What AM I in control of?
Lately the concept of control and parenting has been coming up a lot...With my friends, relatives and in conversations with my husband.
I am beginning to think that the fight for control is the barrier that can keep me from loving others well, receiving blessings, and the fight that can distance me from God. And so I understand why many 12 step programs use the prayer, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
I have discovered that if I don't stop to reflect daily on where my heart is (for me, that involves prayer), I shove my way around in a distorted world where I believe I am supposed to be in control-- of everything. Not an appealing quality. If I am not mindful, then my ego persuades me to believe that I can control how people perceive my children, who my kids' friends will be, what sports, academics, and arts they'll succeed in, which friends they will make-- and if I get really lost in this mindset, I might even believe that I can control how they will remember their childhood. I can become blind enough to believe I can control how each member of my family feels (including my husband) each moment of the day. And the very worst? I might start to think I can control what everyone else thinks about me and my family. In short, I start to think that I am GOD. Yuck! Arrogance. Wipe it AWAY. I feel ugly even writing this. I am ugly at times. But God forgives and blesses me every day, anyway.
God showed me who is in control very early in my parenting life. Ultimately he gave me the extremely sensitive, unpredictable, gifted child-- my oldest boy who needs structure and control and predictability almost every hour of the day to control his anxiety. A child with a wonderful smile and kind heart who creates chaos all over my home because it makes him feel in control (and me completely out of control.) A child who is completely unpredictable himself and whom NO ONE seems to be able to control (except for Joanie, his wonderful teacher) and except of course, God. Apparently I needed a thrashing. He also gave me two other children, my middle son (now almost 6) and my daughter (4), who are also, like most children, not extremely predictable.
But going back to the beginning of parenthood, I now realize that God grabbed a hold of me before I had a chance to get carried away as the lunatic new mom I was about to become (admittedly, I obviously still am a controlling person, but I can only imagine how much worse off I would be without these early lessons.)
First off, I couldn't get pregnant right away. I was like, "What? I cannot have this baby RIGHT NOW? Not fair! I want a baby NOW!" And it was all I thought about and talked about and cared about for a while. Self centered would describe me. I probably was not very pleasant to be around. Second, after finally getting pregnant, I started having contractions at 21 weeks, ending my running days, which were (and are) my medication for sanity. The contractions also slowed down my work life as a self-employed graphic designer and illustrator, which I thrived on for validation. I started to feel unarmed and vulnerable. NOT in control. My poor husband got to see my worst moods. Finally, my baby was breech, so all of the hours of hypnobirthing preparation for a natural childbirth were wasted. I had to have a C-section, of all things.
Like I said in our March of Dimes talk this week, it turned out that God's plan was more creative and rich and beautiful than mine because He showed me: 1) I needed to slow down to actually think about having this baby. 2) I needed to stop NEEDING to run so fast (still need to slow down today, I know.) 3) I had to stop depending on my career and my success as an artist for my self-esteem.
Seeing my son pulled out of my stomach, screaming with reassuring life, a scrunchy face, brand new to the world, placed in my arms-- OUR baby. Experiencing life erupting in a contrasting blue bright operating room filled strangers-- it blew me and my plans AWAY. I was blinded by the miracle. Life is complex, indescribable, and I got to see where it begins. It didn't matter where we were. Through this birth I could clearly see and feel God's greatness-- even if only for a moment...
Because my child's life was about to be threatened, and there would be pain, suffering, isolation and unpredictability in our lives. This was just the beginning of the letting go.
But I don't want to get into the details of that long story now because I want to keep this entry relatively short, so I don't lose you.
Oh wait, I forgot the best part-- what DO I have control over? I think mostly my own behavior and my own ability to love, reach out, ask for help, ask for forgiveness and to receive. To reach out. I need to ask God for guidance constantly. If I keep my heart, my ears and eyes open, and I SLOW DOWN, then the path is there.
Today I had control over how much attention and kindness I could give my family. I had control over whether I could drink a sip of the blessings that were given to me. Like the tools, inspiration and time to write this entry, to create art with my oldest child, to talk to my sisters on the phone, to enjoy a tower that my little girl made, and to soak up the sunshine as I rode bikes home from school with my middle boy.
I pray that my words are sensible enough to touch a person who needs them. I know that there are many out there who struggle like me. May you have peace recognizing what you cannot control, may you see clearly what you CAN, and have the clarity to receive the blessings you are offered.
(To be continued)