Sunday, January 11, 2015

Freedom, Then and Now

I don’t remember how old I was when I first started asking. But I do remember, with fondness the many times that I was able to “stay in the car by myself” when my parents went into the store.

I may have been tired or grumpy. But probably, most frequently, I wanted to read a book. My parents would go into the store and I had my own private time to immerse myself in whatever story I was reading at the time.  The sun in Ventura County, CA would warm the car to a comfortable, nap-inducing climate (nowhere near enough to be dangerous, of course).

I honestly don’t remember how many times this happened. It happened more than twice, for sure, but memories blur. I just remember it as a period of time in my life, not as individual occurrences. My parents probably remember the details better than I do; I remember things better from my adult years than I do from my youth. Parents also tend to remember milestones in the lives of their children fairly well. 

I assume these instances, or this period of time in my life, held the same meaning for my parents as it did for me, albeit from a different perspective:
It meant that I was growing up.
I had volition of my own.
I could make important choices.
I could separate myself from my parents in small but meaningful ways.
It meant that I had freedom of my own.

I could decide not to participate in what my parents were doing.
Did I want to go in to the store? Nah, I’ll stay here.
I’ll read my book.
I’ll be alone for a while.
Power. Choice.

As I said, I don’t remember how old I was, but my son is seven. And he’s asking to stay in the car all by himself. He’s not engrossed in a book like I was, so he might be a bit younger than I was. Sometimes he wants to play with a toy he has with him.  Sometimes he wants to sleep. I can tell his request is really about his desire to assert his sense of self. He wants to safely make choices on his own. He wants to choose to do something different than his parents are doing. He knows that the family is going into the store and he wants to declare that he will do something different. He is attempting to stretch and develop his soul. He is attempting to become a free person.
And I feel compelled to say “No”.

And my son asks me why he can’t stay in the car all by himself.
I tell him, “because, I might get arrested”

Not because it’s not safe (Oregon weather isn’t even going to heat up the car to napping temperature).
Not because I don’t trust him.
Not because I’m going too far away or will be gone too long.
Not because it’s “wrong”.

I’ve heard too many stories and read too many articles about someone calling the police because a parent allowed his or her child to grow up, to have volition, to have power, to have freedom.

I have to try to explain to my son that in modern society some people won’t let him grow up. Some people, and some laws, don’t let him have freedom.

And if I can’t grant my child freedom, I have to wonder whether I ever really had it myself.

1 comment:

Kyle Varoskovic said...

That last phrase is pretty powerful! I feel God continues to shape my idea of "freedom," especially in the culture we live in. Preconceived notions and concepts let us think "not having to do what mom or dad are doing," is a liberating experience, when we sometimes only find those ideas seeming good because other people seem to value it for one reason or another.

I hope the freedom we can seek may be something greater.

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