I’ve been pondering the nature of freedom a bit this week. Not the flags flying, fireworks exploding, stand for the national anthem, blood of our forefathers kind of freedom that gets most of the attention. I was thinking more about individualized freedom in its domestic and mundane appearances. That feeling of release, of unencumbered lightness that bubbles up when the circumstances are just right.
Kids and adults experience freedom very differently. For my children, freedom is often linked to independence. At (almost) eleven and nine, my big kids crave independence. They want to walk to school with friends, stay home alone when I run to the gas station, or take responsibility for making Saturday morning pancakes.
A couple weeks ago, with nearly-earned money from a successful consignment sale burning a hole in their pockets, my big kids begged me to take them to the store to squander it. When I declined, citing dinner preparations, they asked to go alone. I bit back the instinctive refusal and sent them off on their bicycles with orders to stick together, watch for cars, and remember to factor in sales tax. They returned thirty minutes later, glowing and sweaty, having proudly procured nail polish, a Halloween mask, a candy bar, and a stuffed animal for their little sister, who was not yet big enough to accompany them on their excursion.
Their freedom grows and flourishes under the strength of their own responsibility and self-determination. Freedom to stay an extra ten minutes at the park. Freedom to bike to the library.
For me, freedom is just the opposite. Freedom is the temporary absence of responsibility – which often stems from the temporary absence of children. Don’t judge me. I love them desperately, and I can still love them desperately from a distance. Sometimes it feels great to do just that.
For me, freedom is binge-watching Amazon’s Carnival Row in an empty house, at liberty to admire without interruptions how well Orlando Bloom has aged. It is eating peanut butter and banana toast for dinner because I don’t have anyone to cook for but myself. Freedom to nap – now that is something to celebrate.
Freedom feels deliciously selfish at times. It surfaces in the moments when you could be doing something “productive” but instead you find yourself curled up on the screened in porch with a book and a mug of tea and you are one hundred percent okay with your decision.
And then there’s Buddy the dog, who takes freedom more literally. Physical freedom is all his little heart desires. It calls to him from between the legs of the six-year-old guarding the door, although she is thankfully getting better at simply closing said door instead of trying to block it with her tiny body.
Buddy seeks the freedom to run at top speed, explore new scents, and ‘play’ with new chickens. Too bad for him. We compromise on supervised romps in a fenced in parklet near our house, sometimes rounding up a neighbor dog for canine play dates.
I suppose that in all three iterations, everyday freedom is the opportunity to put your own desires first, whether that desire is an unaccompanied trip to the library, a pint of ice cream for dinner, or a satisfying roll in the mud. All seem like worthy pursuits to me.