My eldest child starts driver’s training today. A couple of years ago my good friend Mike Henry, (who has already lived through this phase) told me, “If you think the teen years are hard now, wait until he starts driving.” Well, Mike, that day is here!
It’s terrifying. The responsibility is huge. There’s potential for significant injury. It’s also exciting. This represents a seismic shift in independence for my son. He experienced a big transition two years ago and I blew it when talking with him about it.
This time, I am more mindful. He’s a very responsible and cautious person. I repeat over and over to myself: He can handle this. Even though he probably won’t master it for quite some time, because let’s face it: skillful driving is a complicated skill to develop. But the mantra helps me refrain from stepping in where I’m not welcome.
Part of parenting is providing leadership. One of the hardest things about leadership is learning to let go, discerning when the people under your care are ready to stand on their own. It’s often much sooner than you could ever imagine.
Shelley Row, author of Think Less, Live More: Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker writes about a term called “over-functioning,” which she learned from a therapist. When you are in over-function mode, you assume more control of a situation or relationship than is warranted. Writes Row, “the more you over-function, the more [the other person] can under-function. The imbalance can lead to resentment and lack of growth.”
My son is nearing adulthood. Each day brings new opportunities for me to let go, to let him “function” on his own merit. Learning to drive is just the latest in the many victories he’s achieved in his 15 years on this planet. If I hold on too tightly, he resents me. Every time I successfully “let go” he grows.
As a leader, (at home or at work) in what ways are you over-functioning? Where can you step back and let someone have the space he or she needs to grow?
Image credit: 123rf. Copyright : Le Moal Olivier
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Jennifer Miller says
Thanks for the encouraging words. I’m so glad you did speak up when it came to sharing thoughts on driver’s ed – your words came in very handy!