“That’s it! I’m not picking that up for you anymore!”
Words that have come from my mouth time and time again as one of my children decided to make a game out of throwing something from their high chair, or car seat, or just from the couch, expecting me to retrieve it; a regular game of daddy fetch.
But this time, the words weren’t coming out of my mouth; they were coming out of the mouth of my 5 year old son, Elisha. “Daddy fetch” was replaced with “Big Brother fetch” by my 1-year-old, Jesse, on the ride to church. “How did you decide you had had enough and you weren’t going to pick up the toy anymore?” I couldn’t resist asking Elisha that question. “My arm got tired,” was the common sense reply he came up with. He probably will not remember that the next time he wants me to retrieve something for him, or swing him around, or carry him around for hours while we shop. But at least for him, he recognized his own limits and set up a boundary for himself.
We all draw boundaries in the same way Elisha did- we do something, behave in a certain way, until we are physically or emotionally tired and have to say, “No more!” It is probably the first way that we learn that we have to say no from time to time. But it is most certainly not the most effective way to draw boundary lines for ourselves or between ourselves and others. The most effective, least disruptive way for ourselves and others is to set boundaries out clearly ahead of time, before we have to withdraw from a commitment, or end a relationship, that shouldn’t have had a chance to develop to begin with.
“Count the cost,” right? Elisha and Jesse will be just fine. From what I heard on the way to church, if their mother and I keep it up, they will be able to count the cost and draw boundaries that will help them be healthy in life and in all their relationships.