Boundaries have become the issue lately — geographic boundaries.
Some families in our neighborhood are of the free-range philosophy. They have chosen to let their children roam unattended. AD and I have decided that is not a good choice for Sean right now. Some of the reasons behind our decision have to do with Sean and where he is in the process of proving himself as responsible, reliable and of good judgment.
Other reasons have to do with us; our perceived risks and rewards that come with allowing him to roam beyond the reach of my eyeballs. And really, what more important thing do I have to do than to keep track of my kid? I can’t think of anything.
Sidebar: For those of you who will accuse me of hovering, I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between hovering and keeping track of your kid. I do not hover. I do however spy. I watch him make mistakes from a distance and only intervene if it means I might have to make a trip to the ER.
Nonetheless, when he sees a boy a full year younger riding his bike down the street, he bristles with injustice. “Why does he get to ride his bike all over and I don’t? He’s younger than me! Everyone gets to ride their bikes by themselves except me! That’s not fair!”
And to this I say, “That is the choice his family has made for him. Life is not fair. We never make choices based on what other people are doing. Never.”
He sighs. He huffs. But he accepts it because he knows he would have a better chance of moving the Great Wall of China than to budge me an inch on this issue.
The fact of the matter is, not everyone is doing it. Some families let their kids roam unattended and out of sight, but many other families like ours, do not — and those are the boys that Sean hangs out with, boys from families who share our parenting philosophy and that makes it a little bit easier when we can counter with, “Bryan doesn’t. Nathan doesn’t. Aaron doesn’t. Reagan doesn’t. Clayton doesn’t….”
I know that at some point I will have to let him go off on his bike and out of my sight, but I think he has some proving to do. I want to see him demonstrate good judgment over time. I want to feel like if he found himself in a tight spot that he would have the physical and mental resources to get out of it.
It’s a different word than when I grew up in the 1960s. My mother seldom knew where I was. I would roam on foot or bike for four or five miles away from the house by myself and be gone for hours. One time I got so far way from home that a policeman brought me home in a police car. I was about nine.
Some might say that those experiences were good, that I learned how to manage in the world. That may be true, but I think more so than that, that God placed hedge around me to protect me from my own stupidity, one that covered me many times well into adulthood. The hedge may have protected me from stupidity, but unfortunately not from the lingering embarrassment from stupidity.
Does Sean have a hedge around him too? Yes. For now, it’s me.
So, I’m curious — what is your policy on boundaries for your kids? What factors in your world, your life, your experience influenced your decision?