For the Mom Who Wants to Know Everything But Can't
It was a piece of pan-fried white fish, peas and some pasta covered in cheese on his plate, the kind of dinner he would normally inhale without complaint. Seafood and carbs are his favorite. Tonight though he pushed it around with his fork, his frown deepening. I asked him to eat it, but he snapped at me saying he would not.
You know the feeling when you put something down in front of your child, and you’re certain, This will be a hit. The usual thoughts cropped up in my head, “He’s disobedient and needs to be disciplined. I can’t believe I’m having to deal with this. I’m going to make him eat this or he will be in trouble.”
“I won’t eat it, Mommy,” he whined at me, his voice getting higher and angrier by the minute.
I don’t know what made me do it, but I reached across the table and broke off a piece of his food and tasted it.
The fish was cold and unsalted. I would not have eaten it.
Nursing my ego, I warmed it up and sprinkled salt on top, and within a few minutes my son ate his dinner without complaint. His plate was empty.
I was certain he was having an episode of defiance that needed discipline, but all he needed was a microwave and some salt.
The fish episode was the first in a long line of re-adjustments. My default position toward my kids can be one of, “I am right, and they are wrong,” partly because this is often the case, and I want them to learn to trust me. But it is also because I like to feel in control, a feeling that goes a long way in a season that is inherently out of control.
We don’t handpick the personality traits of our children in utero, we don’t get to decide when they will walk or what their first words will be. We can’t micromanage their interests or dictate their taste buds. We don’t pick whom they will date or marry. We don’t get to decide where they will live or what they will do with their lives.
These are the realities of parenting: We cannot know everything, we are not in control.
With my little ones, there are little things I can do daily that make me feel like I’m in control. I could have insisted that my son eat his food without thought as to why he didn’t want to eat it. I would have left that situation thinking I discipline my kids well because I can get them to do what I want them to do. But the reality would have been so much further from the truth.
When my youngest was waking in our winter nights, one night when I finally laid down with him, I realized he wasn’t just making our life difficult by not sleeping. I froze in his bed. He had been too cold. We had no idea. There have been other moments as well, moments where I walked in thinking one thing, and thinking that I needed to be absolutely right about this one thing, but when I put myself into my children’s place, I discovered a different story.
Yes, I saw their perspective and saw their real needs. But this story is also an invitation to not be in control, to parent from a position of humility. I don’t know everything. I need help. Often it is the help of my little ones I need most, but it only happens when I’m willing to humble my heart toward them, to believe the best of their motives and to listen to what they are trying to say.
Devi Duerrmeier is a writer, thinker, wife and mom of two boys living in Melbourne, Australia. She writes about food, family and faith at the table in the middle spaces of life, in between cultures and ideas and faith and desire. You can follow her on Instagram and read her blog, My Daily Bread & Butter.
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