Tuesday, January 19, 2016

(No) Control Freak

This morning, I brought a small bowl of apple slices to my teenage daughter's bedroom. The light was already on, so I assumed she was up. 

Not! 'Turns out her father had turned on the light because he was looking for an iPhone power cord that had mysteriously disappeared from the kitchen.

"Mo-o-om," she groaned from beneath her covers, "Please go away. I have an alarm."

Her voice had an odd mix of civility and exasperation. I slunk out of the room, but not without reflecting on the injustice of it all.

Having an alarm is nothing new. In fact, my daughter has two different alarm clocks — one beside the bed and another strategically located across the room on her desk — plus her smartphone. This has never invalidated the need for parental intervention. In fact, on a typical morning, we hear alarm after alarm after alarm go off long before we see said offspring. In fact, there is serious doubt that we would ever see her if one or the other of us didn't go in and beg, plead, cajole, insist, verbally drag her out of bed.

And all the while, we are getting closer to the time she needs to leave or be late.

Yes, she's eighteen (I guess), so technically (I guess) she's an adult (I guess). But, she's living under my roof, right? 

Hmmm. Doesn't that sound like a 1960s television series? 

It's not so much about "My house, my rules." (Okay, it is a little bit about that.) It's more a genuine concern for her welfare. What was the point of years of school and studying and science projects and bio tests and research papers and all that literature by dead white guys if she's going to mar her nearly perfect attendance record by a rash of final stretch tardiness?

The truth is, we have so little control anymore. Did I say "So little?" Sorry about that. The word I was looking for was actually "No." We have no control.

Here is a (woefully partial) list of all the things I used to have control over, but no longer do:

What she wears
What her hair looks like 
Whether she takes a shower (and whether she stays in 45 minutes once she does)
Where she goes
Who she hangs out with
When she does her homework
When she's on her computer
When she's on her mobile phone
Whether she makes her bed
What time she goes to bed
What time she gets up (this is where we started)
What she watches
What she eats
Whether she takes a vitamin
What she reads
Whether she reads 
Who she listens to

And these are broad categories; within each are myriad decisions I used to make for her. For example, when she was turning two years old, her wonderful pediatrician advised me that I couldn't control what she ate. I could only control what I put in front of her. So, each morning, I'd artfully arrange a plate with fresh fruit, a hard-boiled egg, a mini bagel, a piece of cheese. She would graze to her heart's content and I would smugly congratulate myself on my tremendous parenting skills.

These days, if I were to put such a varied and nutritious breakfast in front of her, the result would be rather different. She would look at me like I had two heads, then grab a chocolate chip cookie dough Zone bar (yes, such things do exist) and head out. Case closed.

I know I can be a control freak, and not just where my daughter is concerned. I like things "just so." Having a child is an act of courage and faith, and it can involve a lot of messiness. Not just unmade beds and cluttered carpets either. Having a child, especially one who is no longer a child, is incredibly messy business. Emotionally messy business.

But, true to Type A, overachieving form, I still give it my all. I remind her that next year, I won't be around to do her laundry, make her bed, or get her up in the morning. She doesn't seem particularly worried about it.

I guess the person I need to remind is me.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  


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