Posts Tagged: over functioning

Parenting: the Long Letting Go

This summer, my 14 year old will leave me.

She has found something that she loves more than the comfort of our home. More than the solace of her bedroom. More than predictability of mom’s cooking and early morning snuggles and family shenanigans and Saturday chores (ok, way more than Saturday chores.)

Music is taking her over mountains and oceans and continents.

And away from me.

My oldest will travel to Italy with her choir to sing in places like the Doge’s Palace and St. Peter’s Basilica and Cinqua Terra’s cliff-side tavernas. I know, right? Amazing.

I’m a bit in denial about it. I mean, I know we got her passport, and that she’s been cleaning houses and baby-sitting like crazy to earn the funds. And I know that the calendar is marked with big red letters. But I’m in denial that she is going to be THAT FAR, THAT YOUNG, for THAT LONG. I’m going to be in total denial about it until we are at the airport saying goodbye.

Then, I’m going to freak out. Right after I close the car door and start driving away. And it’s going to be ugly. And wet. And loud. I’m going to cry, “What if she needs me?” And then I’ll remind myself that, “She won’t,” and then that’s not going to feel comforting at all.

But isn’t this what this parenting thing is all about? That we raise them so they won’t need us anymore? So they have the self-confidence that they can do hard things? And we, their parents, don’t have to be there, coaching every step of the way?

My youngest daughter’s softball coach reminded me of this at a parents’ meeting the other day. She said, “Leave the coaching to us. At the end of the game, on the way home, your job is to tell them one thing. Only one thing. And that is, ‘I love to watch you play.’” So I think that means no instruction, no “you need to’s” and no “You should have’s” and no, “next time, try…” and no over-functioning in your kid’s life. Just, “I love to watch you play,” which is less about the performance and more about the relationship. If I were British, I would say, “Bloody Brilliant!” Why didn’t I think of that?

We don’t want to be over-functioning freaks. I’ve seen one looking back at me in the mirror sometimes, and I fire her. Often. Over functioning in our kids’ lives actually demeans them and makes them feel incompetent to solve their own problems, try new things, make their own decisions, own their own lives. It develops them into hard to please, unhappy, incompetent adults. Ew.

It seems to me that each stage of parenting requires me to loosen my grip a little more to make allowances for them, their experiences and their unique needs. The homeostasis of the relationship requires me to pull back and for them to step forward. I have to let them experience the joy, pain and consequences of becoming an adult. I have to let them feel the weight of their responsibilities and the freedoms of their maturity, all at the same time.

Maybe she forgot to loosen her grip... and it ended up breaking her hand. Oh!

Maybe she forgot to loosen her grip… and it ended up breaking her hand. Oh!

Letting go is not just good for them, it’s good for us, too. Just because we are letting go, doesn’t mean we are losing something. We actually gain something. We gain the value of our kids being separate individuals- unique and enjoyable and worthwhile.

So yeah. Parenting is just a long journey of holding on and then letting go, and letting go some more. And the very thing I want the most, but am most afraid of seizing, is the freedom that letting go initiates. When I let them be their own person, feel their own feelings, have their own weaknesses, I give them the freedom they crave too.

Sounds pretty good in theory, right? I’ll let you know how I’m doing after the airport drop off!

The Down Side of Responsibility

Hello to the Best Steady Eddies, the Most Consistent and Persistent, and the Earth’s Saltiest people. I love ya! Today, I’m talking to the Ever Readies. The Go Bot Girls. The Over Achievers. And the Over Functioning Super Heros. 

Have you ever felt so overly responsible for something, that it stressed you out? Maybe you were leading a team, or facilitating a bible study or parenting a screaming toddler. Whatever it was, you felt like the thing began and ended with you, and you were the one responsible for its success or failure. 

Feeling responsible isn’t bad. It’s actually a good motivator. However, feeling OVERLY responsible can be bad for you and bad for the people around you.

What Is Over Responsibility?

Feeling overly responsible means that you think it’s your job to take care of other people’s jobs. You think it’s your job to make others perform, make others happy, make others behave, make others conform, and make others pleased with you. You feel a compulsion to live up to unattainable standards of perfection. You feel like it’s all up to you or it won’t get done. You often feel in a lose-lose battle. What should feel like a privilege, turns into a burden. You feel like you are working harder than the rest of your group, family, or team, and that they just don’t understand the amount of pressure you’re under. You absorb and take on others’ feelings and expectations.

The Danger of Over Responsibility is…

People start to sense that you are stressed and angry all the time. They feel a bit demeaned and belittled that you don’t trust them to make good choices. People feel less than important to you. You end up doing your job, and other people’s jobs too. You end up frazzled, stressed out, sick and burned out. Your every action to over-function is met with others’ equal reaction to under-function. Your over-responsibility results in others’ under-responsibility. 

What Over Responsibility Looks Like on the Outside…

You feel unappreciated, over worked, and underpaid. You feel like no one else works as hard as you. You feel bitter at the others’ carefree attitudes, and they get to enjoy the fruits of your labors. You feel self-pity. You may say to yourself, “I have to do everything around here” or “Leaders get the short end of the stick,” or “People are selfish!” You may feel angry that other people are “ruining” your efforts.

What Over Responsibility Feels Like on the Inside…

For me, I start to feel panicky inside. I start to sense that things are spinning ever so slightly out of my control, and that if I let go of my tight grip, a crash is sure to happen. If I were to sum it up with a couple of words of what Over Responsibility feels like to me, it would be sheer terror. terror that this good thing will slip away. Terror that I’ll be blamed for a failure. Terror that the shame of my mistakes my overwhelm me and leave me abandoned. Terror that God will be disappointed in me.

Rationally, I know the things that frighten me will not come true, but terror is irrational, and before I can act according to rationality, I’ve already succumbed to my terror.

What to do When you find yourself in the VORTEX of Over Responsibility

  • Breath and realize you are over-functioning
  • Realize you are over functioning because you care. That’s good. But, turn that care toward yourself. Care enough about yourself to step back, let others have their feelings, do their part, and make their choices.
  • Apologize quickly to the people you barked at, snarked at, or tried to control.
  • Let go. Let go. Let go. Let the hell go. It’s going to be fine without your iron grip.
  • Don’t rehearse in your head 100 times what you did or said wrong.  Remember, you feel over-responsible for being overly responsible, so forgive yourself and move on quickly. All great people make mistakes, and they learn how to recover from them quickly.
  • Tell somebody how you feel and get some support. You’ll feel better when you realize that a lot of people just like you get it,


You are a high achiever, a high performing leader, a Go-Bot, Ever Ready, Risk Taker. You’re the kid who sits in the front row. You’re the one with the high goals and big dreams. The activities you engage in are important. You are called by God to lead that team, to facilitate that bible study, to parent that child and to lead that organization. But you don’t have to run yourself in the ground to get it done.  When you sense yourself feeling overly responsible, know that you’ve just stepped outside of God’s rest. Step right back into God’s rest by letting go of the things that ARE and SHOULD be out of your control. Those things are for God to handle, and not for you.

Cheers to you, and all your relationships!




My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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