Barbed Wire Boundaries

Barbed Wire

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. 

I Can Do It Me-Self!

I can do it ME-self!

(How to accept help when you want to do everything on your own.)

I met with a surgeon to decide if surgery was necessary to repair the valve at the bottom of my esophagus and prevent acid from refluxing from my stomach into my throat.  At the time I asked what I could do now to allow for the best healing after surgery.  His answer was walking – the kind that makes you out of breath and the kind that strengthens the abdominals.

I exercise regularly and so I started doing interval training on all my walks – in the pool, outside and in my basement in front of a TV screen.  I got good at getting out of breath and I chose exercises that targeted the muscles in my mid-section.

When I left the hospital the nurse told me I had crackles in my lungs and showed me how to use the spirometer, a little plastic thing you inhale through to expand your lungs.  I asked her the same question that I had asked the doctor before the surgery. What can I do to heal quickest? Her recommendation was the same as my doctor’s – walking.

At home I was surprised how hard it was to breathe, and deep breaths caused coughing and pain. I didn’t want to do my breathing exercises because it hurt to breathe,  but my family encouraged me to use the spirometer and cheered me on when I could get the air flow meter higher and higher.

Four days after surgery my sister arrived to help.  She had a different surgery herself last fall and so she knew just what to do to help me on the road to recovery.  She put me on a medication schedule, brought drinks every few hours, reminded me to rest after I had been up, and took me on walks.  It was so nice to have her helping that I cried the day she left (and the next day too).

It was clear to me how much walking was helping me get better, but I couldn’t seem to motivate myself to get up and do it.  That’s when my friends and family really helped me out.  My husband started walking with me, my exercise buddy started walking with me and my daughter started walking with me.  I got out rain and shine (mostly rain as 2020 is the rainiest year so far ever).  My daughter encouraged slow deep breathing and made me walk with my shoulders back and my hands on my head to get deeper breaths. 

As a contrast, when my girls were little they always insisted that they didn’t need help. “I can do it Me-Self!” was a constant refrain at our house.  Even though I should know better, I frequently feel the same, I think I should be able to do everything myself.

In this case, before surgery I was able to walk and exercise without help, totally self-motivated.  After surgery I really needed someone there to help and guide me back into regular walking. I didn’t want help, but I could see that laying around feeling sorry for myself wasn’t getting me where I wanted to be. My sister showed me how important it was to have someone helping and encouraging me when it was too hard to do on my own, then my friends and family all pitched in to get me back on my feet.  

The result of getting help has been a very speedy recovery.

Have you ever had a time where you needed help doing something that you can normally do on your own? How hard was it to ask for help?