This reminds me of the time many years ago when we visited the Chartres Cathedral in France with our own 4-year-old. We'd been living in Finland and decided to do a little traveling before heading back to the States. Our young son wasn't especially interested in old churches, but he was intrigued by the sculpture of the Nativity on the choir screen inside the cathedral. It's the only work of art on the subject I'm aware of where Mary is lying down after giving birth.
Ah, the French! Always so sensible!
I pointed to the baby in the manger. "Who's that?" I asked.
"Baby Jesus," our son answered.
I pointed to his mother. "And who's that?"
I pointed to the man standing at the foot of Mary's bed, tenderly draping a blanket over her. "Who's that?"
I pointed out that, technically speaking, there isn't a doctor mentioned in the Gospels. No sir, Mary had that baby all by herself in a barn, a thought that horrified our young son.
Once again, poor Mary.
Anyway, back to my granddaughter. The part about Mary not being able to find a room has obviously made a huge impression on her. And her booming voice when she imitates the innkeeper — EVERYBODY IS WELCOME, EXCEPT FOR YOU, MARY — has started me thinking about some of the doors I've closed over the past few years.
Here's the thing. We all need boundaries — those psychic lines of demarcation that say I won't do this, either because I can't or I shouldn't. As Robert Frost observed in his poem "The Mending Wall," good fences do, indeed, make good neighbors.
Like many women, I have had trouble historically setting boundaries. It's hard to pull back and say no sometimes, especially when the individuals or institutions doing the asking are important to you. There have been times when I've said "yes" to too many things at once, only to do them all badly and at the expense of those nearest and dearest to me. "Oh, my family will understand," I would tell myself as I raced off for the thousandth time that day. "After all, they're my family."
It's taken me a long time to learn how to say no, especially to worthy endeavors. But I can. And I do. And I'm proud of this life skill I've acquired. Knowing what your limitations are is one of the good things about getting older.