All relationships have boundaries, but people usually don’t state them explicitly unless the other person has crossed the line. Therefore, openly stating a boundary implies that the other person has done something wrong, and members of estranged parents’ groups aren’t having that.
—issendai, Down the Rabbit Hole: The world of estranged parents’ forums, “Estranged Parents and Boundaries”
Possibly of painful interest to those of you with family issues and crummy parents. This is mostly just quotes, but if you’re like me, it can be illuminating/helpful to see echoes of personal experience atomized like this. Obvious content warning for self-entitled parents saying awful things.
There are times when I think about how things would have been different growing up if teachers and other adults had chosen to express that whole idea of kids “being inappropriate” (re: making sexual comments in class and stuff) as… like… a matter of appropriate boundaries between themselves as adults and us as kids, rather than as one of the Rules, the way “do your homework” is a rule and “be respectful of the teacher” is a rule.
I mean what if those adults had told me and other kids that it wasn’t that talking about sex was taboo, but rather that they just didn’t want to necessarily share those conversations with us (outside of formalized sex ed) and that if an adult DOES want to share lots of sex jokes with a kid and share sexual conversations with a kid, that we should regard that adult as suspicious.
What if they had actively encouraged us to judge and be critical of the way adults treated us, in case of an adult stepping over a line, and what if those boundaries were genuinely treated like something for our benefit rather than another excuse to control us and scold us and brand us “bad kids,” and what if “breaking” that “rule” about appropriate talk for the classroom was reframed as not yet having learned how to set good enough boundaries for ourselves and how to be more wary of what we share with people in a position of power over us, not for fear of wrath or deliberate punishment but because there are people we will meet who will try to exploit us.
Like what if the way adults acted towards us didn’t put the idea in other kids’ heads that sex was this edgy rule-breaking thing and that having any kind of boundaries about it ourselves meant we were goody-two-shoes stuck under an adult’s thumb. What if not setting boundaries for yourself well enough wasn’t ever framed as “acting out.”
How would my life have been different then? Can I even imagine that?
My life definitely changed for the better after I gave myself permission to make the whole situation awkward for everyone when other people make me uncomfortable.
Like, you put me in this position, I’m taking you down with me.
It doesn’t fix anything, no, but it sure beats the alternative because then at least then everyone else is feeling awkward WITH me and I’m allowing myself to feel no shame over that.
I can’t get people to care about or even remember my boundaries but!! by God I will try and give them a disincentivizing experience to remember.