To the parents who think the adults were being negligent at the Disney World resort…
To the parents who blame the mom at the Cincinnati zoo for death of the gorilla…
To the parents who are quick to say others aren’t “paying attention” or they’re “distracted on their iPhone“…
I have one thing to say to you.
Control is an illusion.
Oh yeah, sure, we’re supposed to make good choices and be wise. We are to protect our families and be on call and on guard to shield them from harm. But mature people know, at the end of the day, we are not in control of this life.
When You Think You’re In Control, You Get Haughty
“Those parents should be charged with negligence.“
“That mom should be held responsible for the death of the gorilla.”
And on and on. It’s easy, from your comfy couch in your yoga pants with your kids safely ensconced in beds, to say that other moms got what they deserved. But that isn’t surprising. Because if you believe you’re in control, you think every bad thing that happens is someone’s fault.
If that child had minded better…
If they wouldn’t have owned a pool in the first place…
If they’d have chained their dresser to the wall…
If mom hadn’t had her back turned…
If they didn’t let him play in the front yard…
You think you so perfectly manage your environment that nothing bad happens. And because you think you can do this, you think others can too. And, when you perceive they haven’t, well, it’s their own fault.
When You Think You’re In Control, You Get Anxious
In our first world affluent culture, we are immune to the survival struggles of the rest of the world. Got an infection? Get antibiotics. Baby is breech? Get a c-section. Snake bit you? Call 911.
When you think you’re in control of everything you begin to control everything.
You feel responsible for every single thing.
You feel the burden of every single decision, circumstance, and possible outcome to every situation.
You become obsessed and depressed at the thought of something bad happening. But guess what? You can plan for all the things your imagination throws at you, but that doesn’t mean you’re in control.
Diseases, accidents, senseless tragedies, horrible decisions on the parts of others… you cannot account for everything.
When You Think You’re In Control You Are Deceiving Yourself
If you think you’re in control of everything you are living in unreality. You are deceived and – when something bad happens to another – you feel smug in your judgment.
You feel prideful that your family hasn’t gone through that because you, The Perfect Parent, just wouldn’t let it happen.
But you can serve your children only organic food and get a terminal diagnosis.
You can train your children not to run into the road, but what about the cars that veer off the road?
You can watch your child every single minute of the day to make sure they don’t get into mischief. Until you have another child.
You can spend $100,000 on your daughter’s private education and find out her music teacher was a pedophile.
You can have your kids in the church every time the door is open and watch them walk away from their faith.
You can save tirelessly for retirement and lose it in one GFC.
You can think you are in control of every aspect of your life and act like a Great Big Jerk when others fail to meet your lofty (and ridiculous) expectations.
Or you can know that control, ultimately, is an illusion. You can choose to act wisely, with prudence and common sense. You can do this and know that despite your best efforts, the future isn’t guaranteed.
When You Think You’re in Control You Take For Granted the Good
When you think you’re directly responsible for every good thing in your life, you’re too busy patting yourself on the back to appreciate it.
Instead of being grateful – today – for healthy children, you credit your real food diet. Instead of thanking God for your many blessings, you make a list of the things you have to conquer so you can move one more rung up the ladder.
You are so busy controlling every aspect of your life you don’t even appreciate it. Then, when something tragic happens, the only way you can make sense of it is to victim shame and blame.
For not doing enough. Being enough. Trying hard enough. You’re both robbed of joy and burdened with judgment at once.
Because if something bad can happen to them, it could happen to you.
And you don’t want to admit you’re not in control, but the truth is…
Bad things can happen to good people.
The best laid plans can fail.
Accidents can take place when everyone is paying attention.
People are just doing the best they can and sometimes, when tragedies occur, compassion is a better response than judgment. Sympathy is better than shaming. Hugging your own children a little tighter is better than being smug about your good fortune.
Trouble will come, a wise man once said, you can depend on it. It’s your choice whether you rise up and help or kick those who are down.
Standing ovation. Claps all around. Very well said. Thank you for writing this!
This is a very powerful text, and an important one for me to read and re-read.
However, I would like to suggest a more compassionate understanding of those who judge other parents. I agree with you that it’s an illusion of control, but would like to suggest that instead of smugness, it’s really fear. The thought of these things happening to your child is just too enormous, just too terrible, to imagine, so fear causes you to think – it couldn’t happen to me, I’m safe. Because if not, what’s the alternative? If being a good enough or even a super parent isn’t enough to keep your child safe, then how can you cope in this world? I think it’s a deep-set fear that causes us to rationalize our helplessness.
Thank you for sharing this post.
Rachel Norman says
Gefen, I totally agree with that actually. I just think the smugness can be a REACTION to our fear, you know? Like instead of recognizing we’re fearful so we control (SO GUILTY which is how I could write this post) we can tend to judge others out of our fear? I hope I’m making sense and not seeming like a meanie.
Thank you for this. It brought tears to my eyes. I did not judge those mothers, however I do try to control everything and recognized myself in your words. I have to read and re-read it over again because you have pinpointed the source of my frustration and lately my sadness. I feel responsible for everything, like I have to anticipate every outcome. I need to let myself off the hook and chill.
Rachel Norman says
Donna, I am so so much the same which is why I was able to write it :(