When You Feel Out of Control

Everything feels OUT.OF.CONTROL. I pull up the news and I see news stories laced in hatred and violence, death and illness. I watch in horror and it appears our world is out of control. I struggle at home to feel peace in a pandemic juggling working from home, finishing school and keeping structure. Finding balance and peace does not feel possible and it makes me feel out of control. I cannot keep up with the demands of everything and I can steadily feel my mental health declining by the minute and it makes it seem as though my emotions and stability feel out of control. The anxiety my children are experiencing from a lack of socializing, the absence of a routine outside the home, deprivation from normal things makes behaviors increase which causes at times our family to feel out of control.

I think that is what is so infuriating in this season of life right now. To feel voiceless, powerless, stranded, stuck and ultimately out of control can be defeating and discouraging. I thought about this a lot. Especially because as I write this it is almost dinner time and I am literally sitting on the bathroom floor in a battle of the wills with my child who refuses to eliminate wastes in the appropriate place. My other three children need my attention, I have meetings and calls to attend to for work today and I have not finished preparing dinner. However, here I sit on the bathroom floor because I refuse to allow this child to have control in this moment. Is it the right parenting decision? Honestly, right now I am not really sure. However, it makes me feel like if this child eliminates waste in the appropriate place instead of my carpet then I will have gained back what feels like an ounce of control over something in my world right now.

As I admit that to our Seven Homes families I have to say it embarrasses me a little and makes me question the line I drew in the sand over an hour ago, however, there is no turning back once I made an ultimatum that I now have to fulfill, even though currently it is more painful for me than the child (this I am most certainly convinced). It is all about gaining control when we have so little.

I cannot always control other’s behaviors. I turn on the news and this is affirmed, I enter the second hour camped out on the bathroom floor and know that fact to be true. I have lived through multiple foster cases, cried in courtrooms, agonized at hospitals, and abandoned calm, rationale behavior both in front of many and all alone. I know how out of control foster parenting can feel and how exhausted it can make you. Fostering requires living engrossed in a world where control is something you have little of. At times it can make you want to curl up or give up and feel defeated by it all.

However, a sweet group of foster and adoptive moms have encouraged me recently in our Foster Mom Support Group. We shared openly about how feeling out of control does not carry that much weight or impact when you have the right perspective. When it comes to control there are two very incredible realities I can cling to, even in foster care, even in a pandemic even in scary times for our nation.

First, I remember that I do not have to be in control, because I have a relationship with the Lord who is in control. He promises to work things together for my good. He promises that while there will be hardships, but He says that in those times He has me in His mighty hands and will provide all the grace and comfort I need. The Lord of the heavens and earth is in control and it makes me relieved I am not.

Second, I have control over how I react to all the circumstantial occurrences that are not in my control. I can steady my emotions, I can search for peace, I can land in pockets of hope and I accept the grace that is extended to me from the one who controls it all.

Practically, what this looks like right now is not losing my cool at my child on the floor of the bathroom. It is lifting my lips towards heaven and whispering a prayer of peace. It is refraining from yelling even though I want to scream at the ridiculousness of it all when I observe everything going on around me. It is turning off the news and silencing my selfish cries for more alone time, less on my plate and better-behaved children.

Foster care is a world where there is no control. There is no control when it comes to the legal course of action, no control over the histories of the children we parent, no control over how they react to that trauma. Foster care by definition should read, “be ready to sign on to a difficult form of parenting where you will have no control, it will bring some of the worst moments of your life and some of the best, get on the rollercoaster and try to enjoy the ride.”

I say yes to a lack of control despite my type A personality and I admit that control is nowhere to be found. I lift my lips towards heaven in prayers for restoration for these families, healing for the children I parent and comfort for our family along the journey. I remember the calling and the ministry to protect and love the vulnerable. Then I admit that not being in control of everything is not always a bad thing because the one who is in control is not flustered or caught off guard by any of the chaos going on in our world. He understands the brokenness we are walking as foster parents and loves these children more than we do. He has felt pain and anguish caring for vulnerable people even to the point of death on the cross. He has control, and when I remember that it is easier for me to control my reactions to my environment. I can let go of the anger I feel sitting on the bathroom floor and not fixate on my emotions as I clean up bodily waste elsewhere around my house. I can manage their behavior to the best of my ability without letting it consume and affect me. However, I can only do this when I put things in perspective and attempt to stay level headed.

Ultimately, I recognize it is possible to find peace, love, hope and joy even in the most out of control moments. That is something that lifts my emotions and calms my reaction to the point where my child and I are smiling at each other while I sit on the floor after an epic battle that has yet to come to an end. And that, well it puts a little smile on my face because see… even though I don’t have control over my child’s actions to relieve themselves in a place other than the toilet I can still find humor and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. So you see, I do have a little control after all, don’t I?