On Control

“I am your mother; your argument is invalid.”

“I’m not really a control freak but can I show you the right way to do that?”

“I hate it when I plan my day and nobody follows the script.”

“As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.”

“You say total control freak like it’s a bad thing.”


How many of you can relate to the above humorous quotes on control freaks? I used to say to my kids that I’m not a control freak; I have too much trouble running my own life. In my case it was more or less true. I was having trouble running my own life and when you raise kids, especially until they get to a certain age, if you don’t retain a modicum of control you’ll be living in chaos, a place I dwelled in frequently. Once my four kids reached their early teens, I let them raise themselves for the most part. I was a recently divorced single mom and came home one day to find my 14-year-old daughter cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen. She told me she had put her brother, age 13 on restriction sending him to his bedroom. Upon checking I discovered his bedroom window open and saw him down the street playing basketball with his buddies. So much for control. My kids in their teens provided me with endless entertainment. I’m not sure if they remember it that way or not. My son wanted to make a loft in our garage to provide a hideout for he and his buddies. I told him to go ahead. He put a large, “Females Not Allowed” sign at the top of the ladder he built so his sisters would get the message. A swarm of early teen age males were soon in and out of the house on a daily basis. I would come home from work to find one of them with his head in the refrigerator. “Mom, we’re out of milk. Can you pick some up on the way home tomorrow?” I never knew how many there would be for dinner. I thought it was great fun. When, a couple years later I was looking for my son and opened the door to the hideout to see if he was in there, I discovered the walls plastered with Playboy pictures and gynecology shots. I closed the door quietly and never told him I’d been in there. Boys will be men I assessed.

All four of my kids fought over this and that and I always told them that when they grew up they’d be each other’s best friends. Today they are.

My childhood was another story. I’m not sure if I was a lax mother because my parents were both control freaks or whether it is just in my nature to understand not wanting to be controlled. I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit and when the abuse at home, both sexual and physical became too much at the age of 18, I packed my meager belongings in a pillow sack and took off never to look back. I don’t like to be told what to do. Who does?

The earliest control I suffered at the hands of my mother was when my father went off to war and she began daily enemas of her four small children. Laying sideways across the bed, the four of us like sacks of potatoes were subjected to the dreaded ordeal followed by my mother’s cry of “hold it, hold it”, before we were allowed to race to the bathroom. It was my first experience in extreme control. Many decades later a psychologist told me it was “the ritualistic rape of four small children by a woman who was sexually repressed because of the absence of her husband.”  To me it was a shameful memory that I never told anyone until I got into recovery.

My mother had a hundred ways of asserting control. After we washed up for bed, she yanked behind our ears to see if we had cleaned them properly. When we ate the plates were set in front of my father so that he could control how much food we ate. It wasn’t much and years later I found out that people thought when we were younger, we looked like concentration camp victims. We weren’t allowed second helpings; there were no in between snacks and stealing food was followed by the punishment of going to bed without supper. I was always hungry. I was a hard worker and as a result was the recipient of most of the chores. My sister, who had learned her own method of control, dawdled at her chores and made sure she did a bad job. I thought she was stupid. Well, one of us was. My parents had all the power; they chose what kind of music we listened to, what we wore, what we read, who we could spend time with, what groups we could join (and when we had to leave a particular group), what kind of opinions we were allowed to have and just about anything else they could think of. My mom had a long-term plan. I would not be allowed to leave home even if I was in my 40s. My responsibility was to my parents and they could do whatever they wanted with me. It was sort of like I was a human robot. They called it discipline. I was a puppet and my father the ultimate puppeteer. To me it was suppressive, intimidating, tyrannical and ultimately overpowering to someone with a free spirit. Sexual control is the most extreme type of control and once my father initiated that my world turned to despair and severe depression.

In my early teen years when we lived in a small town in northeast Nebraska, I found ways to find relief from the constant control. Whenever I had the chance, I raced out to Rae Creek, a wooded area a half mile from town. It became my sanctuary as I climbed the many oaks and cottonwoods, waded in the creek, pulled wildflowers out by their roots (later to be placed at the Virgin Mary altar at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church) sang Broadway tunes to the large herd of cattle in a nearby pasture, my arms outspread my face to the sun and watched in wonder at the mushrooms that grew so prominently at the base of my favorite oak tree. It had a wide branch that grew across the creek and I crawled across it to the end then swung on it as I hurled myself to the far side of the creek. Here I was safe. Here no one had control over me. Rae Creek was my sanctuary. Once we moved to Los Angeles in the summer before my junior year I had no sanctuary.

Today I relish freedom of any sort. Today I can choose my own food, my own friends, my own music, my own reading material, my own future. Today my opinions are my own. My life is my own. I thank God for recovery. I thank God I was able to REPAIR my life.


Do you want to take back control over your life? If you are a victim of child sexual abuse check out REPAIR Your Life. See our website at www.thelamplighters.org



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