It’s a simple enough activity to do with children, a bit of Christmas baking. This time my little boy wanted to make “Gingerbread mens” and gave enough forewarning of this desire for me to get myself nice and worked up at the prospect of baking with the children. Now, I should point out that I am an early years teacher and more than happy to bake in any sort of haphazard way when I’m at school, but when I’m at home I want it done right. Don’t ask me why, but all that child-led stuff goes out of the window when I’m parenting and instead the old control habits kick in. Baking is the ultimate test of this, after all there is a recipe to follow – rules that cannot be broken! Whether the dough is rolled too thin, or the shapes cut out too far from the edge, things being licked before time, touched or stirred out of sequence – there are a multitude of ways that my tendency towards control can be tested. Today I made some small progress, but the report card would more-than-likely read “could do better”.

Now, as the Gingerbread cools on the rack and the children eat the still warm “mens” that we produced, I am left to reflect on how it all went. I’m not sure “normies” have to debrief after every baking experience, but it is the lot of a crazy, self-centred, control-freak-recovering-alcoholic to do so. How often in a day do I seek to control what is going on around me? Or, perhaps more significantly, how often do I show my detachment when things don’t go my way? In some sense I think that is where I am now; I’m making an effort not to control every aspect of family life, but when I don’t I can’t bring myself to fully engage. I’m reluctant, perhaps subconsciously resentful that I am doing what someone else wants to do – and I show it. That’s not progress, not really, it’s window dressing at best.

It was recently suggested to me that I deal with my habitual fear response by breaking a match every time I felt scared. The idea being that it would create a break in the pattern of thinking and draw my awareness to it – a bit like chewing gum when you’re giving up smoking. Perhaps what I need is some sort of control intervention, and to show willing I think I will ask my kids what they think I should do when I’m trying to control things around me. I’m sure they will come up with something suitably humiliating for me to want to avoid it and all the better, for this is an aspect of my behaviour really does need addressing.
We must remember that any attempt to control people, places and things will end in failure and it is that failure and our resentments around it that will lead us back to our old thinking. Given that our brains are now hardwired to find relief from our lack of control in the bottom of a bottle, it is probably best avoided where possible. If there is one overriding lesson that we can all take from 2020 it is that we are not in control! Accepting that is the difficult part and it is for that reason that we call out for help – some of us call on our Higher Power, others call on their friends and supporters – together we can overcome these character defects and live a content and engaged life with those around us.

So we are baking again tomorrow, jam tarts and mince pies in case you were wondering, and I will be challenging myself to let go, to enjoy the freedom of being in the moment and find my inner child.

© @SobrietyMatt 2020

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