I like to be in control.
It’s not a good look, I know. I’m working on it.
Because it’s helpful to absolutely no one when I micro-manage and stress over minute details. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. Goodness knows the last thing I want is to be the stereotypical buzzkill of a mom, always playing the bad cop and spoiling everyone’s fun.
There’s something funny about becoming a parent, though, that transforms you to your core; there’s that moment that you realize you have essentially been willfully catapulted into this foreign, uncharted territory, and it takes about an hour of holding that innocent babe in your arms to realize that, more often than not, you must let go. You have to give so as not to break.
It was shortly after our oldest was born, maybe a few months in, that I felt I might break. As a brand-spanking-new mom, I’d allowed myself to boil for a couple of months, on many occasions my frustration overflowing and scalding someone I love dearly. I was a compass spinning wildly awry, no prior parenting wisdom to aid me in regaining my sense of direction.
The problem, as I then saw it: my sweet, well-meaning, fun-loving husband.
He was absolutely killing it as a dad; he changed diapers, snuggled our boy on his chest like a champ, sang silly songs, and read bedtime stories. You name it, he did it. And with great joy.
I can say that now. With my tail tucked between my legs and my pride knocked down a few hundred notches – parenting is the most beautifully, painfully humbling experience – I recognize the incredible father that my husband transformed into right before my eyes. One moment he still seemed a boy in so many ways; the next, he was a man.
At that point, though, those few months into our new parenting gig, I was attempting to grasp at any tiny thread of control I might have had left. Because apparently I mistakenly presumed that I had all the right answers and thus deserved said control whilst actually having no clue of what I was doing myself.
So I criticized his every move. The way he changed diapers, held our son, sang those silly songs, and read the stories night after night: it was all wrong.
They were just small remarks here and there, nothing wildly appalling. Just a, “Hey, please don’t hold him that way. You need to support his neck better,” or the classic, “Please don’t read the story like that. You’re being way too loud and will get him all riled up right before bedtime!”
But our son’s neck was being supported just fine, and he fell into a blissful sleep each night without so much as a peep.
It seems that, having feared I had lost all control upon embarking upon the grand yet chaotic adventure of motherhood, I latched onto this single, preserved shred of my know-it-all, have-it-all together facade.
And it makes me chuckle looking back on my naiveté, because so many women complain that their husbands aren’t involved enough in caring for their children, that they’re not as present as they had once dreamt before sweet babes were in the picture. Yet, here I was, my husband actively, cheerfully participating in the process, and all I could do was condemn what I was perceiving as mistakes.
Mistakes? They were anything but. They were his way of bonding, loving, engaging, and parenting. Who was I to critique his every move? What authority did I even have? And why would I ever want to discourage his enthusiasm to parent, anyway, even if I did know “better”?
So it was at that precipice of breaking that I became determined to embrace the way my husband parents our boys. Rather than stifling him, I would encourage him to be the father that he was created to be. (And, looking back, I’m so glad I made the decision to quiet my oftentimes gargantuan mouth before it was too late, before he gave up.)
Just the other night I heard him down in the basement reading our son his bedtime story. From upstairs, in the kitchen, while washing dishes. In other words, he wasn’t reading with the calm, lovely “inside voice” I would typically promote. And I caught myself falling back into the same ol’ trap. But then I stopped. I turned off the water, and I simply listened.
I heard my husband making all of the perfect, over-the-top, only-Daddy-can-do-it-that-way sound effects. I heard my son giggling with delight. I heard joy.
And in that moment, I felt peace.
The control was never mine to toy with in the first place, and it certainly wasn’t mine to hold over my husband, which is why I’m eternally gratefully that I eventually discerned the beauty in letting go and letting Daddy.
(Featured photo of my handsome hubby and youngest, Jones, by the incredible Rachel Sanders of Sun Chaser Studios)