Can’t Control

I just spent a few days in New York City with Kevin. I welcomed the break, and as we sit on the plane waiting for take-off to return home, I feel sick with anxiety.

This feeling started when Kevin finished a call with Kyle and shared with me that Sam hasn’t turned in his homework this week and that she failed his tests today. Kyle was asking Kevin’s opinion on whether or not to permit Sam to attend a social mixer at school tonight. They settled on “no.” Sam was doing well as of last week, and this week, left to make good choices on her own (complete her work, practice her trumpet, turn in her work, study), she slacked seriously on the homework and studying, didn’t turn in what she completed, and skipped practicing her instrument altogether.

My emotional response is out of proportion to the circumstance. Sam did not meet my expectations this week. Knowing this, I feel anxiety and anger, and as I feel it and watch this, I tell myself, get a grip on yourself. Relax. She’s twelve. She messed up. This week. In sixth grade. This is neither surprising nor earth-shaking. And yet I feel myself shaking internally. This is how crazy people are. I am being crazy.

Several weeks ago, I agreed to join Sam on a ride at the state fair. It was one of those big contraptions that gyrate and swing simultaneously, taking one’s secure-but-flailing body into dizzying arcs of progressively increasing altitude before winding gradually back down. As we began to spin and climb, I felt that dropping feeling in my stomach and felt myself resisting. So I said to myself, This is happening—I am on this ride now whether I like it or not, and I cannot change it, so I hereby say “Yes” to it, I surrender to this, all of it, the heights and the drops, and even the feeling in my stomach. Yes. Yes. Yes. And when I quit resisting, all of the unpleasantness ceased immediately. I enjoyed the ride, and it was over very quickly.

This is what I’m practicing now as we sit on the runway. Whether I like it or not, Sam will make her own mistakes, and she will not always meet my expectations. So I say “Yes,” to this, I surrender to all of it, the ups and the downs. I cannot control her and I do us both a disservice when I try. My job is to role model, to guide, to advise, to help when I can. Then I’ve got to step back and let go of the result.

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