Friday, March 30, 2012

Freedom Within the Boundaries

I remember a conversation I had with my sister many a year ago, when I only had three children.  We were at a public park, waiting for some fireworks to start.  I was letting the kids run down the empty hill in front of us, where they would get about 75 yards away before they turned around to come back.  One of my sisters was amazed that I let them get that far from me.

I explained to her my firm belief that a parent needs to give her children boundaries, then let them have freedom inside of those boundaries.  Freedom within limits is the best way for them to learn independence, problem solving skills, natural consequences, confidence, and trust.

Because our family has worked on this their entire lives, the boys and I were able to have a day like today.

We spent five hours at McCormick's Creek State Park today. (Buttercup is on her way back from Florida, where she has been living large with a friend's family.)   You know you're going to have a good time when you find a sign like this on your first hiking trail.

I gave the older boys some freedom to explore while I stayed with the little guys.

I'm not saying that it is easy for me to watch my babies walk along a cliff so they can explore the opening to a cave.  But it is not about me.  It is about them learning to be careful but confident.  To learn independence, even while being relieved to know that I am watching their every move.

Funny thing is, even though they were allowed to explore, they kept coming back to help their little brothers learn some independence and confidence, too.  And, of course, to have some plain, old, silly fun.

The little boys had some fun walking in their boots through the water

while the big boys explored around the falls.

But when you're in a creek, the time always comes when you just need to take the shoes off and let your feet feel the squishy creek bottom.

 It was wonderful to watch those big boys come and take the hands of the little ones.  To lead them and help them.  To show them the ropes.  Without a word from me. 

There was a lot of hand-holding today.

When given some freedom, there will inevitably be some scrapes and some missteps.

But those are times when children can learn to figure things out for themselves.  To get themselves out of the predicaments they've gotten themselves into.  Say, perhaps, walking into water deeper than their boots.

Children most certainly take their cues from their parents.  If their parents show confidence in them, the children will feel confident enough to climb mountains.  Or a mountain's worth of stairs.

Of course, the climb will be easier when the child knows there will be some love, cheers and TLC at the top of those mountains.

I just can't stand the thought that Phoenix is closing in on 14.  The years just aren't long enough.

But I have to take solace in the fact that he is a good kid.  He finds joy inside the boundaries set by those in authority.  I pray that he always does.  Because isn't that what we all should do throughout our lives?

God has given us some clear and set boundaries.

And when we find joy inside of those boundaries, unlimited love, cheers, and TLC will be waiting for us.

Have a lovely, joy-filled day! 


  1. Played cards with your father last evening and he and our friend Charmaine bragged about your blog. What a treat for me this morning to read about your lovely family! I loved your thoughts about boundaries and the joy we can find in living within them. You will now be a daily read for me. Have a blessed Easter!

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Denise. Yes, Dad is a big fan of the blog. Tell Charmaine that I said hello!

  3. Hey! You made it down to McCormick's Creek! I love your pictures! And your words. :)

  4. Can't tell you how much I loved this! It is completely my philosophy with kids. If they don't have scraped knees and bruised shins, you're doing something wrong as a parent! They need the freedom to explore and to try, with the comfort that you're there as a safety net. So glad you all got to enjoy such a lovely day at the creek.
    Thanks for linking up with the TALU!

    1. I'm glad you liked it. It's better for them to learn how to handle some freedom and independence now, for sure.
      Once again, thanks for hosting!

  5. Good for you! You sound like a great mama, and very wise.
    Happy to see you on TALU this morning!

    1. Thanks! I'll be heading over to read some more TALUs in a minute.

  6. Sounds like a great day, and jeeeeezzzzzz, I don't even have kids, and I got all misty when you got to the part about the big boys coming to take the hands of the little ones to lead them and help them...There was a lot of hand-holding today. Very sweet, and a hopefully a good indicator of what their adult relationships will be like. :)

    1. Those boys are so sweet when it comes to their little brothers. With each other...usually. :)

  7. This is such a struggle for me. I've found my parenting philosophies about independence have been incredibly difficult to implement now that the kids are actually here (yes, I know; feel free to roll your eyes). I always think of the worst case scenario and can't quite let go of it enough to stop hovering. What if they came to harm because of a risk I saw coming but didn't act to prevent it happening? But I need to relax - I want to raise self-sufficient, confident children and that won't happen if I'm holding their hands at every step (literally right now!). Great link-up for TALU!

    1. It isn't always easy, that's for sure. Start small. Maybe if you go on a walk with them, give them a point to which they can run then stop to wait for you, like the second mailbox. My kids know, though, if they don't respect the boundaries, those freedoms will be revoked until such a time as they can be trusted. That hasn't happened in a long, long time.

  8. Time warp for me. When I was a kid, the rule du jour was to kick the kids out of the house until suppertime. The terrain of your hike looks like my "backyard" on the farm. Of course, when it was my turn to be the parent, over-protection had become the rule of the day. Hard balance that. But we all survived. And we have the fierce skills to survive more yet still. Confidence, yes. Resilience, now you are talking. TALU-ho!

  9. I love the photos in this post!! Looks like such a great day. I agree with you about the freedom within the boundaries...Some days it is easier than others for me to back off and just let my kids figure stuff out. I want so much to "help" them! LOL! But I am learning...

  10. Oh how beautiful, Christine! I love all of this. And I could probably stand to give my Zilla just a bit more freedom than I do. So thanks for your wisdom.
    I can't believe how your kids have grown!


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