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My Responsibility Complex

For the longest time, I thought I was responsible for everybody.  As a kid, when my parents or grandparents were stressed, I thought it was up to me to make it better.  When I got married the first time, I thought it was my job to make sure my husband was well and happy in every area of his life.  Then I had my own kids, and of course I knew that I was responsible for them. 

At first, it’s all very obvious.  They need to be fed and bathed and cooed-to and loved.  Then they need to learn to poop on their own and play nicely with others.  It’s good for them to know how to tie their shoes and zip up their coats. Most of us parents can pull these things off.

When Things Get Tricky

Then things get a little trickier.  Our kiddos start choosing their own friends.  They go to school where they must perform and excel or struggle or simply sail along.  Eventually our babies are teenagers and wanting to earn money and learn to take responsibilities of their own.

This is rarely a smooth and seamless process because around 12 or so, all humans lose their minds.  Around this age, one of my twins decided suddenly that I no longer understood the world or, in fact, knew anything at all.  Overnight, his hormones elevated him to a highly capable, wise and experienced man who knew better than me about nearly everything.  I’ve watched my sisters and their kiddos tromp through the same things. It’s rough on us and brutal for our kids.

With my oldest twin, it was a real pain in the butt there for a while, but eventually he settled and sweetened and moved off to college.  And just like that, all three of my fellas are grown young men.  Honestly, it happened in about 16 heartbeats.  All the snuggling and cherishing and losing my temper.  The blown-out diapers and muddy shoes and cats in clothes baskets getting launched down the stairs.  It’s almost like turning a page in a book.  You’re reading along, you turn the page, and you’re in a different part of the story.

The Next Part Of The Story

This part of the story is a lot different than I thought it would be.  My youngest is fast approaching twenty and my twins are on their way to twenty-seven.  I had an idea that once I raised my children, poof! they would launch out into the world to their own happy productive lives.  In our reality, there has been a lot of stopping and starting.  Pausing.  Switching gears.  And I don’t think we’re alone in this.

There was some college and working and leukemia.  Debt and debt and scrambling for enough.  There has been drowning and surfacing.  Love and loss and love and loss.  COVID and so much separation.  So much loneliness.  And then sometimes togetherness that is good and home and stressful and that I want to never end.

Even in the good stuff, I find myself struggling.  Struggling to hold on to the moments.  To make sure everyone is ok.  To foster a space where everyone can be happy, and feel loved, and eat good food and laugh.  It’s no surprise that I’m right back at the beginning.  For the longest time, I’ve thought I was responsible for everybody.

And I’m not.

Keeping My Hands To Myself

The more I am able to follow one of Parenting’s fundamental teachings, keep your hands to yourself, the more I am able to step back, encourage, and support my fellas in the telling of their own stories.  Allowing them to make their own mistakes and learn from them.  To crunch the numbers in their own bank accounts and make good decisions. Encouraging them to take risks and to follow their hearts. 

This is challenging for me as I see myself in each of them.  I want to protect them, but I also want to protect myself.  It’s hard down here.  There is no easy way around that.  When I try to take responsibility for everyone, it’s essentially me trying to construct a universe in which I am in control.  And I’m not.  This isn’t baggage I’m meant to carry on my journey. 

It’s time for me to let go.  To let go of the illusion that I am in control.  To allow everyone to skin their own knees and get their own hearts broken.  Then to learn to stand back up, and keep being brave.  And kind.  And tender too.

In truth, this has already happened.  This is happening.  And the burden of responsibility is not mine to bear.  We are each of us equipped with the strength to follow our own path and to tell our own story.

So, today, I think it’s time for me to step back and watch in amazement as my people find their voices, and the strength in their legs to walk the paths of their own heart’s choosing.  And even as I’m standing back, I’m flowing along my own heart’s path.  Grateful and amazed at the strength and resilience in us all.

If you’re having a hard time keeping your hands to yourself, or you are weary with responsibilities that don’t belong to you, if you are rooting like crazy for the people that you love, let’s be friends~

4 thoughts on “My Responsibility Complex”

  1. Wonderful writing about the long arc of parenting and the eventual letting go. I especially like your line, “I want to protect them, but I also want to protect myself.” Yes, our hearts.

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