I had to learn how to “Chill Out.”
When I first became a mother, I felt like I had a grip on things. Our little son was so mellow and got along great, was adorable and sweet. So, we decided to have #2. She was NOT mellow. However, I insisted for quite a few years on trying to be the MOM, and regularly humiliated myself in public assuming that, because I had a way for things to be, that my children would just follow that way. Um…nope.
One special moment was when the 15-month old daughter was sitting by the very pregnant mom, and three-year-old brother in church, and she was vigorously thumbing through the hymnbook, and tore a page. So, Mom took the book away, furious daughter flung herself off the bench in rage, hitting her head on the hymnbook holder on the way down, causing an even louder squeal to fill the chapel. I was too big-with-child to actually be able to lean over and pick her up, so I had to scoot down the bench to the end, dragging her by the hand along the carpet. Then, I was able to pick her up, and head out to the lobby, with the three-year-old hanging onto my skirt, also crying because his sister was crying. Sigh…(BTW: I was “very pregnant” while also having a 15-month-old child because it turns out that you can be fertile while breastfeeding…)
How did I CHILL-OUT?
Well, first, I realized that every one of our children were tiny, independent human beings, born that way. They were not just my projects, or my dolls, or anything except Human Beings, with free-will. We, the parents, were charged with teaching them how to become responsible, loving adults, but we had no power over their innate selves. (I didn’t just come to this suddenly…my husband helped me realize it, and many other friends.) So, I began to plan for their needs better. I took my own little books and toys to church in a bag. Things that were okay to use, and quiet, and sturdy. No more hymnbook destruction. That book was just for using while we sang. I also had several friends advise me that the hair combing wars would be over if I just got her hair cut really short, so it didn’t need “fixed” anymore! Duh!
This child-rearing Chill-Out was adjusted as needed over the years. It took a team effort and didn’t always look pretty, but it got us to today, with five wonderful adult off-spring who still love us, support themselves, and are great human beings.
We could have divorced any number of times over the 45 years we’ve been married. But, the relationship Chill-Out was the cure! We were talking with a counselor about a decade in, and I was deeply offended by my husband pointing out to me that “the less I needed him, the better our marriage would be.” WHAT?? But, then, after I thought about that for a long time, I began to see how that this was true for him. He didn’t mean that I shouldn’t love him, but he meant that I should have my own life. He had his own life—I needed one, too. I hadn’t thought about it in that way before.
How did I CHILL OUT? Well, I realized that I did love him, and he was a really terrific dad and loved our five children so much. But, I didn’t want to have to be entirely dependent on him for everything. It left me feeling out of control. So, I decided I’d finish college. Sure, five kids under age nine…lots of time for homework! But, one class at a time, I plugged away at it. Then, I just slammed it out when everyone was in school all day. Several years later, I was approaching graduation. One night, he looked a bit glum, so I asked what was going on. He expressed concern that I wouldn’t need him anymore once I had my own income, and he was seeing that I was really getting to that point!
Time for him to CHILL OUT! While it was true that I was going to be able to have a “real” job very soon, he’d been changing, too! I had, indeed, noticed how he’d stepped up when I was typing a research paper and took over fixing dinner, and organizing bedtime. I had, indeed, noticed that he had learned to ask me out for a date in advance, because he knew I had to plan ahead, now that I was immersed in this college degree pursuit. He’d congratulated me for my report card, along with the kids’ report cards. He’d found being married to a co-ed quite stimulating…
I use my Chill Out skills as a teacher. I use my Chill Out skills as a grandma. I’ve spent my whole adult life learning new, and better Chill Out skills. Slow down and back off from that big jerk who cut you off on the highway. His Karma will catch up with him in due time.
The ultimate secret is: you are only in charge of YOU…So, when you think you’ve got to save the Universe—don’t go put on your superhero costume….just CHILL OUT.