Setting Boundaries with My Parents
Boundaries. Not my favorite topic. When I was young, my clergy father set the boundaries. My job was to keep them. Daddy’s Rules for Good Girls invaded every area of my life as a female child and teenager.
Nonetheless, if I wanted to find my adult voice with my parents, I needed to set and maintain boundaries with them. The way any adult would. I was in my late 40s.
My goal called for ways to cope with my own unscheduled panic attacks. The kind that screamed at me NOT to go through with this madness.
Three items in my files document my determination.
- First, an index card with names and phone numbers of six people I could call at the drop of a hat. They included my psychotherapist, my husband, two AlAnon friends, and two pastors (not my personal pastors).
- Second, on the opposite side of the index card is a list of nine things to do when I have panic attacks or feel overwhelmed.
- Third, an encouraging card and letter from a woman I’d walked with through her own boundary-setting agony.
The point of these items was to take care of myself no matter what.
In early May 1992, I wrote the following letter to my parents. This was more than 1 ½ years before I met with them in Savannah.
Dear Mother and Daddy,
D and I will be on vacation when you’re up this way in June. We’ve decided not to change our plans. Also, I’ve decided I don’t want you to stay in our house while we’re gone.
I need privacy right now, and for the indefinite future, in order to work on some personal issues. For now, that means I don’t want calls, cards, or letters from either of you. I also don’t want to plan any visits with you. I’ll let you know when I’m ready for a change.
Emergency messages can be left on our answering machine, or given to D at his office or here.
My letter was not well received. In a later post I’ll write about how I handled my father’s at-distance anger, and how I set up a meeting with my parents on the eve of my 50th birthday.
Please note: This is not a template for anyone. It’s what was right for me at that time in my life. I got through this thanks to my own hard work, and strong support from D, my psychotherapist, and friends listed above on my ‘panic’ card.
Cheers to each of you! Life, when lived with integrity, is never easy. I pray you’ll find wisdom and courage for yourself this day.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser, 10 September 2021, Longwood Gardens Meadow