Adult Supervision Required

There are days when I really wish I had adult supervision; I’d feel better. Making such a statement surprises me because I am so fiercely independent, but those long ago times when I had that baseline comfort of knowing someone bigger and stronger and smarter was there to scoop me up if things got bad sure provided succor. These days, I read the papers and wonder whether adults run anything, anymore? Who have we entrusted our country to? The lurching from crisis to crisis or focusing on issues that are red herrings occurs throughout all branches of government, making me reconsider the wisdom of building a fall out shelter. Haven’t done so, yet–perhaps it’s just as well—I may do better without a Plan B…


I think we’d all agree that the world is changing at breakneck speed. Usually when folks make such observations they contain an undertone of slight panic or overwhelm because everything begins to feel…unsustainable, uncontrolled, unpredictable. This perception of events beyond our control, closing in around us, is scary, I know. What’s going to happen to the kids?


It is at moments like these where I remind myself to take a breath and slow down. These days, I have to be my own parent. I provide my own careful supervision. It’s up to me to exercise mature restraint. It’s my responsibility to identify the exit. No purpose is served by getting worked up about matters over which I have zero control. I have a friend who tortures themselves by googling questions about ISIS bombing the US. Now, what good can come of that query? It’s sort of like those instances when you look up your medical symptoms—the answer always is that you have some terminal, disfiguring disease. Not so useful, let alone wrong. Instead, as any good parent would remind us, it’s best to focus on matters within our control.


Who do you know who needs to be a better parent to themselves? Who do you know who delegates this responsibility to somebody else? Why do you think they’ve done so?


Learned helplessness is an interesting concept. It applies to many different scenarios, but the one that springs most immediately to mind is that where one or the other of a married couple allows themselves to become dependent. Often times, one spouse actively wants to dominate, to be in control, to hold the cards, so yes, it is usually an enabling dynamic involving both parties, but it damages the controlee far more than the controller. Giving away your power because you detest the responsibility is a huge mistake. Think of it this way: maybe you are sick and tired of carrying the groceries into the house. Maybe lugging those bags hurts your back. But do you loathe it so much that you’d cut off your arm?


Having dedicated so much time and energy to observing people, I have concluded that a lot of people get lost in ideas such as, “Life should be fun!” or “He’s so much better at it than I am, I’ll just let him do it.” “She knows best, she’s their mother.” “I don’t want to think about it.” Well, guess what? As a grown up, you need to think about this stuff. You need to know how to do it. What is the bank account balance and how has it changed? Are there other accounts in addition to this one? A conscientious adult would know the answer. You need to speak up if you believe Little Suzy Whatsits shouldn’t be allowed to go to the un-chaperoned after party. And, most importantly, you need to call yourself on your own bad behavior. “Maybe I’m being stingy about letting them see the kids.” “It wouldn’t kill me to help with the dishes.” “As upset as they’ll be, I owe it to us both to say I’m unhappy.” The other side of this coin is that we also need to praise ourselves regardless of what anybody else does or does not do. We are in the best position to know just how good a job we’ve done, how excellent an effort was made. Any good parent appreciates that praise is as important as discipline. Delegating responsibilities and power that is rightly ours to somebody else is a fast path to nowhere.


I can hear you muttering now. Of course life was simpler when we were five or fifteen, but who wants to go back to that? With rights come responsibilities. Sorry to be so preachy, but recent conversations prompted me to resurrect this topic. We’ve got to stop seeking out others to manage matters, to fix our problems, or take care of us. We need to be our own parent. And that’s a good thing!

Where, in your life, have you delegated responsibility to someone else? Why do you think you’ve done so? How might you start to take that power back? (I recommend looking at the books psychologist Harriet Lerner has written about some of the strategies you can use. I’ve found them to be easy to read and highly practical.)

A re-booter understands that a strong set of shoulders is a fundamental job requirement.




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