Minding the Gaps in Our Own Maturity
Make a scavenger hunt for growing up
Raising a tiny human is one giant scavenger hunt towards independence.
Every week, I examine the house and our routine, considering how I can help my kid help herself. Can she turn on the light switches? Pour her cereal in a bowl? Fix her socks when they’re inside out?
A child’s satisfaction from self-mastery is a gift to them and to a parent. But I’ve been wondering why I don’t give this gift to myself on the regular.
Sure, there are tangible skills I could collect. I’m not the slightest bit handy with home repair, and my culinary skills are limited. But it’s also useful to think about the gaps in my emotional maturity. Can I look around, see how I interact with other humans, and note how my immaturity plays out in small but significant ways?
Here are a few maturity gaps I might find:
Avoiding people when I need to move towards them.
Not being honest with others about how long a task will take.
Seeking approval from others rather than evaluating myself first.
Asking others for reassurance before trying to managing my own anxiety.
Acting in a way that conflicts with my principles as a parent, spouse, etc.
Not managing my technology/phone use more thoughtfully.
Forgetting to calm myself down first when someone else is upset.
Automatically overfunctioning for others when stress is high.
Pretending I’m less capable when stress is high.
Not speaking up when it’s important, because I don’t want to upset others.
Not taking the time every day to consider how I’d like to be more responsible for myself.
I look at this list think, Woof. A bit more complex than pouring cereal into a bowl, right? But the results of the effort are equally delicious.
What items would you put on your emotional scavenger hunt? Growing up, we all had ways that others functioned for us or vice versa. This immaturity, also called undifferentiation, provides an opportunity to be more of a self.
This month, consider making your own list of ways you’d like to grow up a little. Start a scavenger hunt. Or make a bingo board. Bonus points if you focus on your family of origin. Or start small, and make a list of the ways your immaturity peeped out in a meeting or a trip home.
Growing up isn’t about forsaking our fellow humans. It’s quite the opposite. By putting less pressure on others to fill our maturity gaps, we allow our relationships to become richer. Just like the way my three-year-old and I get along better when we both zip up our own coats.
Some questions for you:
What technical skills would I like to acquire in my quest to be more responsible?
What emotional skills would I like to practice in my quest to be more responsible?
Where are opportunities for me to step back and foster this emotional independence in others?
What would it take to keep thinking about this work of growing up?
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Hi, How perfect! Your article aligns with the one I am writing on self empowerment for seniors. I will include a reference to yours if I may.
This is wonderful Kathleen - love your analogy and the list of behaviours. Thank you.