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.