Many of us have children returning home from college this week for the entire summer, so in the interest of peace and harmony, it might be a good time to set some boundaries.
Understandably, this can be a very challenging time, as you’ve been on your own since August, living your life however you please. All that’s about to change — because now your kids are back.
The first time I ever heard the word, “boundaries,” I was running errands and listening to talk radio. (Talk radio in the ’90s was affordable therapy and free life-coaching for those of us who married young and couldn’t afford the real thing.)
One day, one of the radio life gurus was talking about “boundaries.” Enthralled, I tuned in. It was an entirely foreign concept to me.
“That is you and yours. This is me and mine. Here is the line you don’t cross!” A simple enough concept about respecting others. But nothing I thought would ever apply to my family.
My husband and I got married young and never bothered to establish any pesky boundaries. Partly because it wasn’t a “thing” back then, and partly because when you get married that young, you’re almost like siblings.
We have shared everything through the years: our morning coffee, multiple addresses, jumbo popcorn at the movies, influenza and other sundry viruses, damp bath towels, and memories.
We switch the radio station without even asking and eat off each other’s plates. We also constantly interrupt each other and call it “interactive listening.“
We muddled through life and managed okay in our boundary-free existence. And then when the babies came, we certainly never considered setting any boundaries. Boundaries between ourselves and our tiny issue? Why?
But things got dicey when our offspring reached their late teens and early 20s. These are the tricky years when our kids feel the need to start asserting their independence and putting up walls. They become less adorable and far less adoring almost overnight. While this is an essential and requisite part of the maturation process, it’s super difficult.
For the parents.
Mostly because we can’t help but notice all the boundary-setting. And it’s shockingly one-sided.
That’s right — our children have attempted to set boundaries for us, and when we inevitably trespass, we risk the accusation that we’ve somehow assaulted their fragile and budding adultness. Meanwhile, they traipse around our house dancing all over our rights like hippies at Woodstock in a rainstorm. It’s a bloody free-for-all around here for the millennials.
So I’m determined to be proactive. I’ll start with the following guidelines for peace, but reserve the option to add on as deemed necessary:
– If you put your clothes in my washing machine and that action necessitates moving the previous load into my dryer, which then results in a load of clean dry clothes in need of folding, please fold them. I will do the same for you, and I give you my word, by summer’s end, I will have logged more folded loads than everyone in our household combined. (Mom for the win. Not that it’s a contest.)
– If you should return home to find (as Santana sang in the ’70s) “the house is dark and my pots are cold,” I’m probably hanging out with Jean and Joan and who-knows-who. Please feel free to prepare your own dinner.
– Likewise, if you open the refrigerator or the pantry and don’t find the soy burgers, almond milk, or the particular brand of organic granola you prefer, please find your way to the grocery store. You can leave your receipt on the counter. Since we don’t eat that crap around here, I tend not to buy it.
And one more thing: As hard as it may be to believe, if my bedroom door is shut, I might just be trying to get away from you. Yes, you, my pet. So if you perceive an injustice, or have an opposing religious or political viewpoint you want to rail about, consider putting it into a text or an email. I promise to read it and get back to you with a rebuttal.
Lastly, to all my fellow parents out there who, like me, find themselves running a glorified B&B (Bed & Boundaries) this summer, always remember: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s probably your college student.”