When I visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City a while ago, I was fascinated by the barbed wire exhibit. There were 1,000’s of different varieties of barbed wire!
Likewise, I was fascinated to find a much smaller barbed wire exhibit at the Museum of Idaho last week. The exhibit displayed barbed wire styles that were unique to each rancher. When you saw a certain style of barbed wire you knew who’s property you were on. This made me curious to know if my family had their own style of barbed wire, a question that there is probably no one left to answer…
It turns out that barbed wire forever changed the way that ranchers kept beef cattle in the American West. Previous to barbed wire, there was no cost-effective way to confine cattle, so they mostly roamed free on the open range. Once barbed wire was invented, cattle were fenced in and ranchers could increase their herds without the fear of losing cattle to cliffs, to bad grazing plants and mixing with other herds.
I loved looking at all the types of barbed wire. But, it made me think about the function played by the barbed wire. It set boundaries, to keep cattle in and predators and rustlers out.
We each have our own variety of figurative “barbed wire” for our personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries are a way to define who we are as individuals and what we will and will not hold ourselves responsible for. Learning to create healthy boundaries is an important part of our self-care.
But, just as barbed wire keeps cattle in, it also keeps unwanted critters or people out. It’s this aspect that I wanted to talk about today. As mothers of adult children, it’s so easy to think of our children as an extension of us. Sometimes we forget the plan is for training them to manage their own lives, separate from us. As they grow in abilities, our children need to develop healthy boundaries to be able to live their own lives without interference from their parents.
This can be frightening for us parents, since we love our children and want to stay close and protect them. We may not recognize our children’s “barbed wire boundary” and attempt to break through it, by offering helpful observations or advice. Or in the case of mixed-faith families, helpful reminders of the religious teachings that you taught them to make their life “better”.
Our rationale is that we only want what’s best for our child, and that we have more life experience, and we are only trying to be helpful.
I saw a related rule of thumb on Twitter the other day:
“Unsolicited advice is criticism, always”.
I agree with this, although I don’t always practice what I preach. I do have a habit of doling out unsolicited advice to my adult kids and then having to apologize when/if I recognize I’ve overstepped their boundaries.
If you feel like you have been caught in barbed wire in your relationship with your adult child, you might ask yourself if you are trying to break down a boundary they have established to create independence from you? Is there a better way for you to have a relationship with your adult child?
If you need help answering these questions, coaching might be a great fit for you. One of the things we learn about is creating boundaries for ourselves, but also recognizing the boundaries our kids and others have set for us.
If you would like to discuss your situation, select a convenient time and we can Just Talk.