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.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW