Saturday, September 29, 2007

Control Freaks Unite! We Have Nothing to Gain but More Chains!

con·trol (kn-trl)
tr.v. con·trolled, con·trol·ling, con·trols
1. To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct. See Synonyms at conduct.
2. To adjust to a requirement; regulate: controlled trading on the stock market; controls the flow of water.
3. To hold in restraint; check: struggled to control my temper.
4. To reduce or prevent the spread of: control insects; controlled the fire by dousing it with water.

freak 1 (frk)
1. A thing or occurrence that is markedly unusual or irregular: A freak of nature produced the midsummer snow.
2. An abnormally formed organism, especially a person or animal regarded as a curiosity or monstrosity.
3. A sudden capricious turn of mind; a whim: "The freaks of the psyche can no more be explained than the Devil" Maurice Collis.
4. Slang
a. A drug user or addict: a speed freak.
b. An eccentric or nonconformist person, especially a member of a counterculture.
c. An enthusiast: rock music freaks.

I didn't know that I was a control freak before I became a parent.


After a few right-turns in my life, a bit of introspection, and a few hours on the couch, I thought I had conquered that particular problem (one down, 200,000 to go).

It was really my obsession--my compulsive obsession--about my pens that drove me to this conclusion.

I've got these particular pens that I prefer to use for work (mostly grading and taking notes). For those of you who know this about me, you probably also know that these pens are usually not provided by my regular employer (I have actually gotten into a bit of a tiff with the administrative assistant about the fact that she refused to purchase these sorts of pens. Probably because people actually used them) hence, I have to purchase them myself. The issue is not that they are particularly expensive. It's just that I like to have them when I need them.

As an individual, I could only blame myself for losing pens. Within a family context, however, I find that Seven often "borrows" the pens (she too recognizes their superiority over the ample supply of ball points in the house). I often find them scattered throughout the house, tips broken or tops left off, drying out the pen.

I know this sounds crazy, but the wastefulness and absolute lack of carefulness with these pens really bugs me.

At our last ECFE class (early childhood and family education) we started talking about being "control freaks" as parents and what that term actually meant. I once heard someone describing parenting with another person as the ultimate form of control issues: you both want to control parts of your kids' lives, but probably, you have two different ideas about what you need to control and how to go about it. Hence, even more control issues, but now just about each other.

Our ECFE teacher actually complimented me for recognizing my control issues around parenting. She said that some people might behave like a fish out of water when they are out of control, but not recognize that the problem is that they're breathing air rather than water.

So I'm a good kind of control freak, I guess.

My most recent episode of control-freak recognition occured the other day when I observed Seven move a chair over to the kitchen so that she could hoist herself up and reach the gum she was desiring. It was the first time she had just gotten gum out for herself without asking for either a) permission or b) help getting it.

I don't really care that she wanted or even got the gum herself. She is wonderful with stuff like that. She'll take a whole pack and share it with the entire neighborhood. And when that pack is gone, she'll ask for another to share some more. Plus, I love why she loves gum. I know that for her, it signifies being a bit older. More mature. She thinks that teenagers have a monopoly on gum chewing.

Finally, she is much better at disposing of the gum once she's done chewing it. Once when I was far, far from becoming a parent, I had taken one of my nephews for the night. He wanted one of those huge packs of buble-gum that comes in a pack like a baseball player's box of chew. The next day, I found the empty container at the bottom of my car, and chewed up little pieces of gum under the seat, like in a movie theatre or on the bottom of a school desk. So my references to gum protocol are pretty bad comparatively.

Having said all that, I couldn't figure out what was causing the pit in my stomach about Seven taking this step forward, and getting the gum herself.

As I was telling this story at ECFE, I noticed the teacher writing a word on her little white board:


I stopped: ?

She: That's what you're doing here, you know. . . .

Me: ??

She: If she can get the gum herself, what will she need you for?

I just wish I could control the speed at which they're growing up.

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