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Letting It Go of Control (To Regain Some)

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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