Doing Nothing at All

Doing Nothing at All

I’m a control freak.  I am not talking about the kind of control freak that people secretly love because she will get everything done so they don’t have to.  I am talking about the kind of control freak people run from because they know there will be casualties.  I came by it honestly though.  My childhood was scary.  It was terrifying.  And I was absolutely convinced there was a way to control the fear-inducing abuse.  Since I was sure it was my fault, I had to be sure I could make it better.  I just had to try harder, control more things, get it done better, faster, more accurately.  If I did that, it would be okay.

So as an adult, I became a hard-core control freak.  I controlled everything I could possibly control.  And I controlled everything I couldn’t control … or so I thought.  I was exhausted.  But honestly, I was doing a pretty good job of convincing myself I could pull it off.  People had learned to stay the hell out of my way.  And I had things in order.

So don’t ask me why I decided to bring children in to my life.  I guess I thought they would just fall in line with my perfectly controlled life.  All the parents are laughing now.  I can actually hear you.  And lucky me.  I was not just blessed with two beautiful children.  I was blessed with one child with no interest in following a schedule.  And even more infuriating, I was blessed with another child who was prepared for battle.  It didn’t matter the subject.  It didn’t matter what side I was on.  He was ready to go.  And he was going to win.  In other words, he was my son.  That apple was directly under that tree.

Predictably, our first battle did not go well.  I had not learned how to let go of things.  I was in full control mode.  And he had learned that there were some things I could not force him to do.  One of those was eating.  Believe me, I considered the feeding tube, but I never went there.  The food battles that ensued have created one of the most intensely picky eaters on the face of the Earth.  (That might be a slight exaggeration, but still.)

Lucky for me, I grew from that experience.  I learned what not to do.  And when it came time for my kids to read, I wasn’t going to make that same mistake twice.  My children go to a school that does not push reading on very young children.  I am grateful for that.  I have always wanted my children to have a real childhood.  And forcing their brains to do things they aren’t ready to do is not a priority of mine.

All that said, I knew I was in for a struggle one way or another.  My son didn’t want to read.  And there was no way anyone was going to force him.  I could have taken my same approach.  I could have thrown my temper tantrums.  I could have taken away his prized toys forever, but I knew the dangers.  I knew I would create a hatred for reading deep in his soul.  So I sat back.  I did the impossible.  I said nothing.  I did nothing.  I didn’t control it.  The teacher didn’t control it.  His sister didn’t control it.  Nobody controlled it.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And years were taken off the end of my life.  And many more grey hairs were added to my head.

And three weeks ago, as the third grade was becoming a memory, he decided to read.  Literally.  I am not kidding about that.  He just decided to read.  He started reading and I can’t stop him.  I can’t get the books out of his hands.  He read a line in a comic book about “flying by controlled farting” and he was so enthralled that he decided he must read.  So now he reads because he decided to read.  He doesn’t read because of tests or hours of homework or punishment or a controlling mother raging about the house.  He reads because he loves it.

So I tell him what an incredible reader he is.  And I go in my bedroom, shut the door, and cry tears of relief.  And I know for the first time that I let go of the right thing at the right time.  And I am proud of myself for doing nothing.  For the first time in my life, I am proud of myself for doing nothing at all.

Stepping Up:

3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge

 Sign up to receive updates from the

blog and get my FREE eBOOK. 

Begin taking steps today!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

20 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, good for you! My only, my battler, refused consistent continence until 5th grade. If I’d been strong enough not to seesaw…*sigh* but I wasn’t – I periodically got shamed into getting into it with her. At least there was a small break between scrubbing poop and scrubbing menstrual blood ?

    Reply
    • I am sorry you dealt with that. I had some issues with encopresis in the house too. And of course, I didn’t always respond well to that either.

      Reply
  2. Yay Elizabeth!! I can relate to how challenging letting things go & happen in their own time can be. But when I do, it’s feels like a miracle & I feel relieved. Most importantly, letting go & seeing things work out over & over builds hope & faith in knowing we all have our unique processes or growth & we all have God or the Universe helping us every step of the way.

    Reply
    • So true. It is tough to have faith in that, but it is so true.

      Reply
  3. Wow. So awesome. I actually cried reading it. Kinda silly, but that’s one awesome story. Good job, mom! And I’m really impressed with the school your kids go to!

