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What My Three-Year-Old Taught Me About Giving Up Control

Turning my weaknesses into strengths, with Sloan's help.
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I consider myself to be pretty self aware. I know my strengths (loyal, detail-oriented, and empathetic) and also the things that need some work (I can be passive aggressive, stubborn, messy, etc.). But it wasn't until a recent therapy session in which I came to realize that I can also be incredibly controlling. 

It was one of those weird moments where I understood all at once how it was something I'd missed all these years, but it still felt pretty shocking. And it all boils down to anxiety. Most of my triggers come down to the unknown: whether Sloan's making friends at school, if I have any undiagnosed health-related issues (in recent years, I can also add 'hypochondriac' to my list of fun qualities), or about expanding our business into new verticals. This has been something I've dealt with my whole life and I suppose that the more "control" I feel like I have over a situation, the less anxious I feel. So it made me laugh that the moment everything changed was all thanks to a simple hairstyle.

A couple of weeks back at Sloan's school, they had "Sprit Week," with a different theme associated with each day. I leaned into these kinds of days when I was young, so I assumed that my daughter would feel similarly. But to my surprise, she was not having it. Wouldn't let me even consider doing some sort of crazy updo for "silly hair day" and the notion of her showing up in her pjs for "pajama day" was out of the question. At first I fought it—with gentle encouragement, which then escalated to complete annoyance. I left the room in a bit of a huff, brush in hand, and lamented to G that she'd be the only kid not following along. And his response was, "So what?" 

I spent so much of my adolescence trying to feel like I belonged, which I suppose was why this type of situation triggered something in me. But Sloan isn't me and that's part of what makes her so incredible. Even at three-years-old, she is self assured and confident in ways that took me decades to figure out. It made me re-think all the times I'd attempted to sway her decisions—whether that meant switching out a pair of glittery rain boots for sandals or convincing her to take swim lessons. By having confidence in both Sloan and the ways in which we're parenting her, I've learned to let go of some of that control. And while I anticipated that might be scary and anxiety-inducing, it's had the opposite effect. Because the reality is, holding on too tightly to things is doing both of us a disservice and that slight shift in perspective has helped me relax in all other areas of my life.


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