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Finding the freedom within boundaries

Boundaries are often viewed in the teenage years more as limits than as opportunities for freedom. A good bit of time is spent pondering, glorifying and yearning for all that lies on the other side of the fence.I heard a story once that I often share with youth concerning the rules with which their parents have surrounded them. The story is about an apartment complex in urban Chicago. There was a growing need for child care amongst the tenants of the 15-story, 130-unit building. The problem facing these families was a severe lack of space in the area in which they could house a day-care center. In a tenants’ meeting, someone mentioned that a portion of the roof of the building was already home to several large storage areas as well as ample open space, and they decided that the idea of a rooftop day-care center would be researched. Upon completion of the research, the tenants were told that the roof would be ideal for a day-care center, provided the facilities met code and that proper barriers were constructed along the perimeter of the roof. In the following months the finest day-care facility in the city was constructed on the roof of the building. The best playground equipment available was purchased, and they even built a huge sandbox. A fence was erected around the perimeter of the roof to ensure the children’s safety. For the grand opening of the day-care center, nearly 150 children waited in anticipation of trying out the new playground. However, upon opening the doors, the children, although overflowing with excitement, ultimately huddled together near the center of the playground. Though thousands of dollars had been spent on the latest and greatest equipment, the adults did not anticipate the children’s response to the safety factors involved. As confident as the adults were concerning the fencing on the edge of the roof, its appearance did not calm the children’s fears. The fences were then reinforced to make them more visibly secure. Upon reopening the facility weeks later, the children’s initial response was similar to the first, but in short time many of the children were around the edge of the playground shaking and testing the boundaries. Within a day many kids were seen bouncing off the fences, testing them to make sure they were indeed secure. At long last, the playground was thoroughly enjoyed by all the children. Firm boundaries enable incredible freedom. They provide safety and opportunity though the initial reaction to boundaries is often feelings of restraint and limits. And boundaries will always be tested.Parents, when tested, how do your fences hold up? Kids, are you content within the freedom of the boundaries, or do you spend all your time looking outward, pondering life on the other side while ignoring everything available to you within? Life is full of boundaries. You can choose to spend all your time either testing the boundaries or discovering the freedom found within. Jeremy Heiser is a YouthZone case manager.


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