Out of (my) control…

I was getting the batting line-up from our head coach just before our final game of the season, when I got a surprise admission.

“I get more nervous coaching than I ever did playing,” Coach Zach told me, which I found amazing since he had played ball professionally. “I guess it’s because it’s all out of my control.”

I think I have that feeling every day.

When my first, and fifth, child was born (one baby, long story), I had a sudden urge to put him back (not the way he came out, however). Suddenly, I realized that no matter the woes of pregnancy, it was definitely easier to care for a child inside the womb than out of it. Despite the joy of holding this newborn infant in my arms, I had the sense that my heart would forever walk around outside my body–and from here on, it was out of my control.

How right I was.

Suffice it to say, while I am not a control freak, I do like to have some sense of control. At school, this translates into wanting my classroom to look the same when I unlock the door as it did when I last left it. (Frustrating because my delightful room has large desks, attractive to football teams, teacher meetings, tutoring sessions, and other activities.) I also think that my desk and teaching area are somewhat sacred, but daily I have to chase students away from my pencil holder (a small watering can I filled with rice to prop up the pens and pencils) because, apparently, their favorite activity is cutting the rice with scissors: just one example of breaking and entering into my personal space.

At home, I am annoyed when I clean the house before school and arrive home afterward to find it in disarray. Or clean my house before someone returns home from work or school only to dump his belongings all over the kitchen (or walk in with dirty or wet shoes). Or clean my house before going to bed only to awake to find the counter sticky and loads of dishes in the sink. Or all three. (Yes, this is my life.) I suspect this is man’s way of making sure women offer to do longer-lasting jobs such as painting and mowing the lawn.

I try to control how much food leaves my refrigerator and when (while parenting mostly young men; this points to a lack in my mental faculties, perhaps?). This includes preventing food intended for a specific purpose from disappearing early as well as hoisting leftovers onto plates in an effort to prevent waste. My efforts seem fruitless. At one point I tried to lock up boxes of sweet cereal (reserved as a treat for Saturday mornings), only to discover the boys had found a way to remove the cabinet knob to eat it anyway..

Perhaps you sense my frustration–or share it?

Adam exercised self-control and began truly working on his paper.

But the real sense of being out of control hits me when my teenager says he is “working” on a paper for his history class, though he is reclining on a couch with the book open, but upside down on his chest, as he stares into space. Or when he gets a ride home from practice with another parent, and I’m not there with helicopter parenting skills (flaws!) questioning if he has everything. When he goes to see a movie with a friend and isn’t home within the time frame I had figured and isn’t responding to my texts.

Or when my adult children fail to apply themselves to their schoolwork. Or fail to apply to more than one job at a time. Or make decisions–and then tell me about them when it’s too late to do anything but hope the decision is the right one. Or to see someone with great potential not put forth the effort to realize it.

I spend time worrying. I spend time wondering “what if?” I spend time being frustrated by things that are simply out of my control.

When I was a child, my mother had a plaque on the wall depicting the first part of Reinhold Neibuhr’s “The Serenity Prayer”:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Back in my Girl Scout days, when my sister actually painted the ceramic plaque, the prayer was meaningless to me. What was serenity, anyway? But when I had a youth leader named Serene (and who was, by the way), I thought back to that plaque and began to understand it. In these, my worrying and frustrating parenting years, I pray it.

The prayer actually continues:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

Most often my worries and frustrations are an indication that I think I can control more than I can. They might be an indication that I am not controlling all I can (likely my actions, my reactions, my boundaries). Perhaps an indication that I want to control more than I should. And an indication that I don’t remember who, ultimately, is in control. Not me.

And not a baseball coach once the players are in the game. Definitely a case for nerves–or a request for serenity.

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