When to Stay Within the Lines

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My wife has been helping a family at church by watching their not-yet-two-year-old. She's a cute kid with a giant impish grin and a vocabulary that's growing beyond "car" and "motorcycle" (her dad's a mechanic and loves cars, so she does too). Last Thursday, after getting home from work, she's outside with my wife drawing on the driveway with chalk. Suddenly I'm the person to color with and she asks me draw a heart.

I do.

She colors it the way toddlers without fine motor control do: Three lines that radiate from the center and spill out into the wider world. And, like all youngsters, she loses all interest for a moment to go wander over to the car before returning, chalk smudges decorating her shirt and next to her nose where it itched.

Coloring in the Heart

In art and creativity, I see no reason to stay within the lines (unless, like me, you prefer that). But boundaries are important, even -- especially? -- for a 2-year-old. I talk about looking both ways before crossing the street and remind her that she needs to eat her snack at the table.

Many lines are dangerous to cross. I regularly remind the student I'm teaching to drive to "stay in your lane." She doesn't like it when I yell at her to slow down around turns; frankly, I don't like when I feel the need either. I'm still trying to figure out how to get her to recognize that the brakes are her friend.

Moral lines are even harder to help people recognize. At Movie Night on Saturday one of "my kids" told me about her out of state boyfriend's visit. I guess they had decided, in his hotel room, that they would move in together when he moved out our way. "We've been together for a year. I think that's a reasonable amount of time. You know," she told me, with all the wisdom of someone not yet 19, "some people really love each other but then discover they simply can't stand living together." This is a girl who goes to church.

How did we get here? When did morality become like lines of chalk to color in instead of guidelines to keep you safe?

I don't know. I'm not sure how this generation drifted into this view of reality. But it's dangerous, like not bothering to check for cars before stepping into the road. I very much appreciate Kate's reminder:

Even as [our children] get older, we have to remember that it's our job to set their boundaries. We can give them some leeway but if they can't handle that much responsibility, it's time to rein them in. At the end of the day, we are in charge.

Boundaries. That word continues to be the very thing that seems to define this next generation by their lack of them.

A video linked from the BibleMesh blog reminded me that moral decline happens when people no longer voluntarily follow the law. I blogged about Vishal Mangalwadi's observations on this in my post on our growing culture of theft. (My mom gave a great overview of Mangalwadi's thesis of our culture's Christian roots.) I don't like doom and gloom projections or fear mongering of the faithful. But I do want to encourage you as you raise up the next generation: Teach them to stay within the lines, why it's important, and how to tell the difference between preference and responsibility, chalk and street lanes.

If that needs to start with a simple reminder that naps are important, so be it. As homeschoolers, we have the opportunity to demonstrate these realities and offer grace day in and day out. Take advantage of that blessing!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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