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Control What You Can

I met Charm in college. She was rural, I was urban. She was a bundle of love and openness, I was a bundle of uncertainty and wry humour. She worried for small city kids walking to school along busy roads, I worried for small country kids walking in the ditch with BB guns. We were night and day, is what I’m saying.

We continued along those paths. Charm is now a busy mom of two, living in a big, warm house near the town where she grew up. She got a great corporate job, followed her dreams for her life and made them happen. I’ve been meandering around, testing out divorcedom, trying my hand at a few careers, living in different neighbourhoods, toying with whatever comes by that strikes my fancy.

But that’s why it works, right? We bring different things to the table. Charm, for example, has some badass parenting skills that are worth noting. Last summer, I went camping with her family for the weekend. I showed up with my partner, a tent, two air mattresses, hot dogs and a bathing suit. She arrived with an RV, 4 bikes, 6 chairs, beach toys, campsite toys, books, music, and meals with ingredients from different food groups, like an actual adult. Classic Joce and Charm.

One night, her littlest one, going through the standard toddler “I can do it” phase, started getting ornery about not being able to put ketchup on her hot dog (don’t wanna brag but it turns out auntie Joce’s meal choices were prettttttttty popular with the under-five crowd). She was adamant and focused solely on getting her way. Independent condiment application was suddenly her life’s main goal.

Charm said no a few times, tried to distract her, then pulled out a trick that blew my mind. Smoothly and calmly, she said to her toddler with the red cheeks and arched back, seconds from a meltdown, “Do you want mom to put ketchup on or do you want dad to do it?”

Total shift. The little tyke thought about her options and looked back and forth between her parents. “Papa, s’il te plait.” The meal carried on, no tantrum was had, and the ketchup stayed (mostly) on her hot dog.

In the end, we’re all still toddlers on the inside, we just learned to hide our feelings. We want what we want, but the world has taught us to compromise. To not cry when we don’t get our way. To contribute, to bend, to be kind, even when we don’t want to.

As for Charm’s daughter, she enjoyed the hell out of that hot dog even though she didn’t apply the ketchup herself. Choice turned that situation around. Choice, and an amazing mom.

small//shift: Control what you can. Faced with a situation you don’t like, you can throw a tantrum like a toddler (metaphorically speaking…as adults, this probably looks like a drinking a whole bottle of wine to yourself). Or you can figure out what options you do have and knock those out of the park. The choice is always yours.

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