Letting It Go of Control (To Regain Some)

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Ottawa, March 2015

Ottawa, March 2015

A former manager of mine once told me I was “wise”. Okay, the exact quote is “…—wise beyond your years”—he was recovering from a blunder; he had just asked me how old I was, and this was definitely a big “no no” in the corporate world. He was this kind of guy, very prone to faux pas.

I accepted the compliment gracefully but I didn’t think I deserved it. I have never considered myself particularly wise. I’m good at learning, mostly through trial and error, I’m fairly prosaic and I can keep calm in difficult situations. But wise? Uh uh. Hell, I can’t even follow a recipe or the step-by-step “life made easy” solutions  in Lifehackers’ articles, and I invariably find inspiring quotes the world feel the need to share unbelievably corny.

Yet, recently, I had a momentary moment of wisdom.

I decided to let it go of control.

I’m not sure what drives me—other than Lindt chocolate and coffee—but it’s certainly not the need to dominate and control. I think I’m a “Type B” personality, and I have zero interest in telling people what to do and how to do it. I ran away from the corporate world because I love the core of my job but I can’t fake enough enthusiasm for complex office politics, and even if you dangle a brownie in front of me, I’m unlikely to feel the need to compete.

Yet, for the past few years, I’ve been trying—mostly unsuccessfully—to control every single aspect of my life and Mark’s. I guess it was a gut reaction to a fairly big life milestone, motherhood, and to the subsequent a jump into the unknown. Babies are complicated little creatures and they come without an instruction manual.

So I had to devise my own rules to feel more in control of my life—our life. After all, I had to manage a team of one cranky and demanding infant and lead it to success under the watchful eye of the world, because when you become a parent, everyone apparently has the right to comment on your efforts. “Mothers know best”, right? Nope. Well, I didn’t. But I had to figure things out fast because I didn’t have the choice.

I spent two years putting Mark to sleep (“he needs a nap!”) and then waking him up (“OMG, he slept too much!”), monitoring his food intake, discussing diapers and their content, analyzing his behaviour, needs, wants and build the foundation of a good education, whatever that is.

Sounds like a wise plan? Well, Mark turned out okay but I strongly suspect most kids turn okay, no matter how much effort you put into cutting the banana into small nutritious pieces and cleaning between tiny toes.

However, I was not okay. Keeping everything under control at all time is exhausting. So was keeping pace with my own unrealistic expectations and “I can do everything myself” attitude.

It was time to break the pattern.

I decided to let it go.

No no, don’t worry, Mark is still living at home and I’m still spreading peanut butter on his bread.

The psychological pattern.

First, this meant accepting that I needed to delegate and that in this case, things weren’t going to be done my way. For instance, I disagree with 90% of what my in-laws believe in, yet, after months and months of fighting and holding my breath (and my snarky comments) every time they were around Mark, I decided the stress just wasn’t worth the fight. Go ahead, do it your way. I think you’re wrong but hey, Mark spends most of the time with us so the occasional nonsense isn’t going to harm him. And who knows, maybe doing things differently is good for him too.

I also had to accept that life isn’t predictable and there is nothing I can do to prevent the occasional bumps on the road. Not every single tantrum, word, obsession, craving or gesture means something, there is no point in over-analyzing. Some days, Mark will be hung up on something only to forget it the next one. Some days he eats a lot, some days he doesn’t. Some days he is happy, some days he isn’t. The best way to deal with that is to shrug and say “oh well”. There is nothing to fix because nothing is broken—this is just, you know, life.

Then, of course, I also had to acknowledge that as Mark is growing up, he is becoming his own little person. Sometime, I can see myself in him. It’s actually pretty scary: I look at him and I know exactly what’s going on in his twisted mind, because I had the exact twisted mind and the same reactions. However, sometime, Mark is a complete mystery to me. I have no idea what he is scared of “hands” (that’s what he claims anyway), why he loves making messes, why he can’t just sit down for a bit and why garbage trucks are so fascinating.

The current plan? Trying to ride the wave instead of ducking under, and going back to port when the sea gets rough.

