Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Battle for Control: A Timeless Parenting Tale

I had to unplug the TV. It's magnetic pull possessed my son. So many new luxuries have greeted him in this hotel. At the orphanage I doubt Sensi had control over many light switches, telephone receivers, faucet levers or computer devices. As soon as he inhabited our deluxe-sized bedroom, he began to test the limits of his control.
Quickly my son learned how to operate the TV by remote; after numerous bouts of correction and rebellion, I hid the device. (Please God don't let me forget it's in my toiletry bag before I leave. And please God, don't let Sensi find it there.) 

Not to be rebuffed, minutes later Sensi located the manual ON/OFF switch on the side of console. He pressed it ON. 

"Please turn it OFF." 

He pressed it OFF. 

ON: again. "OFF, Sensi."

OFF: again.

At first, I offered to watch TV with him on the bed as a compromise, but given the lineup of shows, Sensi denied. He was more interested in seeing the LG logo than watching Premier Soccer League or Slugterra. (Can you blame him for this?) 
Actually, he was more interested in having control.

This need for control plays out all day. While our hotel room offers a scenic balcony view and two complimentary water bottles, it's a meager amenity for two people passing twelve hours in 200 square feet.* Even my selection of books, toys, and activities has lost its luster after eighteen rehearsals (excluding Curious George Goes Camping due to the unfortunate encounter with skunk!).
Needless to say, we've gotten a little bored. And boredom leads to bad behavior.

Whenever Sensi gets bored he shuffles to the forty-two inch* flat screen and presses ON (see above). Judging by the number of times he's pressed the button, I fear boredom has subverted bonding. 

This morning I grew tired of redirecting and denying my son. So while he was in the bathroom flushing the toilet ("Just one flush, Sensi"), I pulled the plug on the LG. Minutes later, when boredom and control collided, you can guess what happened. Yes: Sensi reached for the TV again. 

He pressed ON. Nothing.

He pressed ON again. Still nothing.

He shot me a look of quiet confusion.  "It's not working?" I replied. "Weird."

Sensi and I have bonded. We have also battled. Our brief confrontations have revolved around control. In his new-found freedom, he wants to manage everything. Buttons and lights have undeniable allure. But I am the dad, and I deny him, even if I cannot control him.

This pattern does not surprise me. At the root of all sin is the need to control. Throughout this adoption process, God has reminded me how illusory my control is. The global orphan epidemic and childhood trauma are outside my control. Court dates and waiting periods are outside my control. Government officials, both international and all-American, are outside my control. Air fares and flight delays are outside my control.

I would be a fool to assume too much control simply because the adoption process has reached its final stage. Now begins the arduous labor of parenting, where Liz and I shape another freethinking, self-willed being into maturity. Bonding and battles (with intermittent boredom) will continue as we each vie for control. Our four days in 200 square feet* is but a prelude.

What I can control is my trust in God and patience for His unfolding. I can control my purity of heart and compassion toward my children. And, yes, in the meantime, I can unplug a television.

*Ethiopia uses a metric system, so the hotel may not concur that their TV is 42-inches and room 200-square feet. I write with an inherent American bias.


Liz Sprankle said...

Dad and Cindy came for dinner tonight. They had just read this post before they came. Cindy said, "Well, he sounds like a boy!" :-)

Viki Rife said...

Sounds like he's trying to make up for years of missed exploration opportunities!

Viki Rife said...

Sounds like he's trying to make up for years of missed exploration opportunities!

Anne Bausch said...

Thanks for posting, glad to hear your process:) keep it up, dad!

Anne Bausch said...

Thanks for posting, glad to hear your process:) keep it up, dad!

Pastor Daron said...

How exciting! Praying for your family and the wonderful new addition

Richard Fairman said...

a great beginning to a great future! God bless your family as he becomes yours and you become his.