Set Boundaries That Draw People Near... Without Pushing Them Away

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea. I was alone at the center of Waco's tourism hub with my 2 bigs, a very rambunctious toddler whose only speed is FAST, and no stroller. 

Destination: The Magnolia Silos.

My oldest daughter’s choice: It was spring break and each big got to choose one treat and special outing  - and she wanted Jo’s famous cupcakes and a stroll around the grounds in the sunshine. 

I could have chosen a PDO day (I wish I had) but I believed in myself and Ellie (actually I didn’t - we were just out of time and I felt obligated to keep my promise). 

The whole adventure was doomed to failure and I knew it from the minute we arrived at the parking lot. 

Part 1: The cupcake line of doom

To procure a Magnolia Silos cupcake you need to wait in the Silos Bakery Co. line - which usually winds around the corner and up the street where you wait patiently, quietly, out of oncoming traffic for your turn. Noone told Ellie - we were chasing, catching, releasing her for about 30mins (how many gray hairs can a woman grow in 30mins?) before she was let loose inside the bakery while the other kids took their sweet time deciding which flavor cupcake to get. 

I could feel the anxiety (and rage) bubbling up inside of me - this was DEFINITELY a BAD idea, but salvation was within reach - on the other side of my older two’s indecision was the green space where toddlers could run and play to their heart’s content. 

Or so I thought. 

Part 2: Green space (a toddlers playground) 

Magical in theory. 

In reality:

Toddler is on a rampage sabotaging at least 5 different family’s game of corn hole, standing in and squishing the cupcakes I tortured myself to procure before realzing there are no fences in Magnolia- just lots of space, people, and most importantly - breakables. So many breakables. 

After running after and retrieving her 6 times in an attempt to leave my bigs to enjoy what was left of their cupcakes in peace, I could basically hear the timebomb inside of me ticking away. We were on the brink of a maternal Chernobyl.  

Abort mission. 

I’m done.

It's time to go home. 

I didn't need to do much work to figure out what my boundaries were in that moment - what was required of me to create a fun-filled afternoon out at the Silos was not within my possession - we needed to try again another time. 

This is where my morning nearly went even more pear shaped. 

I am the mom. I am supposed to be the leader//strong//together//calm one - part of my cultural upbringing leans me into embodying this in a stern, no-nonsense, “because I said so”, armored-up posture with my kids, and especially when I am basically swimming in mom-shame to begin with. I need that feeling to go away, and when I don't catch myself on time, I become a jerk so that I can stop feeling so powerless. 

What I have learnt about what I am pre-disposed to is that it cuts me off from my children in moments when we need connection with one another most.

I have learnt that I can ask for what I need, without demanding it. I can lead my children without controlling them. I can make an executive decision, and still be completely honest about where I am at and why I have decided what I have. ie: I can treat myself and my children with dignity, especially in moments when shame is doing its best to strip us of whatever dignity we have.

I was about to blow-up at my children, so we needed to leave. But my daughter had been looking forward to and planning this outing for weeks - In an attempt to save face, nurture my wounded pride and hide away from all the mom-guilt and mom-shame that was piling up inside of me by the second -  I could crush her creative spirit with one solid - “because I am the mom and because I can”... 

This is what I chose instead:

“Guys, I am very sorry to have to do this - I need to take responsibility for how poorly I planned out our week. I chose the wrong day for this and I own that. I also didn’t plan for the support I would need to have a blast with you today, and on top of all of that I am feeling very overwhelmed with fear for ellies safety, for your safety and to be honest, for what I am imagining the people around us are thinking about me as a mom. My fear and my pride has bubbled up out of me as anger, frustration and impatience. Please forgive me for being unkind, and for cutting our time together at the silos short. Please let me try again another time.”

My big kids looked at me blankly for what felt like an eternity before they leaned in and gave me the biggest, bestest group hug I didn’t even know I needed. Ellie even climbed in for some of the action. 

Ok mama, but could we try taking Ellie to the garden section for a minute first. I bet she would enjoy playing with us on the toadstools in the corner.” 

Ok. Let's give it a try.” 

They were right - they all had a blast, the toddler was more or less contained and I got to sit for 5mins at a time.

We made it to the car in one piece and then drove through Cameron Park with all the windows open while we sang at the top of our lungs. 

The Silos were a bust, but we had a pretty awesome day, and we got home exactly how I hoped we would: more connected and closer as a family. 

Mama friends, here is what I hope you hear:

  • You’re allowed to acknowledge you can’t do something if you don’t have the capacity to do it. 

  • You’re allowed to/should be setting boundaries with your kids if how you’re doing motherhood right now is filling your heart with resentment and frustration. 

  • Taking responsibility and being held accountable doesn't have to have anything to do with shame. I think they're badges of honor.  

  • You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not to be a great mom. 

  • Don’t take your two your old to Magnolia without an extra pair of grown-up hands, leash or a stroller with industrial strength straps. It's just not worth it. 

I shared in depth about this experience in a Facebook I created and moderate called “Healthy Boundaries for Heart-Centered Women.” - If you would like to watch it, and catch up with a whole bunch of other free resources like:

- How to say no without ruining your relationships

- 31 Things I have learnt about boundaries from the Bible 

You can hop on over and join by clicking here.