I pushed my tongue against the roof of my mouth as my eyes welled up with tears. She hit me right where it counted, and it stung. “It sounds like there’s a control issue here. Your daughter is at an age that you need to start letting go.”
It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was on the opposite end of those words. My mom would tell me she was trying to cut the apron strings, but she was having a really hard time doing it. I remember angrily yelling at her to figure it out fast! I craved my freedom and I pushed back at any hint of her trying to manipulate her way into it. I hope my daughter never misunderstands me like I did my mom.
That was when I was 18. Or out of high school. At least, that’s what my memory tells me.
I knew the time would come that I would have to start letting go and not control my daughter’s every move, but I just didn’t expect it to be yet. She’s just 14 years old, a freshman – but she is so much more mature in many ways. And since she has a 16 year old step-sister that drives – who is her closest friend – she is growing up much faster than I anticipated. She is craving some of the freedoms I, too craved.
But having my daughter’s pediatrician tell me to start letting go was piercing. “Well how am I supposed to know how much to let go?” I asked. “Parenting doesn’t come with a manual.”
A tear broke out and ran over the lid of my right eye and straight down my cheek. “You’re not a failure…you’re not a failure…” I reminded myself as I listened to her next words.
She went on to tell me it’s time to allow my daughter to meet with her without me there so she can talk more freely (further stating she would take time to talk to me about my daughter as well). And that I need to give her some freedoms without making her account for every minute. She’s growing up and needs to test the waters. Let loose the reigns and allow her to explore. Tighten them back up if she abuses it.
My control issue is based on two things…society and my genes. Let’s start with society – it’s a scary place to live – do I really need to explain concern for my daughter amongst this world?
And my genes.
I come from the Berg family. It’s a family name I’ve always been proud of. My grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. It’s a name I’ve always secretly wished I carried, but it stopped for me when my mom got married. (In fact, in high school I had a friend named Mandy Berg who was unrelated and I was always jealous she got that name and I never did).
I loved the stories my mom told me of her childhood growing up. How they were the first family in the town to own a color television, how she played for hours outside of her home on Lamborn Ave with the neighbor kids…my uncle and how he would scream someone’s name until they came running in a panic, only to sing “Be sure to buy Borden’s”.
I loved eating gravy covered turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes at my grandpa’s cafe, the old ribbon Christmas candy my grandma always had around the holidays, and playing pool at my uncle’s campground.
I also love that family name because I can so easily relate to many of the characteristics of that family. There are many good ones, and some bad, as with any family. Controlling behavior is one of the traits that runs in the blood of us females. I’m pretty sure it’s not like some genes that skip generations, because I can’t think of one female person in our family line that the controlling trait has missed. (You can imagine why we’ve never had a family reunion!) And it’s given me an out – an excuse – for being controlling. It’s in my genes, I didn’t choose it and so I don’t have to apologize for it. Love me or leave me.
While driving home from the doctor appointment, I replayed the conversation over in my head and realized this conversation happened as a result of a comment I made. We were discussing if a certain medication would be necessary and I flippantly stated that if my daughter needed it but didn’t want to take it, I would make her take it.
Up until this point, I guess subconsciously I believed I could manipulate my kids into behavior for what I think is best them…and if a medication will help them, they will take it. But when my daughter’s pediatrician said “You can’t make her take it if she doesn’t want to” (in front of my daughter), I felt my control over her stripped away. I wanted to tell her the pediatrician she had no business talking to me like that in front of my daughter!
But I knew she was right.
I mean, quite literally could I make my child do something? She’s taller than me and pretty strong. Would I hold her down and force it down her throat? Of course not. Especially if it’s not life and death (well, you can see my hesitation – if it were life or death, I just may do that – just saying).
And freedom to have unaccounted time away from home…I know I am not different from other parents, who remember the things they did at that age. It’s part of the reason we try to control life and circumstances – we want to save our children from the hurts this world will inflict. I’m sure that’s what my mom wanted as well, as I angrily screamed at her.
Train a child up in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I have an amazing daughter. She is the best, and the worst of me. I can see the battles she likely will face and I want to save her from them. But like me, she needs to figure some things out on her own.
(Photo: My daughter Adrianna and I)
I wonder what life would have been like if my mom had cut the apron strings with me earlier? Would I have still walked the same path, or did her issue with control propel my rebellion?
Don’t mishear me – I don’t blame my mom for my mistakes. We all do the best we can for where we are, and my mom is no different. And if for one second my life would be altered in any way by her cutting the apron strings before I was fighting over the scissors with her, I wouldn’t change it. But I still wonder.
And it’s that wonder that will lead me to work hard to not fight over the scissors with my own daughter.
So what does all this mean? Why this blog?
I don’t really know. My daughter is my oldest child and this is new to both of us. I hate that our society is such that young people are experiencing real life problems so early. I want to shield her. I want to protect her. But I don’t want to smother her.
So I am going to try to put a little tear in the apron string and see how we do with that. And I’m going to pray. And I’m going to cry. And I’m going to trust.
And I hope to watch her continue to grow into the beautiful woman God is making her.
What experience do you have with this? I’d love to hear from you!