The Downside of Freedom

October 22, 2012 § 7 Comments

Our boys have enormous freedom to do as they please. This is by design; we have engineered it into our lives. Most mornings after chores and breakfast, they set out on some adventure or another, into the woods or down the field. Usually they do this together, although it is not infrequent that one returns before the other, complaining of a grave injustice: Fin didn’t want to pretend it was the “old days.” Rye didn’t want to pretend they were carrying a 30-30 and everyone knows you can’t hunt deer with a .22. Rye put wet wood on the fire and it went out. Fin made Rye carry the heavy backpack. Like I said, grave, grave injustices.

From a parenting perspective, there is a downside to the tremendous degree of freedom they have been afforded, and it is this: The boys seem to have developed a sense of entitlement regarding how they spend their time. In short, when the occasion calls for them to do something they’d rather not do, they are not terribly accommodating. Actually, that’s not true: What I meant to say is that in these circumstances they can be pissy little snot-nosed brats.

Penny and I talk about this a lot. Depending on our mood, and the degree to which the boys have managed to invoke our ire, our perspective on their entitlement spans a broad chasm of possible outcomes. The worst of these, we figure, is that we’ve failed them completely and they will never amount to much of anything. The best is that we are allowing them to be discerning regarding how they pass their time, and this discernment will serve them well as they go out into the world beyond a certain hillside in Cabot, VT.

I suspect the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, if only because experience has taught me that this is where truth most often lurks. They will, of course, need to learn how to accept that life is not all a bed of roses (or, to put in the context of their current passions, one extended hunting trip in the “old days,” replete with large caliber weaponry, a pack animal for the heavy lifting, and a crackling fire on which roast fresh meat). But I can’t help but think of how my own sense of entitlement over my time has shaped my life and generally (I’d like to think) for the better. I did not like school, so I walked away from it. I did not like working for others, so I chose not to. I do not like to spend a lot of time indoors, so I don’t. I want to live the way I want to live, conventions be damned.

Maybe it’s just narcissism, or it’s slightly lesser cousin, self-indulgence. Probably it’s a little of each. But damn it anyway, why is it so hard for us to remember that time is all we truly have? Why shouldn’t we choose how to pass it?

Because if we don’t, there are plenty of people who will be happy to choose for us.

§ 7 Responses to The Downside of Freedom

  • Jennifer Fisk says:

    You are experiencing what every parent does with their kids. You have provided your boys with a fantastic life but they will have their times of trying to dominate each other, kind of like puppies, and pushing back at you and Penny. That is all part of growing up and will probably get worse before getting better. After they fledge you will see what wonderful people you raised. A friend of mine once said, he was amazed at how smart he’d become after his oldest daughter’s first year of college.

  • […] says if she’s not doing the harvesting, at least include the latest from Ben […]

  • Dena says:

    My daughter is now eleven and I’ve tried to always let her be her own person, although there are times when she is overly so and it messes with how I want to spend my time. Sound horribly selfish? I know!. Having kids sure teaches us how to do everything at once and feel like we’ve done nothing at all but it sure is fun watching them become their own people.

  • This is about relationships ultimately. Their freedom, like yours, will always be curtailed somewhat with their need/desire to be in some degree of relationship with other people. To choose not to do a chore (dishes?) or not to do some practice at some skill (fiddle?reading?) may not seem like it has anything to do with other people, but it means that you likely won’t be fed enthusiastically by your mum, or you might not be able to understand the instructions in the engine repair manual, and have to rely on Dad to read it for you when he’s around – which sure seems like relationships are involved to me.

  • Angela Kelly says:

    Beautifully and truthfully put. Time is indeed all we have.

  • A resounding, yes! And also, sometimes the dishes need to be washed before you go out stalking large game animals.

  • Val says:

    Oh, I hear you. As a mama of 2 homeschooled little girls that sound a lot like your boys, I feel your pain when needing to bend their ideas of time management. I try not to threaten with “you would have been in school for 3 hours already if…”. The way they interact with their world usually makes up for these moments :-)

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