As a child, you are given parameters (boundaries). “Don’t touch a hot stove.” “No jumping on the bed.” “You may not have a cookie.” “Don’t talk back.” Do any of these quotes resonate? You knew if you over-stepped a boundary, a consequence was in store.
As I grew up, I often pushed boundaries and my mom made sure I was not going to get away with this. Raising 3 kids as a divorced woman, she could have easily thrown up her hands and let us do what we wanted; however, she stood firm and maintained consistency. She did not do this to be a bitch, she did this out of love, as much as we hated it.
When I gave birth to my first son, I was immediately in love with him. He could do no wrong. If he pushed boundaries, I would often turn a blind eye unless the boundary would cause harm to him or someone else. “No cookies before bed” I would say. Then he would look at me with the sweetest look, and I would cave. I would give him one. This held true for my second son, as well. If he wanted to stay up late to watch TV, I would concede another 30 minutes.
My boys knew right from wrong. They were taught that manners and respect for others are not flexible; however, boundaries had more flexibility.
At the time, I did not look ahead as to how my lack of consistency with standing firm on boundaries would reflect in their adulthood, especially with my #2 son.
My boys and I were always together as they were growing up. I was their constant. There were little fatherly interactions even though we were married and living in the same house. Work and other people were more important. Eventually we divorced.
The boys stayed living with their father. He maintained living in the house for I could not afford the mortgage. I moved about 4 miles away and took up residence with my mom.
The boundary “adjustments” began when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in the summer of 2016. My “2” pushed the boundaries the most. He began smoking weed and hanging out with others who did the same. He was angry, terribly angry, at my condition and his behavior was validating this. To lessen his pain, I would relax on some boundaries.
As I began my recovery, he moved in with me to “help” with different things (grocery shopping, preparing me meals, etc.). He did help for a while and soon began resenting my asks. He would become irritated and angry. He would release his anger by putting holes in the walls and doors. I would let him use my car (even though he had his own) which he would return with clutter all over. He was walking all over me and my boundaries and I let him. This was blatant disrespect to me. He was about to learn that as much as I overlooked certain things, there was one boundary that I would NOT allow to be crossed. Disrespect.
Finally fed up (I’m sure you’re reading this thinking it’s about time) I was not doing him any favors by allowing the consistent boundary crossing. No more special treatment. You will be accountable for your actions.
One Sunday, not too long ago, he woke up in a bad mood. As he walked past me on his way to the kitchen, I asked if he could get me something to drink (I am currently using a walker due to a reoccurrence of cancer last year). I must have hit a nerve. He turned around and started screaming at me. He said something extremely hurtful. After everything I had done for him. BOUNDARY CROSSED.
“GET OUT! Pack your stuff and get out,” I yelled. He was shocked.
“She certainly is not going to really kick me out,” he thought. She has softened on many things.
“You’ve crossed a boundary that is not acceptable!” By the look on my face and tone in my voice he knew I was serious.
For days I reflected on the situation. I then realized it was my lack of consistency on boundaries that gave my boys the idea that boundaries can be challenged. Boundaries are in place for a reason, whatever that reason. As difficult as it is, continue to enforce boundaries, no matter how cute the face trying to push them. In the long run, you are helping the person.
Are you being consistent with your boundaries?