The mom checks and rechecks her list. She has covered every eventuality she imagines her family might encounter on their trip. As she mentally reviews her plans she realizes she desperately needs this vacation. She has never felt more exhausted.
You want the truth about surrendering control? I think you can handle it.
For many moms, feeling in control is a parenting imperative. Control underscores an organized existence. It calms anxieties fueled by pressure and fear. Control is manifested through how a family operates.
The summer season offers an interesting time for us controlling types. Vacation, by its very nature, seeks to disrupt the routine of everyday life. This presents a real challenge to the control-freak parent.
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Like the time when our kids were young and we were invited to go on a Disney Cruise departing from Florida. Even as excitement over the trip trumped everything else, my anxiety about travelling extensively with a two-year old and four-year old began swirling in my brain. I had come to depend on our schedules and our structure and believed they were inherent to my success as a parent. What would happen if we let go of all of that and took our show on the road?
Of course, we had to do it. Unsurprisingly, my go-to strategy for an uneventful trip was to control our travel as much as possible. After a friend was stuck in a delayed plane on a runway for hours with two young children going berserk throughout the ordeal, I decided we had to drive to Florida. We would not survive to tell a similar tale.
So we rented a minivan that accommodated my family and my in-laws who were hosting us on the cruise. Once on the road, I was delighted that we were making great time. Everyone was happy. We had mastered this thing!
My husband and I felt pretty pleased with our situation when we were able to pull over once the kids were hungry and needed a pit stop. Everyone went to the bathroom, grabbed snacks and drinks, and we hit the road again.
Suddenly, my son started to cry. When I turned back to look at him I was alarmed to see that his face was green. His sippy cup was nearly empty – in just a couple of minutes he had chugged his entire drink and was about to puke.
We raced to the nearest exit - a truck stop - and screeched to an open corner of the lot. I grabbed my son out of his car seat and swung him onto a sandy spot just in time. As he vomited, my husband and I exchanged complex glances: sympathy for the little guy; knew you shouldn’t have gotten him a sugary drink in a color not found in nature; aren’t we smart in our rental car situation – see how crisis was averted here? Large and in charge, we concluded, with just a touch of smugness.
As we breathed a sigh of relief, a little whimper escaped from the sand pit where my son was standing. We looked over to find that instead of setting him down on a nice, safe spot, we actually had placed him on top of a massive anthill. His legs were covered with swarming insects.
I am sure those truckers thought our toddler was on fire with the way we flew through the parking lot, shedding his clothes and shoes and throwing water all over his little body, shrieking “Don’t worry! You’re ok! We’ve got you!” (Yeah, great. Thank goodness you are here.)
So in spite of our best efforts, we did not enjoy a drama-free trip. But we did make it to Florida eventually, and to the boat, and even through the cruise, with everyone well and happy.
One of the greatest gifts in life is the realization that you can’t control everything. Family adventures wouldn’t be possible without planning and preparation, of course. But the way it all plays out is beyond our complete control. While this may be hard to accept, the truth is, with this understanding comes a kind of surrender that encourages tranquility – something often in short supply, but desperately needed, when you are parenting young kids.
Want to get a better handle on surrendering control? Be inspired by this quote from Marianne Williamson, learn to relax with these tips from The Charlotte Observer, and if all else fails, belt out that Frozen anthem . . . you know you want to!