On my flight back from Detroit I sat two rows behind a mama and her two kids, probably the same age as my girls. I was kid free, reading a book, and drinking a glass of wine. She was struggling. People in my row and others near by were not having it. The rolling of the eyes, the huffing and puffing and the judgement just beneath the surface, it could have filled even the most confident woman into a tail spin. I have been there, I know.
When people see a child feeling and acting out in socially innapproriate ways, often their immediate thought or response is, "get that kid under control." There is an expectation that she must learn to control them. There is implication that if children are not acting right, their mother must not be doing her job. Strangely our society looks down upon a woman who ties her identity and worth to her children, and yet society shameless lets us know that our identity and worth are deeply rooted in her children when they act in a way that is displeasing to them. It is a double standard and it starts me blank in the face, every time I leave our apartment.
In the early years when I really sturggled with Octave I had family and strangers, (thankfully never friends) reminding me that I was the one running the show, and that I could and should in fact control her behavior. I sweetly smiled to their face, and then cried myself to sleep thinking, you don't know my daughter. At the time I knew something was off but I was deep in the struggle without perspective or with the confidence of seeing the beauty and reward of a new paradigm. Octave was relentless and unlike the rest because she knew I was dedicated to finding truth and wanting to do things a little differently (culturally speaking.)
Unless you are willing to beat your children into submission, I don't understand how it is possible to think your can force your kid to act or be a certain way. I don't think this mindset is even healthy or accurate. The language feels all wrong, because I actually don't believe I can control my children. I believe that I can tirelessly teach them and help shape their hearts, and empower them with choices, and teach them the reality of consequence. That is all. I cannot MAKE them do or be anything they don't want to be, unless fear tactics are used, but I don't want my children to do what I what them to do because they fear me, I want them to make good choices because they know discernment and they know it is the right thing. This is humbling because this takes time. It takes practice and reputation and wondering if any of this real talk is ever going to be played out in real life.
The only thing I can control are my reactions to their behavior, and interestingly enough it is my reactions that have slowly started to shape their behavior and hearts. It goes round and round like this, until eventually I am not controlling them, but rather inspiring them to be good, respectful humans in this world, for themselves and others. I don't have too many "if only's," in my life, but I often feel that if I had just quieted the chatter and listened to my gut, I would have skipped over so much heartache with Octave in her first few years. I lost my cool, was the mom I never thought I would be, and felt lost more than I felt found, but maybe we were both pushing every boundary and stretching every shape, before eventually giving it all up and making our own way, together. There is something so profound about a firstborn, I get it now, maybe in my own way. Octave has felt and seen my rupture, rebirth and homecoming. The girl does not miss a beat, and I do not spare details. I can't think of anything as vulnerable, and for something who naturally wears her heart on her sleeve, the depths are immeasurable. No one has seen me at my worst and no one has seen me at my best, in quite the way she has. And we did it together. We've shaped each other in ways I never knew were possible. I mean, she is only five, and I, just thirty one. We have only just begun. Controlling her would have been far too easy. It would have brushed over all this aching beauty, all this internal work to be humbled and remembered by. The reward of steadfast patience and commitment to encouraging choice and allowing free will, is so incredibly worth the wait.