I am washed. I am made anew, and it is my deepest desire to help others get clean too. Listen to the words and take action from there. So how can I help? That's a good question, she answered. How can you help? Dad says you help big companies and militaries, but of course I'm neither. Her tone was fascinating--not rude or impatient, but oddly frank and to the point. She seemed to defy every expectation that I and possibly most of the professional world had about her. Well, the method can apply to anything. Anyone can think like a futurist. Okay, futurist, go for it. When we reflect on our lives to date, it's the glorious and the gut-wrenching that spring to mind--the times that brought us great joy and the times that brought us pain. In truth, there's a myriad of grey: the stuff that happened that didn't evoke such depths of emotion, the things we have to dig a bit deeper to uncover. It all plays a part in who we are now, the turning points in our lives, and in how we parent. And yes, this boundary work gets super complicated when we are still learning about ourselves and are tasked with the role of teaching our dependents. How we parent will be influenced by how we were parented, what we loved, what we hated, what we've witnessed from the behaviors and interactions of those around us, our life experiences since then, and a massive heap of outside unsolicited advice and judgment. It seems there's nothing more likely to stir up a hornet's nest than the sheer ferocity of some of these somewhat inflexible opinions as to what, as a parent, you should and shouldn't do. Aspersions are cast without rhyme or reason (which, in itself, is a lack of respect of boundaries), and it can be hard to trust our judgments and instincts. When we were younger, we had caregivers who created boundaries for us.

These boundaries were designed to keep us safe and keep us well. Our parents dished up meals they deemed to be suitable, created curfews and bedtime routines, and we followed their lead because that's what we were urged to do. I am not, nor have I ever been worthless. And in spite of all the detours that have been, I have found the road back to me. May you be touched by what you read, for it is this author's most honest recollection. You will experience not only the death of my soul, but the birthing of it as well. My family looked like all the others. We lived in a modest middle-class home in Queens, New York. My brother, sister, and I attended a private Catholic school, and my father owned his own refrigeration repair company, which he managed to operate from our Formica kitchen table. My parents were a handsome couple, and our front hedges were always neatly trimmed. We had a dog named Smokey and a couple of birds, too. During the summer months, it was the norm to find a neighbor or two sitting on our stoop, puffing on a Marlboro, as children littered the dusky streets, catching fireflies. She nodded. What kind of future do you want? And what kind of future do you want to avoid? The answer to that seems overwhelmingly obvious, doesn't it? Rox said, thinking aloud in her matter-of-fact tone. I want to work in animation, just not for a construction company. I want to get out of student debt. I really want to get out of my parents' house.

She nodded again, with a somewhat sly grin. That's pretty much it. At school, there was a framework to adhere to, too. We were taught classes for a curriculum designed by someone we'd never meet; We weren't given a great deal of choice: Instead, we were told to share our toys, wear the clothes laid out for us, eat what's served, and spend our weekends doing what had been decided by our parents. All that was well and good until we got to the stage where we could make these decisions ourselves. It can be quite scary to suddenly find ourselves without those boundaries and standing on our own two feet. On top of that, we might've delved into the deep work of boundaries only to find ourselves reverting to those old (sometimes not-so-healthy) family dynamics of yesteryear, when we spent time with those we grew up with. Parenting is always going to be a challenge, as we're trusted to teach things we might not yet have fully figured out. It's those judgment calls that are based on layers and layers of our own nurturing and experiences and boundary blocks. It's weighing up the things our parents taught us with compassion because they, too, were teaching things they might not have fully figured out. It's adopting what worked well and adapting the things that didn't. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. Her days revolved around laundry, ironing, and the cooking of meals that she served promptly at five every evening. My father was a hard-working man who made it home each night just in time for dinner to be served. He adored my mother's cooking, and was not afraid to express his love of food. Mom liked pleasing my father. In fact, she liked that very much. I am the oldest of three children. I have a younger brother, Marc, and a younger sister, Leslie.

Marc and I fought regularly, like most other brothers and sisters I knew who were so close in age. Sometimes the fights got physical. But where is that future? You want to work in animation and not live with your parents. Where exactly do you want to live? I-- she started, then stopped. Her mouth hung open for a moment, then clamped shut like a trap. She rubbed the tail of her tiger tattoo absently, then started and stopped again. How 'bout this, Rox, I said, breaking the silence. No, futurist, she said, holding up her hand. Let me sit with this. She sat a moment and then said finally, Oh, I don't know. And even then, it's a matter of perspective. And oh boy, is it all emotive! A quick scroll on parenting blogs will show you just how emotive and heated conversations about our parenting choices can get. From the moment we tell people we're expecting, there's the unsought-after advice, the sharing of birth stories, and the touching of our pregnant tummies. For myself, even writing a article on boundaries and parenting came with hesitation because it's bound to stir up mixed emotions--for all of us, whatever our experiences. But we start learning about boundaries when we're knee-high, so a article about boundaries without this article wouldn't make any sense. So much of boundary work is having uneasy conversations with ourselves and others. Added to that whirlpool of emotion is the contradiction of how we offer comfort and are fair in a world that can feel so cruel, scary, and unfair.

How do we instill a sense of safety and a sense of self alongside resilience and the ability to bounce back? We might not have had the best start ourselves. Leslie and I rarely fought, however. For some reason, in my eyes she was special -- angelic, even. Her hair was the color of sunflowers, just like Mom's. And her eyes were as blue as a Caribbean sea. Mom had eyes the color of water, too. Leslie exuded playfulness, and although everyone fell in love the minute their eyes fell upon her, my heart never felt anything but tenderness for my little sister. I was happy she had love. There were subtle distinctions I secretly wondered about, like if any of the other kids I knew had grandparents and uncles who were alcoholics or compulsive gamblers. Did anyone else my age have a grandmother who had committed suicide, or an aunt with paranoid schizophrenia? Did they have any retarded people in their family, like my Aunt Jane? I've never thought about the future this way before. Everybody's future is local, I told her. For many people, understanding where that future is and what it looks like is the critical first step toward achieving it. I watched for some flicker of recognition, but her gaze was pitched stubbornly off-screen. Once you figure out the where, there are specific steps you can take to get there, I added. More tortured silence. Okay, I'm in, she said suddenly, snapping her attention back to me. Give me a week.