Breaking Down the Barriers

Christine Maccabee

In keeping with last month's analogy of goats and people, I thought I would offer another one this month, this time concerning our teenagers. The following thoughts are one's which came to me as I took water up to my three goats the other day. Sometimes an idea, no matter how peculiar, just grabs onto you and won't let go. But I will stop short of making any apologies for the analogy I am attempting to make here of goats and children. So hold on to your goat's horns and off we go!

It was an exquisitely beautiful spring day, and as I poured the water for my goats, I decided I would do them a kindness and let them out of the pen where the tall grasses and lush multi-flora he just beyond the gate. First, however, I go down the hill and get a large piece of lattice to block their path down the hill ... I hope. From past experience I know how hard it is to keep them up the hill. Usually giving them more freedom results in them breaking the flimsy barrier down and coming down the hill where they would then feast on my small pine and fruit trees and shrubs closer to the house.

Sure enough, my lattice barrier was insufficient. Watching from my kitchen window I could see Fawn wandering toward the pine grove. Dropping everything, I went out to guide her back and considered how to make a better barrier. As I had already been contemplating the

necessary, though sometimes difficult, restrictions I must make for my children, the problem of barrier building grew. I opened the gate to give them more freedom and opportunities, but other types of barriers are still needed to restrict their behavior. Parenting a teenager is very tricky business, for once the gate is open, the multi-flora always looks greener on the other side. Like my goats, teens really are still pretty innocent and naive as to what is good for them, even though they would totally disagree. They long to push further and further down the hill, into the restricted areas, even if it does harm to their parents. For if the beautiful and nurturing trees and shrubs closer to my home, closer to my heart, are destroyed, much will be lost.

And so the arduous chore of erecting better barriers goes on. I try to see this as a necessary, even natural process. Searching around for more barrier material, I found a 10' length of picket fence and some folded up wire fencing. So the barrier grew, and once I myself found it difficult to get through it I knew it would do for at least awhile. However, I am realistic enough to know that there is always potential for them to go even further down the tree line, beyond my barrier, and once again begin exploring the forbidden territory. The goats may find those pine trees, but what will our child n find? Drug s alcohol, cigarettes, and maybe even worse things. All I can do is hope my barrier holds.

Through it all, I try to be philosophical. As naturally as a rivulet of water seeks passage from its source, my goats and my teens will weave their way in and out and find their way around any obstacle, be it rock, shrub, fence or parent. This is a natural process, I tell myself, as they strive to separate themselves from the parents, for ultimately they must find their own way. Still, it is the instinct of the parent to protect, and to put up the barriers. And so the process goes on and on. But remember, it is a natural, I tell myself.

'Mere is some comfort in this realization.

There will always be weak spots in a fence, no matter how well it is built, and both goats and children are experts at finding them. We work hard at trying to repair, but sometimes we just don't have the time or the energy to repair. It is at those times we just have to trust. Most of all, we must be sure not to build barriers where barriers are not needed. I speak here of the barrier of miss-communication and anger. These are the more subtle barriers which must come down at any cost, but which stand all too often as a moat between us and our teens.

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