Back in college I was encouraged to read a book called 'Boundaries' by Dr.'s Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I didn't read it. I think I was in a rebellious, "You can't tell me what to read" stage of life. I did, however, read a book by the same authors called, "Boundaries: Face to Face" which was about how to have difficult conversations with people. It was fantastic, but that's not what this post is about. I just thought I would tell you all to read that book, and probably the other book too...there were a lot of great pointers!
Ever since Nathaniel was born we have been careful to put boundaries in.
My children are free to act however they wish, within a certain parameter of the boundaries we have set. So far, we have been fairly consistent with those boundaries and our children have become really well-rounded individuals. They know that they are not allowed to jump on our furniture or their beds (knowing and following through is a different story with Benjamin who will shriek "No jumping on the BED!!" as he scrambles onto Aaron's bed to joyfully jump up and down and pull everything off of the bulletin board and throw it underneath the bed...2 year olds, whatcha gonna do?). But, they know that there is an old beat up chair in the nursery that is sturdy and that we allow them to jump, stand, flip, etc. on. They know that they need to ask permission to get something from the fridge, or watch t.v., but that once they are given permission they are free to help themselves. They are learning that when mom and dad are on the phone or are talking to each other and they want our attention that they need to simply place their hands on our arms and wait patiently and they will be addressed. (That one is taking time. Nathaniel is just now making that his go-to response. I get it, that's a hard one to remember, especially when whatever it is seems super important. They also know that if someone is bleeding or the house is on fire that they can interrupt).
One thing that we have been not so great with is our family boundaries, however.
We pretty much have an open door policy with people. During the day, anyone can drop by any time and we are happy to see them. Sam will usually make coffee (and for awhile he would also make a fresh loaf of bread) and we would take the time to be with whoever stopped by.
I love that we do that.
I also love that more and more people are dropping by 'just because'. It helps that our house is on a main street and that it's on the way to a lot of places. :)
However, we got to the point where we were too busy. Between having four children who are on strict nap and bedtime schedules, me serving in ministry full time and Sam volunteering part time, we quickly became overwhelmed.
We noticed that one of the parent figures was out of the house 4-5 nights a week. Add to that our Sunday night Bible Study and we were quickly becoming exhausted.
It doesn't help that we are introverts.
And so, after listening to a speaker talk about how important family is (which we knew, but we weren't showing) and how there are only two jobs where we are irreplaceable (parent and spouse), we decided to start saying no.
A classmate of one of our boys has a birthday party? No. I'm sorry, we will not be attending (not only has that saved time, but money as well!). In fact, we have started a new policy that unless it's a close family friend or a drop off party we will always be saying no to birthdays.
Someone plans something last minute? Nope, can't do it.
There are more, but since there is always a caveat where we feel like we need to say yes, I won't list them.
You know what? We are happier. We are more present. And, we are able to be better friends to people. We can look at our schedules and say yes to coffee dates and hang out times with others because we know that we have specific times for our family. Our family night is Friday night (for now) and we don't let anything (except for work stuff, because I work with youth I have the occasional Friday night activity) get in the way of that. It's an automatic no, unless people want to come and take part in our family night, that's been fun too.
I encourage all families to do this. Especially families with young children. I know that as my boys grow there will be more activities that they will be involved with, and we will have to move family night, or eat dinner super late/early so that we have dinner together. But, for now, we are making memories and our hope is that they think back to their childhood and remember that we were a family that saw how important that family time was.