2006 26/11

No Trespassing

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written a series of books on boundaries over the past fifteen years.  They focus on setting boundaries in our life, in our family, at work, while dating, in our marriage, with our kids, etc.  Millions of copies have been sold and I would highly suggest picking one up if you have the time.  I first read “Boundaries in Dating” while in college and then read “Boundaries” when I was working with at-risk youth.  Setting boundaries while working with at-risk teens became so important because your heart strings would just tug at the situation these kids were in.  But, after taking phone calls at all hours of the night and having girls show up at your doorstep every day, it was imperative that I set boundaries to preserve my own sanity.

This past weekend I did a lot of thinking about boundaries again.  Tim and I talked a lot about boundaries when we first got married but now, with Abbi, a whole new set of boundaries need to be established.

Why do we set boundaries?  Farmers put up fences to protect their crops and animals from predators.  We lock our doors to protect our belongings from thieves.  But what about protecting our emotions?  That is what Cloud and Townsend address in their books — the emotional and spiritual boundaries we need to place in our lives.  We feel it is okay to protect our physical self and most people understand that they are not permitted to touch us without permission (except those random people who felt they had the right to touch my belly while I was pregnant).  What we fail to do is set our emotional boundaries and even when they are set, we often do not make them known. Why?

I think we are so afraid of offending someone or hurting them by making our emotional boundaries known or at least that is how I felt.  I’m so worried about embarrassing them or drawing attention to the situation if I were to express my boundary.  I guess I’m also worried that people will think I’m just being over sensitive with my boundaries.  But when that boundary has been broken and I do not say anything, I just get frustrated and it eats at me inside.  No more.

No more.  I decided that it is my responsibility to teach my daughter about physical AND emotional boundaries.  How can I possibly teach her something if I am not living it myself?  Abbi deserves a mom who is healthy physically and emotionally.  I will not allow you to make rude comments about me or my daughter, even if you say you are joking….even if you are my brother.  And I will not allow you to waltz in and out of my life or my daughter’s life just because you have downed a 12 pack and are feeling guilty about being a shitty father and grandfather.

What sparked all of this on?  Well a few things actually, but mostly is was a phone call I received from my father on Friday night.  After having a conversation with a 12 pack, he decided to he wanted to talk to me…only 15 years after he walked out of my life.  He apparently thought that when you divorce your spouse, you divorce the kids too.  Now, I must admit that I did not make it all that easy on him when I was in high school.  When I got to college, after a lot of soul searching, I forgave him of every bad memory that I had been harboring inside.  I wrote him letter after letter expressing my forgiveness and how I would like to start a new relationship with him.  He ignored every letter and even denied receiving them, although he had told my grandmother about them.  I invited him to my wedding where he graciously stayed until dinner but never spoked to me or offered his congratulations.  I sent him photos of Abbi after she was born but never heard one word back from him.  All of this forgivable.  After all, he never communicated with me when I was growing up in his house, why start now?

But the boundary lines are drawn when you call my house drunk.  The boundary lines are drawn when you do not have enough courtesy to call me yourself but instead you have your slightly less intoxicated wife call me for you.  The boundary lines are crossed when your wife hangs up on me after I tell her that if you want to talk to me, you need to call me yourself.  The boundary lines are drawn when you ask my sister when I am due because, in your drunken stooper, you have forgotten that my daughter is almost a year old.  The boundary lines are drawn and I will hold firm to them.  I will not allow my daughter to grow up receiving phone calls from her drunk grandfather who slurs through the conversation, who forgets how old she is this year because he’s forgotten the last few birthdays.  I will not allow her to know that kind of pain and disappointment.  The only grandparents she will know are those that call just to hear her babble on the phone, that spoil her by giving her ice cream when mom & dad aren’t looking, that stand by proudly taking pictures at her kindergarden graduation.  My husband deserves a father-in-law that he can talk with about hunting, tools, or computers, not one that causes his wife to cry every time he appears in her life.  And I deserve a dad.  Plain and simple, I deserve a dad.  I’ve wasted too much of my life waiting for an alcoholic to sober up and be a dad.  I’m so thankful that my mom and stepdad and Tim’s parents are so wonderful.  With that I am able to draw the boundary lines and say that Michael, you are no longer a part of my life. Line drawn.

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