Wrapping Up Month #5 of Extreme Self-Care

So? How did it go?

Were you able to remove your General Manager of the Universe hat in at least one area of your life?

I was feeling pretty smug when Cheryl suggested we take our ‘hands off the wheel’ in month #5 of our Extreme Self-Care Journey,

because a few months ago I had sat down with my family and we drew up a Responsibility Contract for things that needed to be done to keep things running smoothly in the Spence Family Household.  At first, I struggled with the part about letting my sons do their tasks in their own way rather than the way I figured they should be done or even when I figured they should be done. In the end, we decided that the weekly household cleaning tasks could be done anytime in the week as long as they were completed by suppertime Sunday night. That helped a lot, especially once I learned to hide in my office in the hour before Sunday supper when, inevitably, there was a sudden flurry of cleaning.

So — like I said — I was feeling pretty smug about tackling this month’s Extreme Self-Care Challenge.

Except it took place in the summer when our usual household rhythm is turned on its head and my boys are out of school and my sixteen year old son was trying to get as many hours of work as possible (which turned out to be a bigger challenge than anticipated) and also complete his Chemistry 20 class through Distance Ed.

As the days passed, and he stayed up later and later each night on the computer NOT doing Chemistry and sleeping in later and later each morning, the Control Demon Within went into full Command Sergeant Mode.

It wasn’t pretty.

In fact, it was a backslide of magnificent proportions that required huge amounts of deep breathing and reign-the-monster-in self-talk.

Okay, Maxine, what’s the worst that can happen if he doesn’t get his Chemistry done by the time school starts again?

He’ll have to finish Chemistry AND do four core subjects in the first semester.

And so . . . ?

He’ll probably want to do drama, too. And he still needs to work to help pay for his trip abroad.

And this affects you how?

It’s too much! He procrastinates all the time. He never goes to bed at night because he’s up at all hours on that blasted computer. When school starts again, he’ll be exhausted because he’ll actually have to get up in the morning! He’s going to get sick  . . .

And, again, this affects you how?


Exactly. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. So shut up! And, if you can’t shut up, then say something pleasant every time you want to bark an order or make a ‘suggestion.’ Your constant natter is doing nothing but alienate him.

But he’ll never learn if I don’t keep on him.

And constantly harping at him will teach him?


That’s enough. You get the picture. I can be sooooo stubborn.

But, as I kept at it, I realized this:

I wanted him to succeed so I was ‘helping’ him to succeed (which sends the message that he’s not capable of doing it himself)

and  this:

when I pull him across the finish line so that he doesn’t ‘fail’ I set him up for even bigger failures when he’s finally out in the world without his mama where the stakes for falling on your face are much bigger than a high school grade.

I thought my realizations were pretty profound (insert the sound of Maxine patting her own back) but then I hit the queasy bedrock.

What was actually driving all of my control freakishness was the fact that his successes and failures were a reflection of me so of course I would do anything I could to be sure I looked good.

Ouch – bedrock is not a soft place to land.

So here I am, a month further down the road and a titch more aware (Thank you, Cheryl. I think.) and now constantly sussing out my ulterior motives.

Ultimately, what does it matter what my loved ones wear or how they cut their hair or whether or not they tie their laces or are late for work or are studying enough or are sleeping their life away? Let the world give them the feedback they need to learn and grow. My job is to give them love. True love, not ‘for your own good’ control pathetically disguised as love.

Easy, right?


I sure hope next month’s challenge is not such a . . . challenge.

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2 Responses to Wrapping Up Month #5 of Extreme Self-Care

  1. Yvonne says:

    Whew. It is some challenging learning with kids at this stage isn’t it? It was easier to let them fail at pouring a glass of water, or getting on a bike. Watching them experience heart break or mess up a class or job is heartbreaking for me.

  2. Yup. Sometimes I wish we were back in those much easier, more innocent times. And other times my guys are so funny and wise I wish this teenage stage would never end. Parenting! Such a mish mash of ups and downs.

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