Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Man Plans, God Laughs (Yiddish Proverb)

If you don’t have children, you might still be under the delusion that you can control things. Children are God’s cure for this. I think of children as God’s 12 step program for control addicts.

When I adopted my daughter, I consulted a friend who is a renowned astrologer. She contemplated Mia’s chart and frowned. “Are you sure this is the correct birth date?” she asked. It was, as far as I knew. She started fidgeting, her eyes darting around the room as if looking for a quick escape. She stared at the chart as if willing it to change. She cleared her throat several times. “What?!” I finally erupted, making her jump. “What is it?”

“Well,” she said, desperate for some way to soften what she saw, “let’s just say your daughter is...well, beyond programming.”

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try. I had controlled things all my life. I thought I had to control things or things would not happen the way they were supposed to happen. But being in control required a lot of energy and vigilance. Eventually I wore myself out. Like a rock chip on a windshield, cracks lengthened and branched out over my delusion of control. Finally I asked myself, “What makes me think I know how things should happen?”

Here is one of my favorite passages. It’s from Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.

Down by the waterfall, Amanda pitched her tent – it was made of willow sticks and the wool of black goats. Having filled the tent with her largest and softest paisley cushions, Amanda stripped down to her beads and panties and fell into a trance. “I shall determine how to prolong the lives of butterflies,” she had previously announced.

However, an hour later when she awoke, she smiled mysteriously. “The life-span of the butterfly is precisely the right length,” she said.

Over time I surrendered. I became wise in the ways of control. I had none. And it was good.

If you don’t have children yet or don’t plan to have children, but you still seek enlightenment, get a cat.

revised from archives


  1. LOL get a cat! I also have raised children and once they hit a certain age they become your friend, once they have to pay their own rent and make their way in life I think that there is a new appreciation for all that mom did for them. If it doesn't do it then when they have their first child, then they all of a sudden really appreciate all that you've done for them... my son did anyways. But control, yes if you're a control freak... get a cat because the kids will control your world for many years.

    Awesome post Galen, thanks for the reminder about control.

  2. "He who believes that his children can be moulded and shaped into following a particular path is a fool"


  3. So funny, thanks for sharing, I will keep that in mind if I ever have a child:)

  4. I have children and I have cats...and I so love to show the way for them, and allow them to control and learn by far it's worked for mother was such a control freak....I can not follow those footsteps ever!

  5. Guiding a child is one thing, but attempting to control another human being is an exercise in futility.

  6. There's a delicate balance here. I don't think all children are controlling. It's a path that is chosen by the parents to sacrifice and accommodate the child and their needs. They set the rules and discipline.
    I've seen some children control their parents. These are the spoiled brats. Cry when they don't get their way and the parents give in because they don't know how to deal with the tantrums.

  7. darlin--When does that friend part kick in? I'm just kidding. My kids are pretty appreciative. Sort of.

    Alexia--Exactly. I was that fool for many years.

    Toyin--It applies to most other people, too, not just kids!

    Karen--Many of us do not want to be the mothers our mothers were. At least not exacly like them. You sound like a wise mother...and cat owner.

    JJ--How many years and how much effort did I waste before I figured that out?! Of course for most of those years I did not see that I was attempting to control anything or anyone. It felt quite the opposite.

  8. ryoko--In my post I was really talking about trying to control my kids, not my kids trying to control me. However, your point is well taken about the abdication of authority by some parents in letting the kids run the show.

  9. I parented by the seat of my pants and visualizing a great future for each of my kids. I made a list of 12 things - like honesty and stick to it - virtues, values that I wished for them and then took a lot of deep breaths to relax myself. I was not a laid back mum at youngest is adopted also and counselors and teachers kept saying - don't try to control her/ I think I am a better guide then controller...but she is the control she is turning out to be a great human being...but she wore me out trying to be creative and trying to find safe havens for her to grow...what a trip...I learned so much and so much about the way the brain works...WOW what trip

  10. Hi Galen,
    I don't have children or cats, but I do have a wild puppy who challenges the heck out of me:) I love the idea of surrender. Control takes up so much energy. We need to let people be who they are without foolishly trying to reshape them. Thanks for the wise post Galen!

  11. So True! I have often referred to motherhood as God's anecdote to a controlling nature. I was hard core so I think it took autism to finally bring me down a notch.

    Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog.

  12. Patricia--I like that idea of a list of 12 things. I was not laid back either but I became more laid back as I wore out!

    Dandy--A wild puppy--what fun! I was such a good dog trainer that when I had kids, I thought I could use many of the same principles of puppy training. Ha!

    Autism Mom--Yes, autism brought me down a few notches as well!

  13. What a great way to start the day, Galen! The Astrologer's comment that your daughter is beyond programming is jarringly hilarious. Aren't we all beyond programming??? Even when we try to make plans for our "self", we do a good job doing otherwise at times... and often times it was all for the better.

    I gotta share this with my employers, my cats. ...hmmm come to think of it, I may have to think about this "beyond programming" comment: there are times (ok.. all the time) I feel as if my cats have me well programmed. :P

  14. I can so relate to this from a cat mom point of view. I don't have kids, but cats are not under anyone's control. *lol*

    Was the psychic right about your daughter?

  15. Ajen and Bernie--Thanks for your comments. And yes, the astrologer was definitely correct--she was beyond programming and still is!

  16. Revisiting these posts since I'm writing on step 3 this week. I absolutely adored your opening line in this one, because I think it takes having a child to make one realize how little control we really have.

    And your ending sentence? Classic! Cats are probably the only beings harder to control than children! :)

  17. Chrissy--Yes, I can understand why this post might speak to you. I look forward to seeing your post tomorrow.


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