NO INSTRUCTION MANUAL
Parenting brings with it with many joys and many challenges. If only our children came with an instruction manual; maybe this would make navigating this parenting journey a little easier.
CONTROL IS COMFORT
What a beautiful experience to find out you are pregnant, and maybe sometimes this news comes as a bit of a shock and you need a little time to process the information. Then you feel the need to gain control over the situation. Control gives us a sense of security, false security most of the time, but that sense of security brings comfort.
LETTING GO IS UNCOMFORTABLE
Life has a way of teaching us that God is in charge and when we allow Him to do His work, life flows easily. The difficulty that most of us have with this is that letting go of our perceived control is unsettling and takes away our feeling of comfort.
RESPONSIBILITY AND FEAR
When that new little baby is placed into your arms for the first time it is breath taking! Joy and fear all rolled into one big beautiful emotion. You have to take control and do what is best for this beautiful tiny human being. It is your responsibility to nourish this baby, keep her safe, keep her comfortable and make her feel loved. Of Course! You’ve got this! And then you take this beautiful baby home and she cries. You feed her, yet she still cries. You change her diaper, but she is still crying. You put her into her crib to sleep, but the crying doesn’t stop. You cuddle and rock her and finally, the crying fades away and she falls asleep.
FEELING OUT OF CONTROL
Control begins to feel out of reach. Parenting is a mixture of trial and success and trial and error. You turn to family and friends who have experience. You turn to books and experts for advice. Some of this helps and some of the concepts just seem foreign. You seek to gain back control the situation. You want to keep this precious little baby nourished, comfortable, safe and feeling loved.
TURNING TO OTHERS TO GAIN CONTROL
Did you read all of the books? The books on making baby food, on the best foods to feed your baby and when, on helping your baby sleep, on how to interact with your baby and help them learn. Most of these books are read BEFORE baby arrives. This adds to your sense of control. It is a good feeling to have this knowledge and feel like you can do this.
LOVE IS REAL, CONTROL IS ILLUSION
Once my baby arrived, my breath was taken away and I was fiercely in love. I knew at that moment I would do anything to help this precious little child in any way possible. I also quickly learned that this control I thought I had was a bit of an illusion.
KNOWLEDGEABLE BUT STILL UNPREPARED
With all of the knowledge I had learned from those books, and from talking to family and friends, I was nowhere near prepared for raising this child. Breastfeeding was hard. How could this be? I looked forward to breastfeeding my baby and pictured it being a beautiful experience. I sought out the advice of my mom, my aunts, my friends, and my new lactation consultant. I drank water like I was supposed to. I practiced relaxation before breastfeeding in hopes of better results. I took the recommended supplements and added the recommended nutrition. I pumped my breast milk and fed it to my baby with a tiny syringe. This went on for a few months. She was losing weight and the pediatrician was testing for metabolic syndrome and looking for anything else that would explain her failure to thrive. I was simply not making enough milk, it was that simple. I chalked it up as failure number one on my parenting journey. I needed to get back on track and gain control once again. I needed to keep my baby safe and find nourishment for her. I moved forward and found a formula that she tolerated; and began to let go of the guilt I was experiencing around not being successful at breastfeeding.
LETTING GO IS INEVITABLE
There were many of these trials throughout the years with raising my two children. There were times when I knew best, or at least I thought I did, until another lesson was learned. I implemented lessons I grew up with as a child. I made my daughter finish her dinner before being allowed to leave the table or getting dessert, until she threw up on her plate, enter pivot number two. I still provided healthy choices to my children but began to relinquish control over how much they would have to eat.
CHOICES AND SELF-ACCOUNTABILITY
I would encourage each of the girls to try new activities. I wanted to provide them with as many experiences as I could. I would always tell them it was their choice but once they committed to doing something they had to see it through. Then came the extreme heat in August, one year, when they were playing softball. They were scolding me from the outfield for making them play this horrible sport in this heat. This criticism I took in and processed. I stopped pushing as hard to get them to make the choice I wanted. I would offer the choices and simply remind them of their experience from the previous year. The accountability of their choices began to shift to them.
TRUST AND LETTING GO
Fast forward to the tween and teenage years, which we are just wrapping up. They developed new friendships. Of course I was thrilled that they were making new friends but I didn’t know the parents or anything about these new friends. They would introduce me to boyfriends, “God, please help me navigate this new experience” was (and is) my daily prayer. “Trust and relinquish control,” has become my mantra. It is a daily navigation of control and letting go.
LOVE HELPS YOU LET GO
Then my oldest daughter was off to college. I was thrilled to see her happy and realized she needed to experience the joy and the trials in her own life, but I still craved the control to protect her. When I tried to exert control, we could not get along and this broke my heart. I have realized that I would rather trust and relinquish control than to control and risk damaging our relationship. My youngest will be off on her next journey soon and hopefully these valuable lessons will assist me to help her have an easier transition to this next step of life. I love these girls with all my being and I want to see them thrive.
As I reflect on my (almost) 20 years as a mom, I can now see the common theme of “taking control” and “letting go.” As parents, we have to choose to take responsibility for the precious human beings entrusted to us. This is the noble reason we seek to gain control over any and every situation that presents itself. As life ebbs and flows, we are shown when to let go of that control, when we resist letting go, the turmoil begins and we are forced to let go or suffer the consequences.
I have only realized this in hindsight, the way many of the important lessons of life are realized. Sometimes I did a great job of letting go and allowing my girls their autonomy. Other times, I resisted letting go of my control and have had to navigate the consequences. The irony of it is that I resisted even more, as the girls got older. Shouldn’t the lesson get easier as you gain experience? Maybe this was because the responsibilities and the consequences grew, as they got older. I didn’t want to see them fail and have to face these consequences. It’s hard to trust that I did a good job teaching them right from wrong, teaching them empathy and kindness, teaching them responsibility and accountability. This is where I remind myself to lean on and trust God. I have been given the privilege of raising two beautiful human beings and I jumped in and embraced this journey of motherhood with the whole of my being. I have learned many lessons and I am still learning. Now, I have to let go and trust these girls to make their own choices and to accept their own consequences. I will be there for them to lend a hand, to offer a comforting hug or to help in any way I am able, when I am needed.
Children are not given to us to keep or to control. They are entrusted to us to love and to teach. We all crave love, to give love and to be loved unconditionally. Life is a journey, full of lessons. Strive to love and learn and to be better than yesterday.