It's 5 o'clock Shabbat afternoon and I'm in the yard watching my girls put on a ballerina-magic show. I'm not quite clear about the plot, but the costumes are fabulous and there is a lot of spinning. As they dance breathlessly and tell their stories with tulle and tiaras, I am struck by how free they are in their expression. This garden scene is freedom incarnate.

My vision of freedom has evolved over the years. As a young and impetuous girl, freedom was something I always pined for more of. My utopia basically involved a driver's license, twenty bucks and no curfew. I saw rules as stifling, restrictive and oppressive. I resisted them at every turn.

It's really the rules that set us freeBut grow and mature, as we all eventually do, I have come to depend on structure in my life. In fact, I am lost without it. I follow rules everyday. I've even created several of my own rules, which I enforce with gusto. And it just hit me sitting in the garden watching my girls spin with wild abandon that it's really the rules that set us free.

Rules allow us to focus our energy. My girls know that they are safe and protected in our yard, they will not be ridiculed for their performance (my rule), they will not be clobbered over the head with a baton (another one of my rules), and they can expect dinner and bedtime when their show is over. Within the structure that we've created for them, they can spin their little hearts out, because they know that when they stop spinning, the world, as they know it, will still be standing firm.

Even with my parenting, I can be wild and act silly with my kids when the mood strikes. I can put on a tiara and spin with them if I like. I can do that without damaging my authority as a parent because my kids know what to expect from me. I have a track record of providing stability.

I find it interesting that there are those who look at our life as Torah-observant Jews and think that we lack freedom. I've been told that my lifestyle is oppressive, that because we live according to so many rules, we are so restricted. Yet, this ballerina magic performance was happening on Shabbat. On the day of rest. A day of rest that is filled with so many rules and directives of what is allowed and what isn't. I have friends who question how I could possibly go through a twenty-four hour period with so many do's and don'ts.

And yet, it is specifically because of these rules, because of this structure, that I am able to take the time to relax, watch my daughters, enjoy time with my family and truly rest. If those rules weren't in place, I couldn't have this freedom. If it wasn't for the restrictions of Shabbat, I would be working. I would be a slave to my email and my cell phone and my laundry. These rules, these guidelines, may externally give me borders and boundaries, but because of them, my soul, the real me, is free to express itself.

There are different kinds of rules in our house. There are rules that are enforced with strictness for one child, while they may be slacked for another. That is, as I see it, the art of parenting—figuring out which kid thrives within what kind of structure. I have one kid that I encourage to test the rules a bit. She needs to learn to trust that she will not lose favor in my eyes if she colors outside of the lines, literally or metaphorically. She is a kid who needs to make mistakes and understand that she will be just as loved and accepted whether she performs "perfectly" or not.

In thirty seconds flat there was a mish-mosh of paint everywhereOne summer morning I decided to set up an art project for the kids. I cut big pieces of butcher paper and taped them to the porch floor outside. I set up cans of paint and let the kids go for it. In thirty seconds flat there was a mish-mosh of paint everywhere, on the paper, in their hair, you name it. It was rowdy and fun, but it was a big mess and the kids shortly lost interest.

I tried it again a few days later, but this time, I drew a border around the perimeter of the paper. Amazingly, each kid lay down in front of their paper and a picture emerged for each one. This kept them entertained for almost an hour, whereas the previous project tapered off after about fifteen minutes. It was those borders that helped them focus. The borders allowed them a truer freedom of expression.

There is a blessing that is said every morning after we rise: "Thank You G‑d for not making me a slave." When I say that now, I try to picture my girls in our garden, eyes heavenward, and arms wide-open, the embodiment of freedom. It reminds me what a precious gift our freedom truly is and it reminds me that freedom is not something beyond me… it's something that truly exists and emanates from within me. It's as close as the nearest tiara.