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Painting the Lines

Painting the Lines

Did you know that parenting sometimes resembles road work? Our town recently went to the expense of widening one of our primary roads. Previously it had been a frustrating and unsafe road. The shoulders were a thin ribbon that fell off into a ditch. The lanes were narrow and hard to maneuver due to large vehicles using the route.

The new paving project converted two lanes into three. The wide road was nice, but the designers made a major mistake: they didn’t paint new lines. Because of this oversight, the wider road was even more dangerous. Which direction gets two lanes? Does each side get an extra-wide lane? Where is the center? All the drivers made their own assumptions and their own rules.

The two buildings the road services added to the confusion. The road passes a high school and the hospital. The result: all those technology-distracted teenagers pulling out as they make their end-of-day escape, oblivious to traffic around them. Or people in distress trying to get loved ones (or themselves) to medical attention. The road leads to our industrial part of town as well, so larger vehicles also need the space. School buses, ambulances, 18-wheelers, dump trucks, etc. all took advantage of the wider lanes.

Thankfully, the new format added shoulders with a high curb, so going off the road into the dangerous falloff would take some effort. There were solid side boundaries. But the lack of painted lines caused disorder and physical harm. It wasn’t uncommon to see one driver coming straight at another, both thinking they had the right of way. Having the hospital so close came in handy with the additional confusion and accidents.

Over time, warning signs were mounted. Directional arrows were painted. And, eventually, proper lines were rendered. So what’s my point with this crazy road story? It’s easy to cross a line when none of them are painted.

As a father, I am a line-painter for my children. I can’t be – and shouldn’t be – a constant column of “policemen” standing on the route making sure my sons—the drivers—stay perfectly in the middle of their side of the road. However, I can paint a line and encourage my children to not cross over that line. I can provide warning signs and arrows. I can model how to drive the road of life.

It’s liberty within limits, “Considering others, exercise as much freedom as you need within your lane, but do not cross that line!”

Fathers, paint the line and warn your children, “Danger lives on the other side.” Providing boundaries will prove invaluable for both of you.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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