as mother. Was this really the way to approach parenting? And was this attempt at organizing my day actually making my life more difficult? I am beginning to think that there can be such a thing as trying to have too much order. Is my attempt at controlling my environment robbing my children of the joy of spontaneously created wonder? From the same article I quoted above: 
"Can we, for a moment, flash back to the benign neglect of the 1970s and '80s? I can remember my parents having parties, wild children running around until dark, catching fireflies. If these children helped themselves to three slices of cake, or ingested the second-hand smoke from cigarettes, or carried cocktails to adults who were ever so slightly slurring their words, they were not noticed; they were loved, just not monitored. And, as I remember it, those warm summer nights of not being focused on were liberating. In the long sticky hours of boredom, in the lonely, unsupervised, unstructured time, something blooms; it was in those margins that we became ourselves."
me and my father
I am truly a product of this type of parenting. My hippie parents were quite young when I was born and the only ones in their circle with children. In the late 1960's there was very little research available about child development and even less to be read in the way of parenting advice. My parents mostly relied on instinct to guide them. There are some things they did that I cringe at now (I can't imagine leaving a 9-year old girl alone with two 11-year old boys as "babysitters"), but overall, despite the lack of rules, I knew I was loved. And perhaps it was this lack of supervision that allowed me to develop my creativity and my independence. Had an adult constantly been monitoring my every step I might be a very different person.

So maybe I do try to control too much in my life and the lives of our children. It's not that I try to spare them from every hurt and disappointment, but rather that I try to be prepared for every hurt and disappointment; as if in knowing how to handle it all, I can somehow lessen the blow. I don't think I will ever be comfortable being as laid back as my parents or even my husband, but I would like to find a middle ground. I would like to feel at ease letting my children handle their own conflicts without my interference, and I would like to disengage enough that our kids can learn to play on their own (or together) without always wanting my involvement. Mostly, I would like, at the end of the day, not to feel so depleted; I want to live in the moment with our children and enjoy the detours life sends our way -- not to be constantly preparing myself to battle them. In Laura Davis and Janis Keyser's terrific book, "Becoming The Parent You Want To Be", there is a short paragraph in one of the first few chapters that illustrates this point perfectly:
"The parents in a nurturing family realize that problems will come along, simpy because life offers them, but they will be alert to creative solutions for each new problem as it appears. Troubled families, on the other hand, put all their energies into the hopeless attempt to keep problems from happening; and when they do happen -- and of course they do -- these people have no resources left for solving them."
Not that I feel "troubled", but I am beginning to be aware that all of my energy is going towards trying to stave off potential problems as opposed to just enjoying my life. I think it's time to make some changes.

What about you? How involved are you in the details? How do you step back without losing control? Or are you as caught up in trying to control the chaos of family life as I am? I'd love to know!

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

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4 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Keilah said...

That is definitely a tough one! A mother's instinct is to rush in and save her babies. :) I have learned to step back out of necessity, I'm just too busy. The oldest two are on their own often while I'm busy with the younger two. They hardly ever bring me into their arguments or squabbles. When you do get involved, try asking the children what they think should be done, or what is fair.

The Twin Coach said...

Very good advice, Keilah. I am starting family meetings with my kids so I can more input from them. Thanks for the comment!

Dana said...

Seven years ago, I was a Type A personality with definite need for control, then I got a dog. The dog shed everywhere, still does, and she forced me to ease impossibly high standards of order and cleanliness in the house. Then a few years later, our first baby. Then twins. Then another baby. I am an incredibly different person now --- out of necessity. I can't control everything, nor do I want to. I'm also much, much happier.

The Twin Coach said...

So maybe what I need is two more children. :) I'm kidding, Dana...your point is actually very insightful. When you have no choice, you just let go. I have to find a way to get there without adding more kids to the household! LOL!

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