Short Leashes and Control Freaks

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree and Rising.

Wow. It’s not that I keep the people in my life on a short leash. I keep them on a GPS tracker and allow them the freedom roam light years away. I just have to know where they are if they’re not home on time or if my plans get trashed.

I’ve learned through Shannon that I don’t put my loved ones on a leash in the same way that most people do. I never considered it before until she explained the typical teen talk about whose parents are strict and in what way.

The driving force behind this aspect of myself I’ve never considered before is the same whether it’s the girls or a spouse or a friend. It’s a surprise to see this in myself. I always think of myself as giving people a lot of freedom, yet there are times when I draw the line. Tonight, I know where that line is and precisely why it’s there, whether with kids or mates.

When I became a single mom, I had to keep up with my kids and make sure we had access to each other if needed, so I bought them prepaid phones. No need for them ever to be stranded! No need for me ever to wonder if they’d been snatched, drugged, and left for dead in a ditch (sorry, had to channel my mom for a moment!). Electronic leashes, yes. Why? Because implanting microchips in the naps of their necks to track them is probably considered child abuse.

The phones, in general, have worked out great. The girls let me know when they get home and what their social plans are, they let me know when a school event is done so they can be picked up, they let me know when practice is running late so I can work later or rearrange my tasks or let their dad pick them up, they let me know if they caught a late movie with a date or friends so I’m not wringing my hands at 9:30 and wondering if they need help. And that’s perfect. A quick call or often a text message, and Mom’s happy.

I was not happy last year when Shannon came home two hours late and I could not, for those two hours, find her. Not that she was doing anything “wrong” or ever considered that coming home at 7 instead of 5 would be a problem, but I waited two hours for her because we had family plans for the evening. She lost all phone and Internet privileges for the next week and hasn’t forgotten to call or text me since.

As for Aislinn, she caught a similar punishment a few months ago when she failed to come home on time from a slumber party—her ride was late—and didn’t call me when she knew hours in advance that she’d be late. She missed a fun and carefully planned family function and ruined her sister’s birthday plans for the weekend as well.

Not that I thought either girl was doing anything bad or were where they shouldn’t have been. If they’re going to do something bad, it’s most likely not going to be during the hour they know they’re late. And, bright girls that they are, if they really want to get into trouble, they’ll find a way to do it. I recognize that I do not have full control over them now that they’re teens. Scary, yes, but I’m realistic about it. They have friends’ parents who are far more controlling over every move made and yet those kids still manage to find ways of getting into trouble. I prefer to give them freedom where I can and teach them independence—provided they don’t abuse me.

Shannon understands that she has a lot of freedom and doesn’t do anything to jeopardize what I give her. But she also respects my time and my schedule and keeps me informed of where she is, especially when it affects my plans.

I had the same issues with my ex and with several friends. If my ex wanted to make me livid, all he had to do was not come home on time, not answer his cell phone, and not be anywhere that I could find him for several hours. I had no issues whatsoever with him going places alone, visiting friends or family, playing sports or seeing movies, or anything of that sort. Independence was fine. Where it wasn’t fine was where I was left waiting and wasting my time or cancelling my plans.

I’ve never been one to hover around a mate and choke him with the need for a minute-by-minute play-by-play of his life while it was happening. If a mate’s going to do something detrimental, they’ll do it whether they’re under a warden’s watch or not.Life Coaching Tips

I was shocked at a colleague who asked if his finance’s behavior was normal or did he always attract control freaks. She’d decided within a month of their first date that they should marry immediately but he’d delayed her. Six weeks into their relationship, he left for a brief business trip that included meeting colleagues in a restaurant for dinner and drinks to prepare for the briefing the next day and reminisce about old times. He called her when he arrived at the restaurant and his phone battery died while at dinner. When he returned to his car around midnight to leave and recharge the battery, he had 5 progressively more irate messages on his voice mail and a sixth message coming through while he listened to the previous ones. Crying, screaming, accusing, nutcase calls. She had to know where he was every hour—and who he was with, what they were doing, and what he was thinking.

That was typical behavior for most women he dated, he said, with many of them calling him once an hour whenever they were physically apart—including when he was at work or out with clients. I told him that no, it wasn’t normal, but maybe it is and I never realized it.

Me? I didn’t need to know where my guy was every minute of the day or with whom and what he was thinking. I just wanted to know if he was going to be late so I could make other plans for the evening.

What I discovered about myself and the way I view leashes—or lack thereof—on my kids and mates is that it’s not about controlling them. It’s about having control over my schedule and my own life.