Ladies and Gentlemen, as I’m sure many of you have realized by now, I am a Control Freak.
I know. It caught me unaware, too. (I kid, I kid!)
And I am this way, a grasping, clamoring, rigid, inflexible, unreasonable person because I am afraid. I try to control everything because I am controlled by fear.
I find it most prevalent in my parenting. I’m sure it shows up in other ways, as Hapa Papa has surely experienced personally, but I notice it most in my parenting because strangely enough, my children happen to be little humans and do not obediently truck with everything I demand of them. (For me, this is the single, most infuriating and crippling thing about parenthood.)
I think I would have far fewer full on nuclear standoffs with my children if I just saw my belief systems as what they truly are: a way to order and control my children. (In fact, I believe this to be true for all belief systems – whether they be religion, political affiliations, even science. They are our methods to order and control our worlds.)
Instead, I fool myself into believing that what I’m imposing on my children is a life or death battle – the key to them growing into upstanding citizens and good people. I draw these ridiculous lines in the sand wherein if they don’t finish their yogurt for breakfast I am going to let them starve to death and never feed them again or if they don’t put on their helmet I’m going to throw away their scooter and all their other fun ride on toys and never let them go to the park again.
I do so because deep down, I am convinced that if I just make my kids do XYZ, then they’ll get into Harvard (or UCLA) and then they’ll become a doctor or something and be successful and have a good and happy life. Yes. All this from eating their fucking yogurt.
Until I had children, I never realized just how superstitious I was as a person. After all, wasn’t I an enlightened and educated person? Didn’t I believe in a God who was bigger, more powerful, and more merciful than even my education and religion? Didn’t I also believe in science (albeit, less powerful but still pretty awesome)? (And no, I do not find God and science to be mutually exclusive.)
After I had Cookie Monster, I used to pray over him when I nursed him to sleep at night. I would start out praying for Cookie Monster to have one or two traits that I thought would be key to him being a good person – but then, I would just keep adding to the list – and then qualify the entries with other “must haves.”
I wanted him to be happy, but not too happy. Suffer, but not too much suffering. Just enough to give him character and compassion for others. Be smart. Work hard. Have enough money but love the poor. The list kept growing longer and longer and more and more qualified, until I realized several things:
1) My laundry list of things was indicative of my True beliefs – the REAL desires of my heart. They were the things that I thought made a good life and would make Cookie Monster happy.
2) I have NO idea what makes a person happy or have a good life. Plus, my prescription for what I thought a good life entailed may well have turned Cookie Monster into a horrible person.
3) Ultimately, I want Cookie Monster (and all my children) to become people whose desires are after God’s own heart. And to beg God to allow me to be unbroken enough to recognize it when I see it.
But let’s be real. That last prayer is terrifying. God is not safe. God takes who you are and changes you. And that change usually hurts. A lot.
It’s hard to admit that having the right philosophy about child rearing or race or sex or religion – all that good stuff and the stuff of contentious culture wars – all that stuff won’t save us.
No matter how great our theory, we still have to go through the messiness of life. Kids still get cancer. Spouses still cheat. We might lose everything. All sorts of shitty things still happen – and we have no control over any of it.
I am owed nothing. Tomorrow isn’t promised. It is not guaranteed. God isn’t obliged to me. Doesn’t need me. Doesn’t even maybe care about my elaborate prayers or rituals or must haves. I mean, he probably cares WHY I do these things – but the things themselves? May as well be empty gestures. Superstitions.
That is what I find the most maddening. Isn’t that why I subscribe to these various thoughts? These various dogmas? To guarantee my kids won’t be drug addicts, will get into Harvard, won’t be teenage parents, and won’t be sick or poor?
But what’s the worst that could happen? (Well death, I suppose. But if I truly believe in Heaven and the goodness of God and how this life is just a preview, then though I be grieving, is it really the WORST?)
I can’t even open myself up to these “worst” possibilities because my overactive brain will continue to spin out of control and next thing you know, I have barricaded my children inside of our home and only allowed Hapa Papa to go out to work because some risks are acceptable in order for me to keep the lifestyle to which I’m accustomed. (Jokes! Them be jokes!)
Times like these, when fear threatens to overwhelm, I can’t even turn to God.
Why? Because God doesn’t promise me that life I want. He doesn’t promise me that everything will be smooth sailing and easy. He just promises to be with me. And what’s the use in that if I didn’t get what I want? (Of course, I bury these thoughts deep, deep down. You know, as if it were actually a secret from God. Mercifully, God has done little to shatter my illusions thus far.)
No, instead, I turn to statistics. Cold, hard numbers. The odds are ever in my favor and that is enough to comfort me for a little while.
Here’s the thing about my small, fearful heart. I do not believe that God is really that good, let alone that God is actually enough. I don’t believe it and I NEVER want to be tested and taught that is so.
I believe. Help my unbelief.
Truthfully, even if I had the “correct” theology, it won’t save me. No philosophy or religion will.
Or even in the narrow scope of parenting, no matter how perfect I am in my parenting (be it Attachment Parenting, Free Range Parenting, I Don’t Give A Fuck Parenting), my kids could still end up a drug addict, in prison, homeless, or dead in a variety of ways.
All my tightly clenched fists have done is unravel me. I am falling apart. My words on paper seem together, but I am not. I am a hot mess right now.
I feel as if I’m coming apart at the seams. As if something inside me has shaken loose and won’t play ball and go back to its proper place: hidden.
Change is hard, my friends. I confess, since my last breakdown back in November/December, I’ve gotten into a more placid place and evened out a bit. I had deluded myself that 4-5 months of therapy was all I needed and BOOM! I am healed!
But, no. The things that drove me to therapy just got ably pushed down and buried after the first few weeks. I have been deflecting and skimming the surface of what I am now for the past few months, mistaking candor for vulnerability.
They are not the same. And I am not very vulnerable.
I feel cracked. And I fear I am cracking like a mirror to be shattered rather than an egg birthing something new.
I really want to be made anew.