Releasing Responsibility & Taking Back My Role As A Child
When You’ve Carried Too Much For Too Long
Everyone wants a perfect family.
Perhaps one that eats undistracted meals together. One that openly discusses issues and works through them. Or one that makes everyone feel safe and encouraged to chase their dreams.
Whatever that ideal family looks like for you — we all dream about it. Want it. Or are currently working to build it.
I am letting mine go.
For the majority of my life, I looked at my family and childhood through an idealistic, hopeful lens.
I wanted us to be cool. To be good. To be “normal”. But my family was anything but normal.
I grew up in a home built on the back end of my parent’s restaurant. As kids, we gave our food orders to cooks, ate on steel prep tables, and took our dirty dishes to the dishwasher.
My parents were young, hardworking people who showed up to our games wearing aprons still tied around their waists or chef hats on their heads.
If there was one word that described my family it would be W O R K because everything revolved around it.
And as the oldest of three, I took this working mentality very seriously. My parents were always busy so I wanted to help. Wanted to make it easier.
I looked after my siblings. I made sure the home was tidied up. I worried when one of us stepped out of bounds.
My Dad jokingly says I was a child for about a week. And I used to take great pride in that statement.
Yes, I always wanted to be an adult. Couldn’t wait to make my own decisions and not be told what to do.
But the truth is that I was a young child who acted like an adult because I felt responsible for everyone.
The parents who worked too hard and fought all the time. Or my younger siblings with their own needs — a shy, quiet brother, and an intense, flamboyant sister.
I wanted everyone to be okay. To get along. For things to be peaceful and “normal” in a house often full of chaos.
The summer before 8th grade, after my parents finally bought a normal house (dream come TRUE) and I saw my father kiss my mother for the first time, he announced he was moving out.
All hell broke loose for the next several years, and my feelings of responsibility only heightened.
To protect my Dad from my Mom. And then my Mom from my Dad. Then my siblings from both of them.
I was often caught in the middle with one parent going off about the other. They were anything but amicable and I was a listening ear.
It was an ugly divorce and they still don’t speak unless there’s an emergency.
And I always felt responsible.
If only I could get Mom to forgive Dad. Or get them to talk. Or make amends with my siblings. Or… Or.
My teenage years were AWFUL, but a part of me still wanted to believe that we were a close family. That our upbringing had value. That we somehow resembled the families I’d see and wish were mine.
The ones with two parents instead of four. The ones where the family played and had fun together. The ones whose parents had time for the children.
My family wasn’t any of that. We fought. We argued. We hurt each other in devastating ways. Years would go by without one talking to one another.
And I carried the weight for everyone.
No one else seemed to mind that our family fell apart. No one else wanted to put it back together. No one else grieved inside when we had to hurry between our parent’s houses each holiday.
Everyone accepted what was happening but I wanted to fix it. I wanted to make us better.
I wanted to make us a family.
But something huge happened over the holidays.
On top of other family issues…
One of my parents changed their plans last minute which made it impossible to visit them for Thanksgiving.
My siblings were invited to share the holidays with a family member but I didn’t receive an invitation.
One parent didn’t call or text at all for my birthday.
Then, an emergency situation occurred and neither parent was readily available to assist or be compassionate with it. One berated me while the other didn’t return my sobbing voicemail until a week later.
And I realized…
I am DONE feeling responsible for my family’s well-being.
Yes, this feeling erupted out of anger — out of the fact that my parents usually have something else more important to do. But it gave me clarity.
Normally, I would’ve been hurt, but this time I saw it clearly.
I always put their needs, their happiness, and their approval above my own. I always considered them more important than me. And I always felt responsible for them because of it.
I gave them too much and didn’t take care of myself in the process.
As a child, that responsibility became my badge of honor. The singular way I could stand out in the midst of all the work, siblings, and daily mess.
It’s no surprise I’m an Enneagram 3, aka Achiever, whose child wound says — I am worthy of love when I achieve.
Taking on responsibility gave me a key position in my family. It made me feel important when my parents leaned on me with their personal problems.
But I am the kid. I wasn’t supposed to be given all the details nor entrusted with adult information.
I am not supposed to always be the one trying to mend relationships or reaching out to connect.
Mostly, I’m not supposed to be seeking validation outside of myself or worrying over things I can’t control.
I have to accept things as they are and let go of the rest.
I’ve been working on family issues since I was a kid. But over the past several years, I dove in fiercely.
While I always wanted to believe my family was a great family, the truth is that we’re not.
Both of my parents are the youngest in their family and have been trying to prove themselves their entire life, which left me and my siblings on the side.
Psychotherapy showed me that in tumultuous times, I played the role of parent to my parents and siblings — instead of being a kid.
I learned that one of my parents was absent growing up even though their physical body was around.
And I learned that I took on too much responsibility.
But it wasn’t until this past holiday season that everything sunk in.
My family is a train wreck. As are many others.
My parents did their best but they never satisfied my needs as a child. My siblings and I want to be close, but we grew up on our own so independence comes more naturally.
And I am NOT RESPONSIBLE for ANY of it.
I don’t share any of this to blame my parents or as a victim.
In fact, it was always easy to understand why my parents weren’t around or why they are who they are. I mean, there’s no harder job on the planet than to be a parent — I believe everyone does their best.
But my psychotherapist finally helped me see that while the logical mind can make sense of things, it doesn’t negate the wounds held within our emotional body.
She helped me to face painful realities about the stories I created, in that they were seen through rose-colored glasses.
Reality is much harsher.
We learn almost everything that’s used in life before the age of seven, therefore our childhood plays a critical role in our evolution — forever.
For now, I’m a woman who’s gained more freedom. An ability to be herself without her family. A soul who feels lighter than she can ever remember.
Disconnecting myself and my self-worth from my family was clearly always an important step in my evolution, for how could I ever FULLY be me while dragging them around?
But there’s also grief for the family I wanted. The ideas of who we were. And the realization it will never be that way.
Let my family be a mess. Let the distant relationships be as they are. Let it be what it is. There’s no shame in having a dysfunctional family.
I’m not totally healed. I’m using my anger to help me release what’s built up inside. And continuing to work with my Guides in this area. There’s still plenty to unpack.
We can’t outrun the pain, confusion, or disconnection associated with our parents or siblings. It’s all meant to help us grow. Evolve.
And inevitably step into our own identity without them.
Freedom feels good.
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