It was Saturday morning–the only morning of the week which held the possibility of sleeping in. But rather than hugging my pillow, I was gripping the steering wheel, frantically scanning unfamiliar old buildings for an address which matched the brochure in my hand.
I glanced at the clock on the dashboard, which silently announced that we were going to be late. Then, I glanced at the sixth grader beside me, who was clutching the piano music she had been practicing for four months, and blinking away tears.
Without warning, a certain anger inside me reached its boiling point.
Snarling recklessly, I demanded to know why my daughter hadn’t laid her clothes out the night before. Wasn’t this piano competition important to her? And why hadn’t she given me the address before this morning? Did she consider me the taxi driver? Through gritted teeth, I also tagged on a comment about the extra sleep I could be getting this morning, were I not screeching between tall buildings at the crack of dawn.
My words had two implicit messages and attitudes, which I’ve noticed are often a part of my ‘Control Girl‘ episodes:
Had I examined the thoughts firing through my brain in those nanoseconds after I glanced at the clock and then my daughter’s tears, here’s what I would have found:
I was mad because we were late. I like keeping control over my image, and being late makes me look bad. I hate being the frazzled mom who puts her kids at a disadvantage. I didn’t want my daughter to blame me or others to judge me. To offset all of this, and to deflect my culpability, I had to do something. I had to blame-shift.
But as I started to transfer blame to my daughter, my conscience objected, reminding me that parents are usually responsible for prepping and transporting their children to extracurricular activities. I quickly overruled this objection with a strong sense of entitlement. I am the mother. I work hard all week. Am I not entitled to a little rest on Saturday morning? And am I not entitled to a child who needs no prodding to get dressed or to hand over the address? No, the blame belonged with her. I was sure of it.
After we finally found the building, I remember the regret I felt as my little girl scrambled from the car and scurried into the building. I still feel deep regret, years later. But what’s interesting to me is the lack of remorse that I felt as I scalded her soul with the hot air from my mouth. In that brief moment, I honestly considered my words to be justified.
To respond to the clock and the tears with softness, saying, “This is all my fault, Honey. I’m so, so
sorry,” is generally seen as giving in, and is not the Control Girl
But it is God’s way.
I wonder what this scenario in the car might have looked like, minus my angry entitlement and blame-shifting. What if I had chosen to serve my daughter by cheerfully rising early that morning, so that I could help her choose her clothes and map out our route? And suppose we were late anyway. What if I had surrendered the outcome to God, and served my daughter by having a calm demeanor? What if I had been more focused on calming her nervous jitters than deflecting any culpability from myself?
I apologized to my daughter sincerely when I met up with her in the hallway at the piano competition that day. I remember seeing the lingering pain in her eyes, and wanting to rock her like a baby–to shield her from the hurt I had caused.
I’ve learned that the best way to protect my kids from being scalded by their controlling mom is to take the ‘Control’ out of the ‘Girl’ before we hit a stress point. Regardless of the Saturday–whether it’s the day of a piano competition, a soccer tournament, or a free day to sleep in–I am not entitled to control. God is. And if I will sweetly surrender to his plan for my day, my kids will reap the peaceful benefits.