“This is a story about control, my control. Control of what I say, control of what I do. And this time I’m gonna do it my way…‘cause it’s all about control, and I’ve got lots of it.” – Janet Jackson in her 1986 hit single “Control”
This might sound like the mother of all rationalizations, but I feel like having a sense of control is severely underrated. In fact, I feel strongly enough about this subject to champion a re-branding of the word “control” so that it might immediately distance itself from its frequent companion “freak.”
For the record, I do realize that anyone this passionate on the subject might just as well post her own picture next to the Wikipedia definition of the expression.
From my observations, the only positive associations with the wordcome into play when a person aspires to self-control. This can be best described, I think, by living a life of moderation in word and deed so that we can be healthy and productive in our actions and our relationships.
This would mean that it’s admirable to have control over our calendars, our tempers, our dust bunnies, our consumption of chips and dip, and our nose hairs. Yet we cross over to problem behavior when we insist on having control over a spouse, an adult child or anyone else we share space with who should aspire to a free will of their own. But can you really blame a girl for wanting to try?
After all, many of us are old enough to have been raised in the have-it-your-way-at-Burger King era. When you teach a girl through a really catchy jingle that she can “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us,” she learns early to assert her preferences. And then you tell her that it works fine on a Whopper, but not so much when she wants to call the shots on everything from vacation planning, home design and the best direction for toilet paper to hang off the roll.
I will confess that certain people who claim to love me have suggested that my toes have crossed the DMZ of this line, putting me at justifiable risk of attack. Some of my tendencies are only mildly annoying to my husband, like my preference to drive rather than be a passenger and my desire to plan a party instead of being surprised by one. Other behaviors will remain a secret until my husband starts writing a column of his own.
I would argue that I’m not so bad that people have insinuated a Martha Stewart sort of parallel, but there have been a few comments said in jest that might have more than a kernel of truth to them. Okay, the kernel is always more like a family-sized bucket or popped corn and the joke never seems that funny to me. In my defense,I always stop short of suggesting alternate punch lines, and we all know Martha wouldn’t be able to stop herself.
It occurred to me recently that the unmistakable gut burn I’ve been experiencing lately, which can always be traced to either a chili cook off or acute stress, is directly related to a big new loss of control.
The loss comes after the thirteenth birthday of our youngest child, which marked the day that we were no longer the parents of young children. This means we can no longer employ our infinite wisdom to directly influence their choice of friends, their hobbies, their course of study or, now, gulp, their choice of a boyfriend and whether or not we’ll find out about him. We can no longer guarantee that they will turn in their homework, wear a helmet, fasten a seatbelt, eat their vegetables, or go to college.
Instead, we must harness the control we used to have over their behavior and use it to redirect our conscious thoughts if we ever want to fall asleep at night.
As my wise friend Linda Silvius says, it’s time to transition away from the role of manager to that of a consultant. The advice makes perfect sense to me on a philosophical level, but there really isn’t a single cell within me that wants to do this. I want nothing more than to make sure that our children stay physically and emotionally whole… yet somehow manage to grow and thrive without the baggage of an overbearing mother who gets her inspiration from 80s pop songs.
So, Janet, if it’s really all about control, we parents are doomed.
Causes Shana Moore Supports