Seeing as how it was just Canada Day, and tomorrow is Independence Day for the United States, freedom seems like a good topic. I’m thoroughly fed up with politics, though, so I’m staying away from political freedom, and am going to talk about it from another perspective; my kids, and my book (Grace Group).
It’s only been recently that my kids have been interested in freeing themselves from the yoke of my oppression, Bisky particularly, but the twins are following suit. They do still clearly look to me as their (sole) provider of affection, diaper changing, and sustenance if I’m within sight, but this dependency is gradually making way for some independent thought. Apparently, they are ready to make their own decisions regarding bath time, nutrition, sleep, and the cleaning of one’s room (or non-cleaning) and of course the always challenging wardrobe selection.
We live in a culture where freedom is sacrosanct, and we all pretty much believe we should have the freedom to make our own choices. This is actually a running theme in Grace Group (and a couple of my other novels). Free will means that we have the ability to choose what we will do and what we want in our life. Of course, this in no way absolves us of the consequences of our choices, whether it be legally, spiritually, or emotionally (as much as that would be nice). There is (currently) nothing preventing me from choosing to engage in any number of things that aren’t good for me, but this doesn’t mean I won’t get hurt by it eventually.
I’m not looking for controversy here, so let’s use potato chips as an example. There is nothing stopping me from eating a diet consisting of nothing but potato chips and ice cream. In fact, this pretty much sums up the last month of my pregnancy with the twins. I had the freedom to choose to do this. This freedom in no way prevented me from experiencing dehydration, bloating, weight gain, and overall less than optimal health as a result of my choices. But you know what? I’m an adult of reasonably sound mental faculties so in this culture, I am free to binge away to my heart’s content.
Ah, but what about my kids? They, too, have indicated that they’d prefer the chips and ice cream meal plan. Loudly. Repeatedly. Every. Darn. Day. There’s a school of parenting thought that says I should just give in to them and let them experience the consequences. If they want to leave the house without a jacket, let ‘em freeze. I agree with this wholeheartedly in theory, but as a Gen-X’er, I’m finding myself not unlike my age-peers who created a generation of folks who don’t do well with consequences and disappointment (even though my age peers generally made better life choices and got a 20-year head start on me in the procreation arena). I don’t want my kid to learn the hard way not to climb on the roof, or play with the stove, or drive the car when they’re 3. So there is this natural tendency in me to want them to learn anecdotally and not experientially.
And I am aware that no one in the history of ever has learned life lessons anecdotally, and my kids are no different. I can tell #StopThatAiden 100 times to stop teasing his siblings, but he never does until he experiences their retaliation – either physically, or through shunning. And I’m pretty sure Bisky is going to have to learn the hard way that getting mad and refusing to talk to people is an unacceptable way to negotiate differences of opinion because Lord knows reasoning doesn’t work.
It’s a constant battle (for me) of deciding whether to let them face my admittedly mild consequences for crappy behavior, or to let big bad life dish it out. I suppose the older they get, the more I’ll let life take over, even though it’s tough. It certainly gives me a renewed appreciation for our spiritual journey. If you subscribe to the belief that there is an omnipotent, loving being who has a vested interest in our well-being and character development (and I do), and if you’ve ever had a three-year-old raging at you because you won’t let him eat candy and crayons for breakfast (and I do), you can get an inkling of what dealing with humans must be like for God.
But I WANT to date that bad boy, or blow off college, or smoke this, eat that, drink this other thing…it’s my life…it’s MY RIGHT!! Been there, done that, and then I’ve also been the one to cry ‘it’s not faaaiiiirrrrr…why is life so haaaaaaarrrrrd? Why does everything happen to meeeeee?’ Just like my toddlers! And I imagine the answer we adults get (if we’re willing to listen) is just the same as what we say to our kids. ‘Look, I told you the rules, I told you what would happen, and you wouldn’t listen. Now do you want to try it my way?’ And honestly, much of the time I say ‘No, I don’t agree with those rules. That’s not how I’d do it if I were in charge, so I’m going to follow different rules. I have the right. It’s MY life.’ Which is true, I do have the freedom to choose. But the consequences remain the same. Don’t you just hate that? I know my kids do.
So as we celebrate our freedom tomorrow, I’ll certainly be thinking about using that freedom wisely, to choose not just what I want, but what’s best for me long term. And I hopefully will be teaching my kids the same (even while letting them eat popsicles all day long, because it is a holiday after all).
Happy Canada Day, and Happy Independence Day!