Letting Go

So, obviously, with a two-year-old in the house, either the movie or the soundtrack of Frozen is playing almost non-stop in the house. Hence the title of this post. That said, it’s still apropos.

It is axiomatic that one cannot control all aspects of one’s life and that learning to act in the areas where one can and learning to roll with the things outside of one’s control is an important life skill for maturity and personal happiness. I know this. But it’s easy to forget and, for some reason, human nature being what it is, my instinct is to try and exert as much control over life as possible in an effort to reduce the stress I feel from a lack of control. This is counterproductive.

The latest of the microcosmic reminders of this life lesson have been with potty training Bess. We’ve been working on this at a casual pace for nearly two months. I still fall into the trap of believing that a two-year-old can be reasoned with; such an illusion sets my frustration level soaring when I explain processes and procedures (and the reasons why) to Bess, hear her say “okay,” and then see her do exactly the opposite not thirty seconds later.

Meanwhile, K reminds me that we can’t be too insistent on success with this process because it’s really about Bess becoming relaxed and content with the whole thing, so stressing her out undermines our efforts. She’s right, of course, but that doesn’t help my desire to control the situation to alleviate my frustrations.

So, here we are, after two months of false alarms, tantrums, bribery, messes to clean up, long stints sitting on the potty and only slow progress to show for it. But something has changed. I have.

I am learning to let go of the desire to control the situation, to become focused on what I can do to facilitate rather than desperately struggling against the waves to force a resolution that never comes. This is a key lesson in life. The Serenity Prayer , written by esteemed theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and often used in addiction recovery groups, says, “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed…”

Children give us constant practice with this precept. Whether it’s potty struggles or food struggles (which I’ve described similarly in the past), children test our limits, probe the boundaries of our self-control and don’t just push us to become better–they require us to become better if we are to be the best parents we can be. Sometimes, that means letting go of our own desires, hang-ups and issues.


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