Parenting is one of those things. It’s impossible. 

Sure, there are days where I forget. Okay, not days – minutes. Me and the tiny guy are laying there giggling about something, coloring, imagining, where we both pretend I understand the Baby Swedish. It’s fun then. 

The switch flips when he insists on watching various household items swim in the toilet, or when he performs the limp-noodle act in the street as I try to shout, cajole, lift his floppy, rebel body into the driveway. 

Yes, these moments reveal a sad truth about me. I am sometimes crazy.

I would like to be less crazy. I would like to be calm, a floaty, happy mom with lots of self-control whose children listen, or if they don’t, she has a neat, prepped response for their folly. But as most people who parent will admit, if they’re not lying, “I never knew how (insert negative character quality here) I was until I had children.” 

For me, I didn’t know the anger was there. Man, so angry. So irrational. (Uh oh, starting to sound like a two year old in a tantrum, right? Cue some empathy for the two year old.)

In my ongoing (ahem, never-ending) efforts to self-reform, I learn, read, listen and even shamelessly copycat people who are good at parenting. Whatever that means. Cause from what I can tell, most of our parent friends are as befuddled as we are. 

I also pray. Squeak out, “Help me have patience, please. Please. Help me respond with grace.” And so far I think prayer has been the biggest miracle worker on my actual responses to the maniacal, death-defying stunts and general obstinance toddlers seem to choose. 

But how in the world do you do this parent thing? Not just do it, but do it well.

John might argue, perhaps this is the problem with my parenting. [Photo credit]

A year ago I read Loving Our Kids on Purpose, which flipped my world upside down with the premise that – get this – you cannot control other people. I wish it hadn’t taken me 30 years to figure discover this, but hey, I’m here now.  

I love their philosophy: “You can’t control anyone but yourself. If you find yourself getting angry and raising your voice with your kids, then you’re giving your emotional control to someone who probably still poops their pants. And then you’re in a bad situation.”

Ah yes, the truth rings. But the personal reform takes a while. The acting right instead of acting wrong. The digging up of the old, crusty ways of yelling and demanding and trying to control and replacing them with the less offensive, happier ways of self-control. 

I need to read the book again. I just listened to the Loving Our Preschoolers audio seminar, which was all a great refresher. John is old enough for choices now, and he’s going to be making a lot of them. They might be mostly timeout, but that will be his choice. Not mine.

A review of the thoughts for my benefit, and perhaps yours too: Choices. Attitudes. Mine is mine, and yours is yours. I can’t change you; you can’t change me. I am in control of me, unless I give it up. But that’s no one’s fault but mine. No one can take my choice from me. No one can take my self-control away. So empowering, isn’t it? 

In a family, we can influence each other, protect each other, enjoy each other, but we can’t control each other. The more I realize this, the happier mom/wife/employee/human I will be.