Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2003 / 29 Elul, 5763
Boundaries disappear, society pays the price
They're not being deprived of food, shelter and clothing. Nor are
they being deprived of toys, computer games and television. Kids are being
deprived of boundaries.
One of the joys of coming of age used to be pushing against the
boundaries. The delight of inching toward adulthood was nudging your toe
right up against the big black lines that bellowed, "No, not yet, wait just
a few years longer." Now, for many, the lines have faded, and the
boundaries have fallen.
Boundaries are an integral part of the paradox of freedom and
form. Freedom and form continually jockey for power. That balance of power
effects everything we do. As a nation, we have a multitude of laws (and
manage to add to them every day) that give us form as a republic. As
individuals, we have a multitude of freedoms we may exercise within that
form. Should our freedom lead us beyond the form, we are likely to get a
speeding ticket, a call from an IRS agent, or an invitation to do time in
the local lock-up.
The form to a marriage is outlined by faithfulness, respect and
monogamy. When excessive freedom causes a husband or wife to crash through
that form, the results are predictably painful.
There is also a balance of freedom and form to parenting. Ideally,
parents outline the form, delineate the boundaries of right and wrong,
acceptable and unacceptable, and allow children the freedom to play,
create, imagine and mature within that form.
An example of freedom and form out of sync would be the child with
minimal parental supervision, unrestricted access to television, movies and
music, a penchant for disrespect and a rancid vocabulary that is laughed at
instead of purged.
An example of freedom and form tied in knots would be the mother
on a talk show boasting that she encourages her 15-year-old daughter to
have her boyfriend for overnight visits rather than go to a sleazy motel.
The mother prattles on, proud of her permissiveness, while the girl sits
there looking hard, hurt and trance-like. A vivid picture of freedom
Perhaps the most poignant example of what happens when we practice
all-freedom-all-the-time would be the three, four, seven statistic. Today,
nearly three out of 10 white babies are born to single mothers; four out of
10 Hispanic babies are born to single mothers; and seven out of 10 black
babies are born to single mothers. Three, four and seven children will
deprived of any form resembling a father. This lack of form puts those
three, four and seven at greater risk for . . well, you know the risks.
We've all heard them so many times, we can recite them in unison.
If this were a boxing match between freedom and form, a ringside
announcer would be screaming that form is flat on the floor with both eyes
swollen shut, a cauliflower ear and a bloody nose. Freedom, the announcer
would shout, is dancing circles, ready to thrust a gloved fist in the air
and declare victory.
But freedom and form aren't opponents. They are more like allies
constantly striving for a delicate and diplomatic balance.
Freedom without the restraint of form is costly. It costs us as a
country, as a culture, as a community, as couples and as families.
Resurrecting form begins with creating boundaries.
Boundaries start with simple things like bedtimes, curfews,
expectations for behavior, standards for entertainment and a few hot
button issues parents are willing to take a stand on.
If we continue erasing all the boundaries, kids won't be the only
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© 2001, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.
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