I think I let out an audible “AMEN!” the other night upon hearing Obama talking about a leader’s role to say “no”. He was hinting around the concept of boundaries. The importance of knowing the big picture, the cost–real or emotional, the nuances and details known only to a few. That theory makes complete sense and yet we, like my 2 and 5 year olds, often find it much more “effective” to throw a tantrum when a boundary is erected or a gate closed and locked. We prefer to be in charge of all decisions ourselves, driven from a place of fear and “not enough”.
I often find myself questioning my parenting decisions these days, while in the decision making moment and second guessing myself afterwards. I resist holding onto the role and identity of the “gatekeeper”, the one whose job it is to say “no” sometimes. When my eldest, for example, comes home from a long day of kindergarten and is begging for a playdate, it is, in fact, my JOB to say “no” sometimes. Like Obama was suggesting, there are going to be times when loving well means saying “no” or “later” or “not yet”.
Currently, I am making my way through Brene Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly. She is an incredible researcher, speaker (you may have heard her TED talks….) and writer. Brown’s research is heavily focused on the role of shame and its hinderance of vulnerability. Her current book has an incredible chapter on “Wholehearted Parenting” and she shares in her Parenting Manifesto, “I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.” So, so, so good. While saying “no” is a given, we are also called, as parents and caregivers and leaders, to also balance our boundary creating with vulnerability based in love. The willingness to close some gates. To say no to some things, but to say yes to others. To say yes to engaging with the world. To say yes to compassion. To say yes to joy and vulnerability.
Embracing each other, in our deepest places of shame and imperfection is tough. In fact, I often want to erect a gate and keep all of that OUT. It’s just easier, sometimes. It is clear that gate keeping, while a hard profession, is part of what we are called to as parents. Saying “no”, enforcing time outs, reminding our little ones of the importance of down, unscheduled time. Easy for me to say as I am boarding a plane to Seattle to the weekend for my 20th High School Reunion….ALONE. As in no children to corral, keep in line and monitor for 48 hours! This ongoing journey of gatekeeping, based in a deep place of love, though, if a gift. Rather than stepping back in fear, apprehension and indecision as I’m called to step up to the plate, I hope I will be willing to accept the challenges of parenthood with joy and purpose and humor. I am reminded, time and time again, of the gift of others along this journey who are a constant encouragement and cheerleading team. And most importantly, the deep love, grace and purpose extended to me in Christ, one who led a life of true vulnerability and love.