    Reply
    • Thank you! I may have cried writing it. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Great Elisabeth! you are AWESOME!!!! ? you give me hope! ? It’s so nice when we see the fruits of our labor. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. oh my goodess. I don’t even have children but I got teary reading that. I know what it’s like to try to control EVERYTHING and it is SO HARD to let go. I feel happy for you – good for you :). Thanks for sharing this happy one 🙂

    Reply
  6. Thank you again Elisabeth. I identified so much. The extreme of control. I will often go to any lengths to try to control things, even the completely uncontrollable things. I know that they are put of my control yet I still fight like crazy. My pattern is something happens, I fight, and then deny I’m fighting! My second son has been sent to me to address this head on! He doesn’t do anything that I “want” and “need” him to do! He eats in his own time, sleeps when he fancies it and wants me close to him at all times! A very determined, passionate cookie…I wonder where he gets that from!!! I feel exhausted alot of the time from fighting everything. I know it’s time to put the armour down, acknowledge that I have fought for my life and survived it, and bathe the wounds but I often don’t know how. So I fight some more. I know I am stuck in a freeze response at the moment. It is the first time I have been able to notice what’s happening. Before I knew that I felt a certain way but couldn’t recognise it as anything specific. I don’t know what to do though to help myself, and interestingly as I write that I know too that that is all part of the freeze response. I was also brought to tears reading about the road you and your son have travelled on his reading journey. Thank you for sharing what you share. You are one amazing woman.

    Reply
    • Its so funny Emily. I thought about you when I wrote this. I knew you would relate. I knew you had one like mine. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words. This may be one of my most impressive accomplishments and I didn’t do anything. Ha! Life is full of surprises.

      Reply
  7. Elisabeth,

    Thanks for your article about being a control freak and letting go with your kids!

    Your comments remind me of the old adage, pick your battles… Some things like safety with kids are non negotiable. While others are areas where love means letting go for them to make their own choices and mistakes naturally.

    I believe what drives much of this is fear.

    My son is 14 and just graduating from eighth grade. When he was younger, much of the battle for control related to physical issues while as a teen it is more about emotional issues. It is hard to let go of some areas. Grieving the loss of control means trusting nature to take its course and being patient while waiting. Easier said than done.

    With my son reading was approached by reading to him. Later when he was ready he read to us and for his own enjoyment.

    There are books about strong willed children, giving them choices, rather than telling them what to do and it becoming a battle of wills.

    Congratulations Elisabeth on your courage to let go with your kids and for having the patience to wait.

    Reply
    • Thank you Paul. I agree with your assessment and your approach. I think it is all based in fear. And there is nothing better than reading to our kids.

      Reply
  8. Hi, I feel similar to Paul. My strong-willed son is 16. I am a control freak. I must accept the fact that I can’t control his safety as he skateboards – a lot.

    I struggle with letting go, to make his own mistakes with his grades and his safety, but I fear he may not “get it” until it’s too late.

    Thanks for the article Elisabeth.

    Reply
    • Thank you Denise. It is such a hard balance to find. I worried about the same thing with my son’s reading. It will be too late.

      Reply
  9. This story is SO cool. It shows us parents (even after the children have grown) that they do hear us. They just need to do a lot of these things in their time. My step-son is a pretty good reader (at 27) and I used to encourage him and his mom that if he ever found something that really grabbed his imagination (whether I like the material or not) he WILL read.
    Bravo mom for your struggle but ultimate victory!

    Reply
    • Thank you! And yes. The stuff he likes is not my favorite, but if he reads it, great.

      Reply
  10. I can so so so relate to this. I have four children aged 11 to 8, and my youngest are also boy/girl twins and my son has pushed and grown me in ways that I look back with marvel! He is the youngest, but somehow he finds new ways to grow my patience and make me laugh. It is so important for us to relish in these parenting victories, especially if we have a difficult past! Great job Mom!! I felt like you were describing me and my life in this article!

    Reply
    • Thank you Jennifer. What it is about boy/girl twins? I wonder if that’s a thing. 🙂

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stepping Up:

3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge

 Sign up to receive updates from the

blog and get my FREE eBOOK. 

Begin taking steps today!

You have Successfully Subscribed!