Don’t Fence Me In

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?

5 Comments

  1. Anna October 25, 2015

    The barbed wire is such a good analogy.  I’m the type of person that HATES to be controlled.  If you ask nicely, I’ll go to extremes, but I like to feel like I have a choice.  If someone tells me to do something, it makes me want to say no, just because.  I have to stop and think about that, and remember to keep things in perspective.  There are times to submit and obey, and there are issues that aren’t really worth making a huge deal out of.  That saves the energy for the important issues.

    Just recently, I’ve thought about this more in relation to my kids.  Sometimes, it’s been hard for them, like when they don’t want to move and leave “home.”  I can imagine the frustration and helplessness they feel over decisions made for them.  We can’t change the decision, but it helps me better understand where they are at so that I can work through it with them.

    1. M'Lynn October 27, 2015

      Good point about seeing things like moving from your kids’ point of view. I like to try to give my kids choices about stuff like what they’re gonna wear or eat for breakfast or participate in for an after-school activity, but yeah…sometimes there’s stuff that comes up and they don’t get a say! And…did at least one of your kids get your HATES to be controlled thing? ha! At least one of mine did and oh do we go ’round and ’round if we get caught in a power struggle! Here’s to picking our battles 🙂

      1. Anna October 27, 2015

        Not just one that is anti-control.  2 out of 3 🙂

  2. Julie October 26, 2015

    Recently I was teaching some kids about the Kingdom of God, and one of the big takeaways was that God sees how we administer what He’s given us (our “minas” or “talents”) and that He gives greater authority (even if that is only in His coming Kingdom) to the ones who administer what they’re given well. We talked about how J’esus wore the crown of thorns before the crown of glory, and how servanthood is the path to true greatness. I think these big picture ideas help me to submit to the authorities (and their barbed wire) in my present life, knowing that God has put them there, and that they are training me for greater responsibility in the future. It was interesting and fun to communicate some of those things I’m learning to kids, too, because I think it can help them to be content and work hard within the boundaries in their present lives (obeying parents, teachers, etc). Zooming out to see the big picture that God is building His Kingdom makes ALL the difference for us at any age! 🙂

    1. M'Lynn October 27, 2015

      The “knowing that God has put them there” part is so key! So cool this matched up with your recent lesson for kids. And, good reminder about remembering to zoom out!

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