Boundaries: March Madness, Parenting, and Mental Health

When I was 5, we moved to Tipton, Indiana from Noblesville, Indiana. Our house had been for sale for several months, and I was registered for Kindergarten both in Noblesville and Tipton. Our house sold, and my parents bought another one in July, 1976. We moved, I started kindergarten in Tipton at Jefferson Elementary, and […]

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When I was 5, we moved to Tipton, Indiana from Noblesville, Indiana. Our house had been for sale for several months, and I was registered for Kindergarten both in Noblesville and Tipton.

Our house sold, and my parents bought another one in July, 1976. We moved, I started kindergarten in Tipton at Jefferson Elementary, and completed the rest of my school years through 12th grade there.

One of the first things we did, once we had moved, was learn our ‘boundaries’. We loved to ride our bikes, my sister and I. My Mom and Dad are from inner-city Indianapolis, so they understand the dangers of a busy street differently than some people who were from other parts of Indiana.

My mom took us around (my brother was 2 and not yet riding a bike independently), and showed us what our bike-riding boundaries were. Main St., Jefferson St., and I think Columbia Ave. Not positive about that one, so it may have been Kentucky Ave.

My dad was a teacher with the local school system, so if I broke the rules with my boundaries it was likely to be reported to him, even before I returned home. I followed that rule, and considered it an important one.

Boundaries are just rules we tend to follow. We talk about boundaries between people, such as ‘that crosses a boundary’ when an employee treats a client like a friend. We discuss boundaries as it relates to the supervisory relationship. The creator of Datatude, which is a database that I used when I worked for both Preservation Partners, Inc, and Children’s Bureau, Inc., did a study as a part of her doctoral program about the boundaries between staff and their employees, and employees and their clients.

Kristin found that clients tended to view their Healthy Families workers as friends, and that staff tended to view their supervisors as friends. As long as the worker kept the ‘boundary’, meaning that they kept the relationship professional, things generally went ok. As long as the Supervisor kept the employee-supervisory relationship professional, then that relationship had a better chance of staying within professional boundaries.

I find it interesting how people not in the social service field tend to use the term boundary. There are certainly boundaries in basketball. The sidelines and the ends of the court have very clearly defined boundaries. Step on the line and you are out of bounds. Step on the line when you are throwing the ball into play and you are also potentially breaking a rule.

That plane, or the line to the ceiling, is there as well. As an 8th grader, I broke the plane when I smacked the ball that the person throwing the ball in bounds put right in my face.

I was immediately called for a Technical Foul, which seemed like a very big deal to me. My mom thought I had ‘cussed’, and I was just sure I would be taken out of the game.

I ran over to the bench, and Coach Etherington told me to keep playing. He encouraged my sometimes ‘aggressive’, or ‘assertive’ play, and was not a bit bothered by the technical foul, especially since the other team missed the free throws.

He distractedly waved me back from the bench, and I do not really remember the rest of the game.

I had crossed a physical boundary. I received a consequence for it, and never broke that particular rule again. In fact, when I am watching basketball during March Madness, I like to watch the person guarding the out-of-bounds player because it is meaningful to me.

Which brings me to the March Madness part of the article. March Madness is titled, in my opinion, due to the unpredictable weather we have in March and the excitement about the NCAA tournament that is held toward the end of the month.

My husband is a huge sports fan, and enjoys when we watch sports together. I am much less of a sports fan, so when I can get engaged, we watch the games together. I root for teams with a history of winning in the tournament, and Indiana University, where we both graduated.

I like the fact that it is a ‘one and done’ situation, so once you lose you are out. I attended Indiana University at a time when the basketball team had quite a bit of success, and was able to be in the Pep Band (now known as the ‘Basketball Band’) my junior year of college. That year, IU went to the final four, and experienced a LOT of success.

My children have a much different experience with IU Basketball. IU has not been in the tournament (yet) since they started at IU in 2016, and the team has had some pretty rough spots. We are hoping they make the tournament this year, but it is yet to be seen.

All of this to say, boundaries affect all of us.

We all have rules, we are encouraged to follow them, and when we don’t we may experience consequences that we don’t like.

As it relates to mental health, boundaries are important in our relationships. They are important at keeping limits among our family of origin members who knew us when we were younger, and might have had different boundaries.

They are important in romantic relationships, as someone with a history of poor boundaries may feel that a relationship where they get hurt physically or emotionally feels ‘familiar’, and therefore they may choose to participate in it even against their own better judgement.

As therapists, boundaries come up again and again. How close is too close emotionally with a client, how do we separate work from play in the age of electronics, and what is important to each therapist, specifically, in terms of setting boundaries with clients and family members.

What I’d like for you to do is think about how this affects you.

What are some boundaries that are important to you, that sometimes people cross? How do you communicate with someone when they have crossed a boundary with you-do you tell them directly, tell them indirectly, or have a history of letting people cross your boundaries and then getting angry about it?

How do you communicate what your boundaries are before they are crossed? Do you get uncomfortable, start chatting, get quiet, or something else?

What do you wish you did differently with your boundary setting and crossing? Do you have something that you instantly regret doing, or do you have things that you pretty much know are an area you know you are working on and you are OK with that.

These are just some things to think about. I hope you enjoy your Sunday!

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