I didn’t even want to write this story. It reveals too much of my weakness. I always like to present myself as calm, loving, peaceful. But I think we all experience those times when we are anything but calm. We had a P.A. day and it was a beautiful, sunny winter day. Not too cold but cold enough to go skating on a natural rink. I had a whole plan for the day that I thought was beautiful. We would go skating on the duck pond, lingering as long as we wanted, come home for some hot chocolate, do some crafts or play a board game… It was a beautiful plan. There was only one problem; my kids were not into it.They didn’t want to go outside or do anything really physical. I felt frustrated, angry. “Fine!” I yelled “We’ll just stay inside all day and do nothing!” My mouth kept yelling as I thought to myself “What is wrong with me? Why am I yelling just because they don’t want to go skating?” But I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I’d had this idea in my mind of the wonderful day we were going to have together. I wanted that wonderful day! Finally I managed to take a step back. I apologized for my outburst. But then, an hour later I found myself yelling again. “Fine! We’ll just have a crap day then!” I yelled. I don’t remember what triggered it. I decided I better get some distance. I felt so angry I couldn’t seem to stop lashing out. Everything they did made me angry. A few days earlier I had done a hypnosis session to let go of the issues that were causing me to have power struggles with my children, especially my son. And I had felt better, more sure of myself. This was intense though. I knew the issue of what we were doing for the day wasn’t really that important. Why all the anger? I decided to enlist some help so I could make some room for myself to get over this. I called my oldest son, he’s 24, and asked him if he could come watch the kids for a couple of hours.
I went out to a local coffee shop so I could do some writing. I wrote furiously, pouring all of my frustration and anger onto the page. I finally realized that this tantrum I had had was about not getting my way! Aren’t adults supposed to be too mature for that? But there it was, plain as day. I had had a tantrum because I wasn’t getting my way. Could this be the root cause of so many of my power struggles with my children? You can’t always let children determine what will happen in a day but this was clearly a day I could have let them drive the agenda. I realized that our bad day had been caused by my inability to let go of my own agenda and let them lead the day. And this, I think, was where my tantrum came from. If I let them have their way on this day, was I just going to give in to them all the time? It revealed my own power based thinking. I was making it me against them.
We are trained into this kind of thinking as children. Our parents were the ones in control and in our culture, if you aren’t good at controlling your children; you’re seen as a bad parent. The better you can get your children to behave, the better a parent you must be. And well behaved children generally mean children who act like adults, who are restrained, who don’t run around or yell or fool around. Well behaved children always do as they’re told, don’t ‘talk back’ and are always polite. There is no wildness in good children. And this is our job as good parents; to train the wildness out of them. But why? Why do we want them to be so constrained, so like adults in small bodies? Is it going to make them happier? More productive? I don’t think so. In fact I think it is the opposite. They will squash their impulses at the expense of their creativity, their freedom.
So I am working on this issue. I am working to see my children as autonomous, wonderful, free human beings. Can I let go of my agenda, at least some of the time, and allow us to have fun that they choose? Can I stop thinking of them as the adversary and see them as whole people? How much freedom is too much? I am working towards a different view, a view that honours all of us, a view that sees us as being interdependent but also free. Is it possible to have freedom and co-operation? I think it must be. I just haven’t quite figured it out yet. I do notice though, that when I feel less tightly attached to getting my way they do seem to co-operate more. When I allow myself to let go of control a little, I see my son spontaneously helping, without even being asked. When I tune into what their energy is and let go of what I want to happen we have some great times. Very often they end up doing what I wanted them to do but at a different time than I had planned. There are times when parents have to dictate the agenda but maybe it’s good to look for times when the kids can lead the way. Maybe we can relax a little about controlling every moment.