“I thought you were going to teach us rules, and steps, and plans.”

“Annabelle, rules and steps and tips and plans will make you old before your time,” Ms. Rapscott said sternly.

Elise Primavera, Ms. Rapscott’s Girls, 96.

This quote comes from a delightful novel by Elise Primavera, Ms. Rapscott’s Girls. It’s a tale of five girls who magically end up at a special boarding school “for girls of busy parents.” Each girl has her own challenges related to her personality and background.

Annabelle wants certainty. She’s often very anxious, and looks to rules to make sense of her world, to control the people around her, and to protect herself from bad consequences. It’s not her fault–she’s been neglected by her busy parents. This is how she’s coping.

While the other girls need more rules, Annabelle actually needs fewer rules. She has to learn to stop seeking control through micromanaging everyone around her in order to thrive in her relationships and truly grow.

Rules are important. We need laws and policies. Without them we’d be in chaos. We also need tips and plans. We all need wisdom. And yet, too many rules, or the wrong types of rules–rather, the underlying desire to control things we can’t control–can most certainly “Make us old before our time.” Which I read as a loss of joy and relational flourishing.