Sunday, September 7, 2008

Controlling my kids (or rather, learning not to)

A post by Beth got me thinking about how controlling I am (or perhaps will be) as a mom.

I'll admit, I am a rather controlling person by nature. I think its partly an oldest child thing, and partly a survival mechanism. I learned as a child, living with a grandfather who drank like a fish all the time, and parents who drank too much in social situations, to have my act together early on, for those times when they didn't. And that has been only magnified as an adult by my sister's drug addiction and alcoholism. (She is in recovery and doing great now though!) Its called codependency, the need to feel in control, and pacify, situations and people out of your control. I am learning, very slowly, how to let things go, but its so ingrained in me, that I still tend to be a very controlling person. I want things the way I feel they "should" or "need to" be all the time.

In regards to my kids, I guess I want to spare them the painful or embarrassing moments I had as a kid. For example, as a freshman in high school, a boy actually asked me out on a dared by his friend, since I was such a dork. It was 1994, and I was still stuck in the 80's, with poofy home-permed hair and leggings. Needless to say, I was the only one wearing leggings, but yet I thought I was a trendsetter, until my friend, Sarah, took me under her wing and told me never, ever, under ANY circumstances, wear leggings EVER again! Once I ditched the home-perms and leggings, I started getting legitimate date offers.

I almost refused to let Seth play t-ball because I was scared that with his lack of athletic skills, he would get teased just like I did. I was the only girl on my team, I preferred picking daisies and watching birds to catching pop flies, I never hit a ball without the tee, so the boys on my own team would chant, "she's never gonna hit a home run, she's never gonna hit a home run..." when I was at bat. I was just sure Seth would suffer the same humiliation, so it was with extreme hesitation and much coaxing by him and my husband, that I let him play. And you know what? My unathletic kid blossomed as an athlete and held his own out there, and he loved it and can't wait to play t-ball again this year!

Then there are my kids' appearances. While I care a lot more who they are on the inside, I want them to have a fighting chance with people, and outward appearance, unfortunately, has a lot to do with that. People, even as early as kindergarten, can be awfully cruel and judgemental.

My parents, especially my dad, were pretty laidback with us kids, probably to a fault. My dad would let us wear our PJ's in public if we so desired. My parents let my sister choose not to brush her hair and would let her go out with ratty, tangly hair. They would let us wear holey clothes to school. I am sure they would have preferred us to look nice, but they were perfectly okay with us looking like dorky little ragamuffins.

I, on the otherhand, am defnitely not okay with having my kids look anything but put together when they leave the house. One of Seth's favorite shirts is one that I call the "lumberjack shirt." It was one he saw at my best friend's house (he's best friends with her son), and fell in love with, so she let him keep it. I was okay with that, until he wanted to wear it out of the house. It is red and plaid, and looks just like something Paul Bunyan would wear. I cringe even when he wears it in the house. But Jeremy let him wear it to school one day last year. I thought he looked ridiculous; he thought he looked awesome. Oh, then there is the time he wore all camo when I went to the DMV. (My sister insisted I let him, so I relented. She is my Achilles heal, what can I say?) His hat was my husbands, so it was way too big, he was wearing a camo "bomber" jacket, a dark green plaid shirt (it was the closest he could get to camo), and camo pants that were a much darker shade of green so they didn't match at all. I just wanted to hide. I was so embarrassed. But again, he thought he looked amazing, just like an army man. Then there is Joy. Following in her auntie's footsteps, the girl won't brush her hair unless I make her. And her dad is completely okay with taking her to preschool without her hair brushed, and wearing 3 unmatching shades of pink with purple shoes. When I pick her up, I just bow my head in shame, since she is the only kid with unmatching clothes and unbrushed hair. Now I KNOW I should let things like that go, that its totally petty, and if they're happy, I should be happy too. But there is a part of me that just can't let it go.

So what happens as they get older? If I can't let them play sports or wear what they want, how am I supposed to deal with the "real" issues that arise? I am okay with colored hair - I did that myself (shoot, I even shaved it off once!) But what if Seth decides to go "goth" and wear black eyeliner and trench coats? (Oh, heaven help me - do NOT let that happen!!) Or one of the girls wants to date the star quarterback, who has a "reputation?" How do I learn to let go and trust that my kids will be okay and make good choices of thier own? And how do I deal with those times when they are upset because they get teased? Or when they suffer a major consequence due to their poor decisions? I guess they are still young, and I have lots of time to adapt, but still. I certainly don't want to be overly-controlling or stifle my kids, but I don't want them to hurt. I don't want them to have to deal with the pains of growing up. I have to learn to let go, and that is such a hard thing for me to do. ...I guess as a mom, I have some "growing up" of my own to do, don't I?

1 comment:

Beth said...

I can relate to so much of what you've said here. I have told my husband the same things about the kids and how they dress. Kids are already cruel to each other in school so I make sure my kids are dressed nice and "in style" so that eliminates one of the things they can tease them about. Devin already gets teased because he wears glasses. He has worn them since Kindergarten so he's used to the comments but it doesnt make them easier to have to listen to. He gets teased because he appears to be "nerdy" because he gets good grades in school and wears glasses but he has learned to ignore their comments. Its too bad that kids are so shallow and disrespectful to each other. They are missing out on a a good friend like Devin. My kids arent allowed to wear clothes with holes in the knees to school or dirty shirts or clothes that dont fit them. They do own clothes that I dont like so much, like the camo ones and that sort of thing, but Ive learned that they can have different tastes but they have to be clean and unholed. LoL. Dont sweat the small things, is what Ive learned over the years as a mother. Joe is learning that and wants to make big deals out of small deals so maybe your husband and you are like Joe and I except you are more like Joe and Im more like your husband! Just relax and make the decisions as they come. Dont overthink things and be rational. Atleast those are the things I try to do with myself as a mom.