I'm an enmeshed parent.
If I ask one of the short people in the family to put something—say, a box of cereal—away, I'll occasionally get the shriveled apple look (you know, the one where they use all thirty-seven muscles of the face to convey complete disbelief that you would ask them to pick up the cereal they didn't leave out).
Then when I calmly explain that I wasn't asking if they'd left it out, I just want them to put it away, they continue arguing and telling me why they shouldn't have to put it away when their sister was the one that got it out.
By this time I wish I'd put the cereal away.
Finally, they put on the martyr persona. The lips press tightly together and the hands come up shoulder high in a stance of surrender to their idiot of a parent, and with exaggerated motions, they put the cereal away.
This is where the enmeshment part comes in. Since they are upset, I'm upset. It's as if the umbilical was never cut.
When I was growing up my dad made us believe that we were responsible for his feelings. Probably because he actually believed we were responsible for his feelings.
So I grew into an adult that felt responsible for everything.
I heard author Kevin Leman give an example about pleasers. He said that if a pleaser plans a family reunion and it rains, they believe it's somehow their fault for picking the wrong day.
I totally get that, as wacky as it sounds.
So I stood in the laundry room, the echo of my son's feet pounding up the stairs, and I wanted to cry. Mostly from the frustration of not being able to do it right, believing that if he was upset, it was somehow my fault.
I felt God haul me upright in His loving way.
The key word was "unhook." Unhook from my son's emotions. Those emotions are his responsibility. I can guide him and love him, but not own—or fix—his feelings for him.
The freer I am from feeling responsible for how my children feel, the freer they will become and the healthier their relationships will be.
Then when my son is grown and complains about how difficult parenting is, I will just nod my head wisely as if parenting him had barely caused a ripple in the serenity that was my life as a young mother.
And then I'll dig out the family videos.