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
- Enriching to everyone near them
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!