Soon after moving to Boston with my wife came the obligatory visit from my Dad and Mom. My wife and I talked with them on the phone and planned their visit—discussing such seemingly trivial things as sleeping arrangements. In that conversation Dad made it clear that in no way were we allowed to give up our bed for them. They would sleep on the floor, and that was the end of it.
Later during their visit I asked Dad why that was the case. Why make such a big deal about it, I wondered. It’s just a bed. Dad told me that it wasn’t. It was our first bed. It was our first home. It was our place, not his (even though some of the furniture was taken by me from his house). He mentioned that whenever his parents visited them they would commandeer the master bedroom, his Dad would sit in the biggest-best chair and then his mom would do the same to the kitchen—as though they ruled the roost. He turned around this trend, and said that it was not their role to be anything more than polite guests in our home, living under our rules.
King of the Castle
Later on I read a book in which the author made it clear that being Dad on purpose meant knowing that “No man can be the King of his child’s castle.” That was the same principle that drove Dad to his dogmatic position in sleeping arrangements. He wanted it to be clear that they respected our space and our possessions and our home. And he must have drilled Mom on it too because it was the first time she never cooked a thing over a reunion weekend in my lifetime. Just as our home was our castle our kitchen was ours to operate the way we liked even with a mother-in-law in the picture.
Dad understood that even if we didn’t yet. I came to realize over time how much freedom and pride came in having “our own place” that was my own responsibility. Even if something broke it was my job to fix it. Dad would only fix something or suggest something to fix if I asked him to. Now that takes discipline for a father!
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- What kind of boundaries have your parents respected and what boundaries have they ignored?
- What boundaries would you like to set up with your kids as they become adults?
- How is your changing role as a parent tied to letting your kids go? Could a problem of not respecting boundaries actually be tied to not letting kids go fully?
- What things does your kid value that will likely be most important to respect their space about? (Privacy? Property? Personal space?)