Staying In The Lines

I’d parked the car a little closer to the line than I usually prefer. But it was easy to come to terms with that, to just leave the car there rather than trying to reverse it back out and have another go. After all, I had to get Squirm out of his car seat, and the extra room on the drivers side would make that much easier. Plus, I was technically in the lines, which is what really matters, right?

She arrived while I was getting Squirm out. It was immediately obvious, from the space between my car (parked too close to the line) and hers, that she had actually parked over the line. And, I realised as she walked around the car to retrieve her hand bag, she really didn’t care.

I pondered the idea of lines as we walked into the library. Lines, in a car park, are put there for a reason. They let us park as many cars as possible in there. They tell the driver to stay clear of driveways and emergency exits. We have important lines in other places too – the yellow line that keeps us a safe distance away from passing trains; lines on the road which tell us when it’s safe to overtake or not. But when does a line become less important?

Last year, at the school I was teaching at, it was decided that the children would sit in their class lines to eat their lunch. It wasn’t for safety reasons, but to try and impose discipline. It didn’t really work – though there’s a whole other story there – but it did make my students feel resentful and distrusted. Lines, used in that kind of way, are a way for adults to impose ‘order’ on children, to force them to fit into a certain kind of role.

I read a blog post the other day, in which the author’s young daughter had got a low check mark for being distracted in groups. Instead of paying attention to the teacher at the front, she was busy investigating her world – focusing on details which other people wouldn’t have dreamed of looking for. She showed interest in the world and empathy for the people around her, but at that time she wasn’t fitting into the lines that had been made for her.

To make things more confusing for children – while we insist on order, insist on being the ‘one size’ that is so prevalent in the school system – we also tell them that they need to think outside the box, that they need to be creative, that they need to be deep thinkers (but only within a certain time frame). Is this why the school system is so hard for some children? Because we confuse them by saying ‘do this exactly right’ but tell them to think wide and creatively?

These are big ideas, that I’ll probably keep pondering on as I watch Squirm grow, as I watch him learn about the world around him. But, as I walked out of the library, I noticed that the ladies car was still there. And, it wasn’t even over the line that much. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal after all . . .

Photo from Flickr



  1. Oh my goodness, your second last paragraph switched on such a Realisation Lightbulb that I actually gasped.

    Wow. You’ve hit the nail on the head there. I had a much longer comment but you’ve so opened this up for me that it was long enough for a blog post of its own! So I’ll work on one and link back to your post here. Thank you!

  2. Thought provoking post – lines and order matter but so does creative thinking .
    PS I still find it very annoying when people park too close to the lines on my side – especially when my boys were babies and i couldn’t get them in the car easily.

    1. I think I have a lot more thoughts on this topic – but then I like it when there are thoughts to be had.

      (I dislike it when I’ve carefully parked to give myself enough room, and then the care that was there leave, and another one parks too close. But it was actually worse when I was 41 weeks pregnant and HUGE 🙂 )

    1. I think that some discipline is important – we need those lines on the road and the yellow line at the train station. I suppose the importance comes in having a reason for the discipline and in communicating those reasons

  3. Its always a really difficult issue to resolve, isn’t it? How much control should we exert with children and how much freedom should we allow them? I’m a teacher too and I have often wondered whilst in the midst of the absolute chaos of the children freely exploring their world and being curious (and it always appears like chaos when they are enthusiastic, motivated and independent) what an outsider would think looking in. Most would probably think ‘those children need more rules and boundaries – they are clearly out of control’. Is there a way to have both??

    1. I always loved a happily chaotic classroom 🙂 One of my best lessons involved kids throwing Barbie dolls out of windows . . . But I don’t think everyone else saw the learning they were doing

  4. we homeschool our youngest son for this very reason – he didnt fit into the order of school! And the lines were too hard for him to get. He is a big thinker/dreamer and couldnt stand to be stuck in a classroom all day.
    And sometimes lines are meant to broken 🙂

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