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“You are crossing your boundary, buddy.”

I can’t even count the number of times this phrase has come out of my mouth the last week. It is mostly in reference to Micah making excruciatingly high-pitched squeals about an inch from Norah’s face while also pinching her cheeks. Norah screams, and I would like to scream too.

Or it’s been in reference to the millions of tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny kisses that he gives me, mostly while I’m in the middle of putting Norah down for a nap or trying to discipline him. As though they make up for him completely ignoring what I’m trying to do.

Or it’s referring to the immediate outburst when I walk out of the room and he doesn’t want me to leave his sight.

Yup. Good old boundaries. We have some. They’re being crossed. It does not feel good.

I made up this game. It’s called “Don’t Cross the Boundary.” My arm pretends to be the boundary and Micah’s hand is the car. He drives right up to my arm and is supposed to stop. Sometimes the car jumps in the air, and then I’m so concerned about whether it’s going to cross the boundary or respect the boundary. When it respects it, I breathe a gigantic sigh of relief. When it crosses….well, the boundary-arm can’t be friends with the boundary-crosser. The boundary-arm stops playing. For reals, no second chances.

I’m trying to get Micah to see that other people’s boundaries are important, and not just for them. It’s important for us, too. If we can learn to respect other people’s boundaries, we can learn to operate in self-control. We can learn to read others, gaining wisdom into how to relate to that person as an individual and how to know when to encourage and when to put in distance. We can have the opportunity to show them what it feels like to be respected.

If we can learn to respect other people’s boundaries, then we can know what it feels like if someone is crossing our own. We know what the action of respecting feels like, and it can help us guard our own boundaries more effectively. We learn to focus on other people, but also to care about safeguarding those things we feel are important, regardless of who is driving near those boundaries.

Yes, complicated things for a three year old. But I’m not telling him about boundaries in these words. I’m playing “Don’t Cross the Boundary” and reminding him every time he’s crossing one of ours. Respect is a hard thing to explain. That’s why I’m starting now, so that he has a lifetime to practice. Maybe by the time he’s an adult, I can breathe that sigh of relief when I see he’s content to just drive along the boundary and not make so many daring jumps into the air.

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