Let’s rock’n’roll, baby!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

19 Comments

  1. I remember once my mom told me that one day my elder sister (she was about one year old at the time) spent a whole day with her head bent on one side. My parents rushed to the pediatrician, very scared as even if they tried to put her head straight, it was like falling on one side again. After examining her, he told them she was perfectly fine and that she probably just felt like watching the world from a different point of view on that day. XD
    Kids are very fragile yet strong human beings at the same time, don’t worry, Mark is going to be fine 🙂

  2. I like that ! Unfortunately, i am still the over-analyzing phase. I try to not overthink but it is tough at times. I also try to let my husband do more stuff at home and with the baby. Sometimes some of the stuff he does look weird to me, but i realized that the baby is fine regardless.

    • Lack of sleep. Seriously, don’t underestimate lack of sleep. It makes everything so… much more dramatic than it is! It will get better. Meanwhile, tell yourself that most of your worries are natural and blown up by hormones and sleep deprivation.

  3. Tu as choisi la bonne voie je pense! J’ai acheté un livre il y a qq temps pr comprendre comment pensaient les enfants de l’âge des nôtres, ça m’a pas mal aidé à comprendre son point de vue je crois, genre à comprendre que lorsqu’elle dit “bonbon” ce n’est pas toujours qu’elle veut des bonbons, c’est souvent simplement pour me faire remarquer qu’il y a des bonbons (et ensuite seulement elle dit “Billie veut des bonbons” lol). Mais là où je me reconnais dans ce que tu dis c’est qu’on avait bcp de principes (justement pas de bonbons en dehors des fêtes ou autres). On les a globalement conservés je trouve, mais je nous trouve un peu trop control freak par moment. Heureusement que l’on est deux pour faire la mesure! Sinon nous avons exactement la même guitare chien, j’ai dans mon cell une photo similaire 🙂

    • Pareil ici! Un jour j’ai réalisé que souvent, pour Mark, “aller à McDonalds'”, c’était rentrer, faire le tour de la salle, et ressortir. Et il était content 😆 Alors que je me prenais la tête, genre “ah non, pas les fast food, quelle horreur!”, en fait, 90% du temps il voulait juste visiter quoi.

      Chez nous, les bonbons ils font souvent dodo. Donc forcément, on peut pas les toucher. Par contre Mark est accro aux oeufs en chocolat et j’aimerais bien qu’on mette un peu le frein là-dessus, juste pour que ça reste un plaisir et pas un repas. Mais tout le monde ne partage pas ce point de vue (ahem, beaux-parents…)

      • aaah ça nous elle aime le “chocolate”(elle le dit ainsi mais en français lol, influence de la garderie), mais curieusement elle n’en réclame pas particulièrement alors que nous en mange tout le temps 🙂 Ce qu’elle aime c’est quand il y a des petits morceaux dans son granola 😉

        • Marrant! Elle est plus bonbon? C’est quoi sa “drogue”? Avec Mark, ça change par période. Y’a eu les barres de céréale, la confiture, les bananes, les bonbons chinois de son papa, le chocolat…

  4. Ha ha, I had to read “les bonbons ils font souvent dodo” twice to make sure I understood it. At my place the chocolate never sleeps, and if it does, I wake it up.

  5. I have the same personality type I think! I like to be 100% in control of what is happening around me. It is both a blessing and a curse I guess – depending on what is happening and who I am with. Part of being a teacher too I suppose!

  6. ça me fait pensé à une vieille amie (70 ans) qui me racontait comment dans les années 70 la pédiatre lui avait demandé au sujet de son dernier-né : “et sinon j’espère qu’il lèche les plinthes des murs ? non parce que vous savez c’est très bon pour la santé quelques microbes !” tout bête mais ça m’a aidé à lâcher prises très tôt sur certaines choses, pour le reste, j’y travaille……

    • 😆 J’aurais aimé avoir ce pédiatre quand Mark a commencé la période je-mets-tout-à-la-bouche…! J’imagine que tu as dû lâcher prise aussi dans le contexte de ton environnement, chez toi on est souvent dehors, et c’est loin d’être un coin du monde stérile…! Je dis ça dans le bon sens du terme. Quand nous voyageons, je laisse passer des trucs qui feraient bondir les parents des banlieues résidentielles paisibles.

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