Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dangerous Fences - Second Generation Fence Building

(a parable)

I have already explained how and why we came to have all these fences (and a few barriers) around our house, but I haven't really told you the whole story. Many of our neighbors watched our lives carefully, and they genuinely seemed to appreciate how well behaved and orderly our house was. However, they were very critical of how we "sheltered" our kids.

They warned us that there might be problems after our kids started building homes for themselves, and we dismissed their critique as simply being people who loved the product but didn't like the process. We were very proud of our kids.  It wasn't long after we built the fences with our back-yard neighbor that things began to unravel, and before we knew what had happened, everything we had worked for began falling apart.

It was at this time that our oldest son soon moved away to begin his own household, and we were very careful to help him establish all the right fences and barriers for his family. After all...it didn't make sense for him to have to learn the hard way. He would be ahead of the game by using our yard as a template.

We thought things were going well, and he seemed to have gotten a good start following our advise. Of course, we didn't mind the few minor changes that he made here or there. As long as he had high fences, his kids would be safe. Of course, it wasn't long before he began to notice that his kids were finding their way over, around, or through their fences, and he would always come to us for assistance in how to construct and maintain strong fences. However, we knew something was wrong when he gradually stopped coming to us for advise.

As concerned parents, we worried that he might be tempted to remove some of those good fences, but we didn't want to interfere with their home. After a long period of near silence, we drove down their road, looking those familiar fences, but to our horror, most of the fences were removed or destroyed. He had lowered what few fences were left, and to top it off, he had built many windows in his house, overlooking the dangerous places. His kids were definitely not being kept safe.

We thought we had taught him better than that, and we pleaded with him to put the fences back and protect his family. We reminded him of the hurt that always happened to those who played on the other side of the fences, but he didn't seem to listen. We also tried to help him understand that the windows he had built would only make his family desire the other side of the fences more, but he was immovable, and our hearts were broken.

There was one bright spot in our lives. Our oldest daughter married a fine young man, very much like her father, and he was especially careful about fences. We were glad to see this because we didn't want her to have the same problems that her brother was having. Our son-in-law even asked permission to use our yard as an example, and even though he took away a few minor fences added a few of his own, he had very high fences, and we knew that at least their kids were safe.  All we could do is watch and see what would happen to our children; it was a very helpless feeling.

On the one hand, our daughter's kids were the picture of goodness. They were growing older, and of course, they tried the fences as all children tend to do, but our daughter was right on top of it. She remembered how her and her brother used to secretly play on the other side of the fence, so she was careful to construct new fences and repair the ones that were getting old.

Then on the other hand, we were increasingly burdened by our eldest son. There were very few fences in his yard, lower than they should have been and painted red, instead of white. He seemed to be rebelling against the high fences that we had made a part of his youth. The worst part was the windows...so many that you could see every area of the yard, including the dangerous places. It was almost as if he was rejecting everything that we taught him.

Thanksgiving we all met at our son's house, and we determined to try one last time to help him see his error. We asked him why he built all the windows and took down the good fences, and he started by reminiscing about sneaking around the fences with his sister. He described how they learned that they could go over, through, or around the fence, as long as they were careful not to look like they were on the wrong side. We were surprised at how often they played there.

In the middle of the conversation, he and his sister began to argue. She contended that higher fences were needed, and she claimed this was what she and her husband had done with great success. He, on the other hand, said that all the extra fences didn't address the dangers at all and that windows were a far better way to address the problems that they were describing. It would be hard to tell you the gist of the discussion, so next time, I'll just bring a copy of their conversation for you to read.

Next: Fences or Windows?
Previous: The Other Side of the Fence

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