I recently received an e-mail from a reputable, online mom network with the title: “How To Control Your Children.” and I thought, GREAT, they are finally working on those Hello Kitty handcuffs I’ve been asking about. I know better than to take the well articulated bait, but, I just had to read what were sure to be magical techniques. Who are these parents and how did they discover the key to control? The intangible, mystical control that has so successfully eluded me since I first became a parent. Control, a skill which, even now, with years of parenting under my belt, I have still miserably failed at mastering. Scratch that, I have not even skimmed the surface. When I opened the e-mail, doves did not fly out of my computer screen and a man with a cape and black top-hat did not ask me to pick a card. ANY card. It was then that I realized that this whole e-mail and idea were a sham. As ridiculous as the Prince who needed access to my accounts in order to transfer his father’s millions to America. I thought what we had was special, sir! The e-mail was filled with tips from experts and parents about how to avoid meltdowns in grocery stores, at restaurants, at parties, movies, public restrooms, etc. Basically, how to avoid any child-like behavior in any setting. Ever. Helpful tips like: Consider packing an entire suitcase full of fantastic diversions! It may be easier if the suitcase has wheels or a separate case attendant. It’s especially helpful if the case can be a complete surprise! Consider having hired case attendant wheel the bag through the grocery store at safe, unnoticeable distance and then, jump out of case holding a puppy at the moment precisely before meltdown. Consider learning a few, new jokes to share during your shopping trip. Incorporate props, juggling and a tightrope! Bears are always a plus.
Who are these people and how can I be sure I never run into them as my 2 and 4 year old push each other into the yogurt case? How can I put this tactfully. Let’s see…this idea of control through constant entertainment is as ridiculous a concept as that of total, stable control.
As soon as you become a parent, you lose control of your life, your body, your wallet, your bowels. You lose control of your emotions as equal parts love and fear take over every firing synapse in your being. You lose your ability to exist in the same way you walked the earth just moments before your child was born, and you lose control of time – your understanding of time, your ability to fill space and time the same way and, with the same productivity. Subsequently, you spend your days trying to cram the chaos, fear, joy, pain, love and sheer clustery-fuckery of parenthood into the 24 hours you are given. Oh, and maybe to sleep. Maybe. To dream the impossible dream.
Control amidst the perfect chaos of parenthood is a myth. The unicorn flying over the double rainbow with a four-leaf clover in its teeth.
I’m tired of receiving e-mails that say, “How to Avoid Meltdowns.”, “How To Control Your Children.”, “Do Your Children Love You? 10 Signs You Are Not Connecting Enough.” and, the ever vigilant “How to Drop Those Last 15 Pregnancy Pounds!”. The e-mails that are really saying, “You’re failing! Let us illustrate how much and how deeply!” *DING* (AOL VOICE) “You’ve Got FAIL!”
When I am at the store, I guess I could entertain my children by dressing as a clown, hitting myself in the face with a “Bakery FRESH!” pie followed by wildly shaking and then spraying flavored seltzer in my face, OR, I could grab my items as quickly as possible knowing that even with the free cookie from the Bakery (P.S. I love you, Bakery!), I have a firm 15 minutes before it gets real up in here. I could constantly entertain them with high kicks, origami, funny faces and political satire, OR, I could just talk with them as we run through the aisles. I acknowledge and let them know I understand that this is something that they don’t want to do, but, I am firm that it is something we need to do for our family.
It’s not about control. It’s about balance. Sometimes life is exciting. It’s parks, beaches, friends and s’mores. Sometimes life is real. It’s bathroom breaks, grocery stores and trips to the dentist. You will not always be entertained. Sometimes, you have to buy bread with a mom who is tired and doesn’t know any jokes. Such is life, kids. Sometimes, kids throw a fit because they are tired of you, the grocery store, the fake steering wheel on the cart that doesn’t honk or the laces on their shoes. Such is life, adults.
The only thing we can control is our reaction to a situation. Good, bad or indifferent. Control? Unless you are referring to the 1986 song by Janet Jackson, I’m sticking with chaos. Noisy, messy, lovely chaos.