Thursday, May 23, 2013

River Authority

Many of the boundaries between states and countries were designated by the river that naturally divides land from land. These boundaries seem obvious, but over time they move, due to erosion, dam building, flooding and a host of other factors. In some cases one state or the other controls the river, and in others everything related to the river needs to be negotiated between the two sides. Eventually, some entity must become the River Authority

There are many parenting parallels here. Think about it. Every boundary you will ever set with your child is ultimately going to shift. The crib that contains them when they awake eventually gives way to a bed they can leave by themselves. Tricycle boundaries that limit the rider to sidewalks within sight distance of the front yard will become bike boundaries that eventually allow for riding in the street and far beyond visual supervision. Your child's seven o'clock bedtime becomes eight, then nine, then ten, and eventually is self-regulated.

So who controls the river? Well, where I live there is an entity called the Lower Colorado River Authority. They operate six dams that provide electricity to this area, protect water supply and quality, educate for boater safety, and perhaps most importantly, decide when to release water from the dams. As a parent, I like the idea of being the entity that is the Child River Authority: providing, protecting, educating, and releasing when the time and conditions are right.

There are entire books written about setting boundaries for your children, and you should definitely read a few of them, but I hope you can use this little river analogy to think about the boundaries you set for your kids. Kids are like rivers in so many ways:

  • Always moving forward
  • Frequently taking the path of least resistance
  • Sometimes forcing their way through solid rock
  • Full of life
  • Receiving input from thousands of streams
  • "Uncontainable" in any permanent fashion
  • Sometimes rushing, sometimes meandering
  • Easily polluted 
  • Less easily cleaned up
  • Refreshing
  • Enriching to everyone near them
The most successful strategy for managing a river is to embrace the nature of the river. No river can be contained behind a dam forever; it will ultimately go over, around, or through the dam if not released. The Authority can, however, use strategically placed dams to focus the flow of the river to generate power, protect and serve the people near the river, increase its efficiency, and release the water in a steady, safe flow. The Authority can make rules to keep the river clean, protect the life within it, and educate others about this particular river.

Both the river and the child are created and called by God for some purpose. They bless us, and we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards of both. You are your child's River Authority, and you make rules for the good of the child over stretches of time and space. You can own neither the river nor the child, but you can manage your child on behalf of the true owner. What a privilege!

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