The Life of a Gatekeeper

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 6/52

She stood at the door of the gym, facing away from me; wide stance and crossed arms, scanning the floor for unsafe behavior or toddlers who might be wandering into the path of well-meaning capture the flag players. The weather through the winter months doesn’t always allow for outside play, so indoors, the whole bunch sorts out the abundance of energy each seems to have (save the mamas who hustle around and make the magic happen). 

Some are in classrooms, preparing lessons and supplies for when recess is done and all the kids file into their assigned classrooms.

Some are cleaning up from lunch, where over sixty children eat on picnic blankets laid atop the midnight-blue carpet stretched across the church’s basement floor. Only after the flock has moved over to the gym can moms gather stray lunch items, collect wrappers and the uneaten bits left behind. Blankets are folded and carried outside to shake out the crumbs, and industrial strength vacuums are trusted to take care of the rest. 

Some moms tend their littlest ones who have come along for the ride, changing diapers and feeding in peace while their big kids play. 

One mom is in the kitchen, rinsing out the tea and coffee cups that have been used throughout the morning by all the women who have brought their children to this one-day-a-week thing we do to spark a love of learning and awe for the threads of hope and wonder woven through history, science, and the Bible. 

It’s our homeschool cooperative, and it is a haven for all of us. 

The circle we form in the morning is a beautiful joining of hands to pray for the most present and pressing needs in each of our lives. We come with joys and sorrows, petitions and praise. We stand shoulder to shoulder, each familiar with the sobering responsibility of raising children to know truth, to see connections between the physical and spiritual realms, and to apply wisdom in real-world situations. 

As the end of recess draws nearer, kids come to the door, hoping to sneak by to stop at a drinking fountain or find their moms. But experience has taught all of us if you let one cross the line prematurely, the deliberate boundaries fall, and confusion and chaos take over. 

It takes attentive vigilance to guard the door. The gatekeeper must oversee what happens and guide the kids through the transition of what will happen next. 

I’ve stood in that doorway before. It’s a job that easily overwhelms. There are other moms inside the gym that keep an eye on the bathrooms and monitor the activities, but the door job is still a bear. Kids come near, expectantly hoping the rules don’t apply to them, so they can pass through to whatever their heart desires to do next, but it can’t happen without bringing on a tidal wave of children who also think the rules do not apply to them.

Kids are smart, they watch and see what everyone else is able to pull off, what they can get away with. They know the gatekeeper is there, they know the expectation that once they’ve gone in, no one leaves the gym until it is 1pm. Ah, but if one breaches the invisible barrier, they think it gives them automatic permission to go themselves.

A gatekeeper must be firm but kind, holding the boundary for the benefit of everyone.

Being the gatekeeper of our homes is similar. Every time I set a limit, there is an attempt to breach. There is a test, a stepping in with tip-toes. Will this work? Can I get away with it? I’ll bet I can if I just keep testing. This is why vigilance is exhausting. This is also why it is needed. 

What do limits provide for our kids? I’ve grown to see limits as a loving thing. Only with limits can our kids learn to navigate freedom with wisdom. When in the gym, they can play whatever they want. Capture the flag, basketball, or tag. They can choose which friends they’re going to spend their time with, what conversations they’re going to have, and how active they’re going to be. Is it a mental decompress time or a physical exertion time? The child decides—but within the boundary. 

The gatekeeper isn’t a micromanager, just a watchful eye, compassionate guidance, and firm boundary-enforcer. As I learn more about my own limits and the freedom I find within them, the more committed I am to being a diligent gatekeeper of my home.


1511. a stretch of chill days, 1512. flexibility, 1513. new writer friends, 1514. insulin, 1515. episodes recorded, 1516. hodgepodge snow gear (photo coming next week), 1517. protein trail mix, 1518. honesty, 1519. safe winter driving, 1520. last-minute library return

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1 Comment
  • Reply
    Tina Welch
    February 9, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Love your story Emily.
    You are a special, special mommy!

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