Sitting in the driver’s seat of our son’s 1996 Camry in rush hour traffic, I could feel the shift of the engine revving up. I was sitting on an exit ramp with nowhere to go. Even with my foot on the brake, the minute I let up to inch forward I could feel the car begin to speed up way too fast. I did what most anyone would do, I held on for dear life praying that I wouldn’t hit the car in front of me. My calf was stinging from the force with which I was pushing on the brake pedal.
As soon as there was a berm wide enough on the side of the interstate, I had no choice but to pull to the side of the road as I proceeded to shove the gear shift into park. My breathing was labored and my hands were shaking. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good.
The first thing out of my son’s mouth was “Mom, let me drive. I’m stronger than you. I can hold the brake pedal down. I’ll get us home.”
Of course, I wanted to say a few things to him like, “Over my dead body. You’ll get us killed. I’ve been driving for a lot longer than you have.” And my brain kept churning.
“No, no, no,” I wanted to shout.
Luckily I did what we train others to do. I paused.
Parenting can be that way sometimes. Things can be fine one minute while the next it feels like they are revving up — out of control. We don’t know what to do in the middle of the situation. But the adrenaline kicks in and we know we have to do something. And just like the situation with the car and my son in the passenger seat, we want to be in control.
And what happened next is also a typical phenomenon with most parents. Our brain goes to the worst case scenario.
My brain told me that if I didn’t remain in control of the situation, we would both die.
Okay, I’m sure it seems like I’m being melodramatic, but that is how it felt. That’s how our brains work. When we’re in hyper alert mode out of fear we swing the pendulum as far as it can go thinking the worst. That’s where I was.
I talk to moms regularly that get in these type of situations with their teens. Their kid isn’t responding the way we think they should. The teen is doing something that sets us off and we want to control it so badly that the adrenaline kicks in and we become melodramatic. We scream, we pull a plug out of the wall, we grab a phone and throw it, or we do something so irrational that we can’t believe we did what we did. And then…
We justify it.
If you had done your homework… If you had come when I called… If you had not been on your phone… If you had been more reasonable… Then I wouldn’t have done what I did in response.
Think about that for a minute.
In reality what we are saying to ourselves is “If you had acted like I wanted you to act, then I would have been able to keep my behavior under control.”
Let me ask a question. When we respond in an out-of-control manner, where is the adult in the room?
Yes. I said that out loud.
Adults are supposed to be mature enough to have self-control even when their kids are out of control.
If only we could always do that.
Trust me when I say most of us have been that out-of-control mom at times. Me included.
And when our behavior is out of control, especially with our children that we love so deeply, it’s time to start looking within. It’s a signal that we need to start working on us and grow to the maturity that God has for us rather than justifying our actions.
Trust me when I say that it takes hard work.
But the growth we see in our kids when we work on us is unbelievable.
That’s what I can help you do as a coach. Becoming self-aware in your parenting in a gentle way through introspection that develops a win-win for you and your child sets the stage for change and mutual respect in your relationships.
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.
So how did that growth play out as I was sitting on the berm of the road, smelling rubber, with my son in the passenger seat and me shaking and thinking I was going to die?
My son gently touched my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, I know you are scared. I am too. I know you don’t want me to drive because of the number of times you’ve been in an accident with someone else driving. What would you tell other moms to do in this situation?”
Yes, he had my attention with that last question. I paused long enough to engage my brain from the over-the-top emotion.
In the quiet of the moment, God’s still small voice spoke truth to me. “You’d tell another mom that sometimes it’s important to let your boys be men.”
Oh my. Could I really give up control in this moment and let my son attempt to drive us home?
At that exact moment, my son held out his hand and said, “Mom, can we pray?” I took his hand, still trembling. And I witnessed the most precious prayer.
“Lord, we need you in this moment. We’re both scared. We need to get home and my mom is having a hard time letting me drive. Will you give her strength to let me do this and will you keep us safe?”
He then looked at me. “Can I do this for us, Mom? I know the car better than you do. I’ll go slow.”
And with that, I moved to the passenger seat. I gave up my control.
My son became the adult in the room (or the car in this case).
That’s what changing us does for our kids. When we learn to change our behaviors and give up control, the things we model for our kids are adult-like behaviors. Then, the blessings trickle down to the next generation.
Dare you to think about the things you are trying to control.
“Let go…and Let God”,
What about you? When have you seen a blessing when you gave up control? We’d love for you to share what God is doing in your life.