The notion that I can control my children is actually pitch-perfect insanity. God made me a parent to purge the need to control others out of me. Seriously. Can I prevent my toddler from pooping in the tub? I tell her over and over again not to, but lo and behold, she can still sneak one by me. Toddlers are stubborn little people. If she decides she wants to walk around the neighborhood with one shoe off and one shoe on, to the dismay of our on-looking neighbors, the girl is gonna die trying.
I can try shoving market-fresh, perfectly steamed broccoli into her mouth, but I cannot make her swallow it. Her older brother still isn’t gonna eat that stuff (and it’s kind of hilarious to me now because he can verbalize his texture issues with the dreaded green vegetable).
How about my middle child? Can I really control his decision to shriek like a dying pig in public because something didn’t go his way? Trust me, I tried to get him to stop squealing and handed out consequences for that poorly chosen behavior, but in the nitty gritty heat of the moment, I had absolutely no control over that crazy kid processing a transition from a summer in America to a school year in China.
That’s what makes parenting such a frightening thing! The more I try to control, the more frustrated we all become. I mean — I get it. No one wants to feel like they’re being controlled, especially me. The moment I feel that someone is trying to master me, I check out of the relationship. If I’m unable to flee, I sit on the urge to scream, “I’m pretty sure I got up this morning and put on my big girl panties, so why are you always telling me what to do???”
Don’t fence me in!
Now, just imagine my consternation when I arrived back to my China home after a summer away and found that the entire neighborhood had been quadruple-wrapped in barbed wire! “They” turned our beautiful apartment complex into a prison by topping the beautiful wrought iron fence (previously my favorite detail of our China-cute neighborhood) with a hideous eye-sore.
It doesn’t bother most other people who feel it makes the place safer. My China-raised oldest son keeps checking in with me on it. He doesn’t mind it at all, but he knows it makes me angry and tries to help me get over it (what a cute kid). Others have chimed in from afar (after I posted the horror on Facebook) pointing out that barbed wire is standard issue where they live. Thanks for the good intentions, but it doesn’t make me feel better.
Barbed wire doesn’t mean safety to me. It screams control. Every time I see it, it demands to be dealt with and I feel angry deep, deep down in my Texan heart.
Don’t. Fence. Me. In!!!!
After a few weeks of anger, a stray thought crossed my mind as I stared at that obtrusive fence on my way home from the grocery store. What if—just what if—my kids feel this kind of inner resentment when I attempt to control them? Power struggles and contempt are like barbed wire strung around our relationship. The more control I exert, the more trapped and tangled we become.
Yikes! Someone run and get the wire cutters! Set me free from this need to rule over my children. Help me Lord, to gently guide and instruct them instead and trust you’ll always be there for them as I take refuge in you.
These thoughts on control today are short and sweet, but if you’re interested in my previous post on control issues, check this out. What’s super strange about it is the graphics editor chose the photo of barbed wire for that post over a year ago. I’m not to the point of being thankful for the barbed wire that has made its unwelcome appearance in my life, and to say that I am would be a little too fluffy for me at this point, but I do see that God is working on something here!
Maybe you don’t have children and maybe you don’t feel the need to control others. However, you may be dealing with anger over the feeling of being controlled. In overseas living, we’re all asked to submit to something—whether it’s your organization that tells you which beverages you can and can’t sip or slurp, your host country that runs you through a medical test like an animal so you can get a residence permit, your supporters telling you how you can and can’t spend your money, or your husband who doesn’t think visiting your home country for Christmas is a good idea.
Issues like this can so easily creep up on us, and if we’re not careful we let bitterness surround us like barbed wire. It’s hard to get out . Even though submission to God-given authority is good and right, it can be painful at times.
How’s that going for you? Are you standing inside a barbed wire fence angry at the “injustice” of it all, or have you found a way to break free?