Lack of choice
Other’s voices singing in your head.
You must do things our way.
Don’t argue. Don’t stop.
Do it our way.
Who controls me?
Who controls us?
Is it my three-year-old?
Or is it society
disapproving of my ways?
Is it my ten-year-old?
Or is it all the clutter
in our lives
keeping us from authentic connections
with each other?
Is it my seventeen-year-old?
Or is it the emotional baggage
born of years of anger
Or is it mental illness?
All of us dealing with it
in our own way,
but never tackling it as a team.
Who is really in control
of our lives?
I have been exploring the idea of control. What is control? Does my youngest control my life? Some people apparently think he does and are concerned about me. Should they be? He’s three. He’s at a very busy stage, learning so much all the time, and I try to provide healthy environments for him to learn and grow in. I have a couple of memberships, we try to attend playgroup as much as we can and we’ve started regularly going to the library to return and discover new books.
He is becoming more independent all the time but still needs me for a lot. I let him do some things that some parents would think are crazy. He’s used sharp knives under supervision, he plays out front of our house and in the gardens while I work in the kitchen. I let him more or less freely explore his environment, make messes with soap and water on my kitchen floor, let him clean – he loves spray bottles and he loves pretending to clean. Yes, sometimes it makes more work, but no one ever said parenthood was clean and tidy!
I’m struggling to understand what is meant by control and how, as was suggested to me, my Facebook posts are giving off the impression that my three-year-old is controlling me. I spent some time re-reading them and there were some expressions of frustration and exhaustion but many were recounts of our adventures or a clip of something he said that I thought was amusing. I don’t even post that frequently, especially since we stripped the data service from my phone so when I’m away from the house I have no internet access anymore. I have to wait until I get home to upload my pictures and put up a status so often I don’t even bother.
So who is reading my status updates and concluding I’m being controlled by my three-year-old? I just don’t see how they are making that connection from my words. As I mentioned, I sometimes express elements of frustration or fatigue and legitimately so, parenthood usually entails some degree of both, but add in my health issues and yes I often do too much and the fatigue and frustrations can get the better of me. Does that mean my three-year-old is in control? I don’t think so. If anything my health issues are running that show. I’m working hard to take that control back but it’s a work in progress.
At the moment I am a stay-at-home mom by choice. If I really wanted a job I could find something in retail but then our lives would be controlled by a chaotic, often unpredictable schedule, and by the time I paid for any daycare, I’d probably be no further ahead financially, and certainly not enough to make the added stress worthwhile. So I have chosen to make my family the priority, even if it has meant choosing a financially frustrating path while I work on building a business for myself that will hopefully begin to fill in the gaps within a year or so, hopefully less. I just need some support to find the time to do that work so that I’m not up all night working on my studies which drains my energy for looking after the children and family during the day. No one can run 24 hours a day, not even a mom…
The three-year-old may be part of the reason for my lack of time but he is not the only reason, and I don’t feel like he is the controlling reason. He is just being three, curious, rambunctious, full of energy and very loving. His behaviours are normal. He doesn’t like to be alone. He’ll play independently but he likes to be able to look up and connect with a familiar person. He is more reserved than my older two were, he’s slower to join in to large groups, preferring smaller groups or one-on-one interactions, but he amazed me the other day!
We met my husband for lunch at McDonald’s, one with a playland, and for the first time my three-year-old went straight to climbing, never asking for help, and when there were other kids to play with he went up and introduced himself and asked their names. It surprised me and filled me with happiness that he was finding his strength and his voice. I didn’t have to force him, or train him, it happened naturally when he was ready. He played for nearly three hours on the playland and still didn’t want to leave but we had to get home to meet my daughter off the bus. I spent the better part of that three hours while he was playing, writing, mostly uninterrupted. It was really amazing.
I’ll take my moments when I can get them but my three-year-old is still at an age where he relies on me for a lot of his needs. Yes, I could plop him in front of a TV or let him have my phone all the time, I’d probably get a little more done but is that truly preferable? We do enough of that when we’re cooped up indoors during the winter. Now that the beautiful weather is here it’s really hard to keep anyone indoors and that’s how it should be. So we walk the dog, take even more advantage of our memberships because we don’t have to fight with layers of outerwear or clear the car off. We go to parks and beaches for the day, pack picnic lunches and explore wherever our feet take us.
I try to squeeze in time for the things I need as best I can, unfortunately cleaning, studying, writing/blogging and reading often find their way to the sidelines. But I am okay with that. My kids will be young once and only really need me for such a short time in the scheme of things, I’m going to enjoy the ride. If that looks like control to the outside world, well I guess it is what it is.
For those who are concerned my message is this, parenthood is a tough gig. I have three children, all with unique needs and personalities. Some days I do feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions, and like I’m going to burst from the frustration. Add to those three different directions, my family as a whole entity’s needs, my husband’s needs, my marriage’s needs and my own needs. It’s a tight rope walk of epic proportions and it’s too easy to stumble and fall, it’s too easy to sacrifice my needs for the bigger picture, or unwittingly hurt someone or overlook someone. If you are truly a friend and you have these concerns, the best thing you can do is be part of my safety net. Listen when I need to talk, don’t judge my mistakes too harshly because I’m harder on myself than you can ever be and if I am to learn self-forgiveness, I can’t also feel like I’ve wronged you somehow too.
Most importantly, if I ask for help and you are able to help, then please help me, not with criticism but genuinely true understanding, love and support, and if you aren’t sure exactly what I need, just ask. Sometimes it could be as simple as an ear to listen, or a shoulder to hold me up, other times it could be physical help with the kids or the house. It is always immensely appreciated, and often rewarded with baked goods.