Learning From Babies Lesson #11 – Beyond Boundaries

I should just have named my child don’t touch that!” I read that on twitter and my laughter was that of recognition.

As a parent to a toddler, I empathize. Reminds me of our little Imara, sometimes you need both eyes on that child.

It’s just her 2nd trip around the sun, but she’s become our little professor of life. Her teaching methods are unorthodox and she follows her own syllabus, but baby girl is schooling me on life. Right now, we are on the chapter that deals with the importance of boundaries.

I’m learning that life is a lot more peaceful when there are good boundaries, and maybe this is a universal truth. Could it really be this simple? Maybe many of our problems – personal and public, including world peace, can be solved if we just respected other people’s boundaries.

There are a few different ways to set boundaries. The classic favorite is the word “no”. This is the preferred boundary marker for both toddlers and parents.  Imara uses it to declare her independence, and we use it because her curiosity gets her into trouble.

The good thing is that Imara listens. Her mother says she listens more to me than she does to her. Something about kids treating their mothers differently, but let’s leave that for another day. I’m happy Imara listens, but she doesn’t do it all the time. Things are rarely 100% with kids. Instinctively they must know, “If you follow all the rules, you will miss all the fun.”

There is another reason why kids don’t always listen to their parents, and thank goodness for it. It seems to me that nature designs children not to obey their parents 100% of the time, as a way to guarantee the evolution of our species.

Imagine if the younger generation did everything their elders told them to do. We would never evolve and humanity would still be in the dark ages. Still, you have a child to raise and dangers to keep away, so you gotta set some boundaries with the word ‘no’.

The other boundary marker that makes life easier is that of time constraints. There is a time for everything. There is a time for sleeping, a time for playing and a time for eating. Life works better if you don’t mix them up.

Imara loves swinging; it’s her favorite thing to do. She loves it so much, I think if we let her, she would want to live in a swing. So let’s just say this boundary marker is a ‘work in progress’.

Swinging is such an ordinary and simple thing. There isn’t an end goal or objective. The goal is the act itself. You don’t keep score, don’t get a prize or get congratulations for a job well done. You have nothing else to do other than just swing back and forth. Ordinary to me, but sheer joy for Imara with every push.

The time I spend with her enriches mine, and I’m learning to find joy, meaning and fulfillment in very ordinary things. Imara does this naturally because she spends less time contemplating the meaning of life, and instead uses more time allowing her five senses to experience the present moment.

When Imara swings, I hear her trying to sing or make funny noises down her throat. Sometimes she closes her eyes and leans her head back. I tried this, and I was better able to feel the effects of gravity as my body moved through time and space.

Spend a little time on a swing to remind yourself that life is a journey not a destination. Just like life, you don’t swing to get to the end, it’s purely about the experience. When I remember to bring my presence to the moment, I’m often surprised that I can find beauty and fulfillment hidden in very ordinary things.

Even when it comes to setting up boundaries, being in the present moment has been good medicine for my relationship with Imara. We have a better understanding of each other because I’m learning to be more sensitive to her needs. We still set boundaries, but doing this when my mind is in the here and now, allows me to say ‘no’ and show I love you in the same sentence.