by Dr. Ken Larsen
It was one of those winter nights where it was dark by suppertime. We had a pleasant meal together. The girls helped cleanup and then it was story time. I read from one of their favorites, “A Wrinkle in Time”. As usual there were questions and discussion afterward. I loved the thoughtful look on the girl’s faces as they pondered some of the deep ideas we had just read and discussed.
One yawn preceded another telling us it was time to trudge upstairs to get ready for bed. Tonight was my turn to help the youngest get her jammies on, pray together and get her tucked in with a goodnight kiss.
I selected a fresh pair of pajamas from the dresser and laid them on the bed. The last thing I expected was to have my little angel protest my selection. She became quite indignant and just a bit vocal, stating that she did not want to wear THOSE pajamas. She wanted to pick out what she wanted to wear. She was clear on being a big girl and not needing Daddy to make those personal choices for her.
My first response was indignation and a rising insistence on her wearing what I had selected. It was the beginning of a little power play. It suddenly hit me, “What difference does it make?” I had to ask myself why was it important that she stay with my choice and not her own?
Fortunately, I must have received a bit of “Daddy grace” to give in and let her choose.
Later I had to chuckle over what I had learned about letting go. Since that time my youngest daughter has shown good judgement, not only in pajamas but in her husband and in her chosen profession. She recently earned her Master’s degree. Plus, she is co-creating our 15th grandchild. J
The urge to control the behavior of others, especially our children, seems to be built into us, perhaps as a necessary protection in their early lives. As time moved on I learned how important it is for my mental health and happiness and the mental health and happiness of my children to slowly step away from control and move into encouragement and support. Not to do this might build an unhealthy dependence, or an equally unhealthy resentment and rebellion.
I don’t want to leave the impression that we achieved anything near perfection in this process, but we did make progress, especially progress toward healing some of the overly controlling experiences from our past.
I found that I would rather maintain a healthy relationship with my children than enforce my will on their choice of pajamas.