Okay. I like to think of myself as sophisticated enough, psychologically speaking, self-awareness-wise, to be “hip” to the notion of personal boundaries and the limits of control. (you can only change yourself, to say it in a nutshell. Around an asshole…choose how you’ll respond – don’t react and sink to his level – don’t try to change him, or at least not with any realistic expectation that it will work. Choose your response, and move on.)
Less intense, you’re around a friend, same deal. Don’t go tryin’ to change your friend. Surely don’t FIX your friend. Lest that friend goes hiking, as if to say, “thank you very much anyway, but no thanks.”
Enter the relationship with your spouse. CRUCIAL, in my not-so-humble opinion on this score to resist, mightily if you must, but resist any attempts to fix the spouse!!! Choose your response, meet him halfway. Express your feelings and preferences, then grit your teeth if the pet peeve is getting to you, but do not, I repeat DO NOT get some well-meaning or high and mighty (to say nothing of just plain naive and dumb!) idea that you can “fix” your spouse.
Yup. I get it. And, if I may be so bold, I think I’m making progress on following that advice better every day.
Where it gets tricky is in that area where you can, and even should…are “called” to INFLUENCE behavior – shape and mold behavior to a limited, but important degree. Sure, it’s still your choice on how you go about this positive influence and modeling, but this is where the automatic reactive brain (reptilian a la family systems theory) goes into stealth takeover mode before you realized it has even happened. At least my brain sometimes goes amok with choosing my behavior – with your CHILDREN.
I mean, you’re supposed to help mold your children positively, right? And suddenly (sometimes) that proper molding influence loses all sense of perspective. I sometimes allow this loss of perspective, to my embarrassment, to infiltrate my ministry efforts, too, but none so often as with the little darlin’s at home. Some wise spiritual soul I think once said that the family is the laboratory of where we learn to live our faith out, not in any exotic or far off ministry mission field.
I think I’ve been extraordinarily blessed. I’ve got wonderful kids. They’ve been relatively easy to raise. Now, granted, they’re only 10 and 7, but they’ve been respectful, kind kids, easy to guide and receptive to my help in the drawing of appropriate conclusions and the making of good choices for themselves. When hubby loses perspective (and isn’t THAT easier to see in someone else than in yourself? (self-knowing groan here!) I remind him that he ought to see the kids I work with (as my pharmacy patients) and then he would be more grateful for ours! I think that a good portion of this wonderful kid assessment I have made is in their “nature” as opposed to their “nurture.” I mean, I believe that God has blessed me with kindhearted, relatively easy-going children. I believe my nurture has come into play, though, too. Finding the fine line between what is me, and what is simply blessing and God’s good graces, and perhaps even random luck and chance, are what leads to a loss of perspective. And in the opposite direction, too. Your children’s poor choices are not necessarily reflective of you, especially the older they get, the more opportunities they are presented with to shine on their own, and fall on their face on their own. But it’s no matter to the reptilian brain of the gotta-be-perfect-mommy-monster! You get in the heat of the moment, and suddenly you feel as a parent that some decision or choice you make is going to be a deal-breaker. It’s going to make or break this child if you “succeed” or “mess up.”
Surprise! “You ain’t all that, Karla!”
(I know, I know, I mutter, walking away, reminded once again.)
Heavenly Father: Help us to remember that we are to be faithful to your nudges and teachings. Remind us what is in our control, and what is not. Remind us that we are, indeed, not gods. Help us to hand the reins over and trust in you. Give us that humility and grounding that leads us to take appropriate risks and responsibilities, and appropriate degrees of letting go and letting God. May you always be known and embraced in our family’s midst, and thank you for the blessing and love of our families of origin and those we have formed through marriage and childbearing. Amen.