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GRACE NOTES 1/11/14: Of toenails and helicopters

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By Nancy Kennedy

Not to get all TMI (“too much information”) on you, but I have this black spot on my toenail.

When I first noticed it, my over-active, ultra-melodramatic imagination decided it was melanoma and I only had three weeks to live.

It turned out to be blood underneath the nail from the time I dropped something on it. The doctor diagnosed it as an “owie” and said it would take a long time for it to go away, that the spot would grow out as the nail grows.

When I got home from the doctor’s I began watching it to see if I could detect progress.

Have you ever watched your toenails grow? If not, it’s quite boring. It’s like watching snails race in super slow-mo.

Eventually, I lost interest in the progress of the black spot on my toenail — until recently. It’s moved!

Now, instead of the spot being down by the cuticle, it’s moved up a few centimeters.

However, as fascinating as that may be, I don’t really want to talk about my toenail. I really want to talk about my recovery process for my chronic control-freakism and helicopter-parentism disorder.

Frankly, it’s been a painfully slow recovery, probably because my case is so severe. On a scale of one to 10, I was diagnosed as a 47.

Let me tell you, any mom who tries to top me in the helicopter parenting game (so named for parents who hover) isn’t even playing in my league.

When my now-30-year-old daughter moved 500 miles away to Charlotte, N.C., 10 years ago, I re-attached her umbilical cord and tried my hardest to control her every waking moment through mental telepathy and email.

One time shortly after she moved, she and her roommate decided to drive to Atlanta for a concert. 

In my opinion, no one should ever drive to Atlanta because, as everyone knows, everyone who ever drives to Atlanta never makes it out alive. (True fact.)

So, I gave the umbilical cord a yank and fired off an email sermonette about the perils of the road and the virtues of staying home and saving her money and not putting herself in danger, physically or spiritually.

I remember asking, “Do you have a plan? Have you thought about what you would do if you got into an accident?” Yada, yada, yada.

She replied, “I’m not 12 and I don’t  appreciate you treating me like I am. Leave me alone.”

Obviously, she made it back to Charlotte safely, but that’s only because I stayed vigilant for 72 hours straight, praying and crying and flying around in my helicopter.

That’s just one of the documented 53,024 examples of my trying to be in control.

At the time, I knew I was being a fruitcake and that I was wrong, but I couldn’t not do it. To let go of my imagined control meant trusting God, which I truly wanted to do, but only in theory, not in practice. 

Too risky. He might fail me.

Fast-forward 10 years. Somewhere, somehow, sometime during the past decade, I began trusting God just a tad, maybe even more than a tad. It hasn’t happened all at once, but slowly. I’m gradually making progress. 

I’ve always known that my need for control is based in fear, and that fear stems from not being confident that I am loved by God. Think about it: You’re never afraid of someone you know loves you, right?

“There is no fear in love,” the Bible says. “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18). 

Therefore, if Jesus has taken my punishment with his death on the cross, all that’s left is love. So, as I rest in God’s love for me, as well as for my children, the fear and the need for control subsides.

I know this now, because recently my daughter in Charlotte totaled her car. She’s fine, but she’s currently dealing with all the insurance red tape, plus healing from her bumps and bruises and buying a new car — and I haven’t even once been tempted to rev up my helicopter and take over all her decisions for her. 

In fact, I realized it’s been years since I’ve even taken my copter out of the hanger.

It’s been slow, but I am making progress. Perfect love is driving out my fear.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.