I Did Whatever I Wanted

Jonathan Ott, contributor

Poppa was a rolling stone… I mean… Poppa was always chasing rocks… What I’m trying to say is my dad freebased crank. It put an emotional strain on our family, because there was never enough left over for my Mom. And you know how women can get when they think you’re holding out on them.

It turns out practicing the art of meth is time-intensive. My parents were dedicated artists, so they weren’t around much when I was a child. I did whatever I wanted. Well, except eat. Mom was trading the Food Stamps for Hot Ice. But pretty much anything else I could do. When I wasn’t stealing candy, I was jumping off the roof with a grocery bag parachute, or I was having any number of Tom Sawyer-esque adventures all over the city. Through all this I was learning, through trial and error, by interacting with my environment. I wasn’t learning through the words of my parents. They were too busy sleeping for three days at a time. Luckily, I wasn’t in that environment forever.

Eventually, our aunt and uncle came over when my siblings and I were swimming in a mud puddle in the middle of the street in our underwear. When they entered the dilapidated apartment, they probably realized we were as skinny as wire coat hangers because of all the nutrient-free food in our empty refrigerator. My aunt and uncle took us into their home when I was 9 years old. The transition from almost no parenting into a house of concerned parents was stark.

My aunt never chased me out the the house with a butcher knife like my mother, so that was a big plus. However, at my aunt’s I was getting buried alive with affection, food, and constant supervision. This seemed to be the norm for all of my childhood friends. My aunt made all my meals, washed my clothes, and monitored everything I did. My aunt and uncle over-helped. I felt like it stymied my personal growth, like I wasn’t able to explore my world anymore without being leashed. I fought the transition into the societal norm of parental control. It didn’t, and still doesn’t, seem natural.

In nature animals don’t hover over their kids. Sure, sometimes they eat them alive, but at least they don’t friggin hover! They feed them, and they protect them when they are in real danger. Then they release them into the wild. The rest is up to their offspring. Good parenting is not about protecting children from every minor discomfort. Parental guidance should be about letting our children guide themselves. Certainly, we humans have to coddle our ugly shrimp-pink infants, but we should give them more freedom as they grow. It is said that the best way to get something done is to forbid your kids from doing it. I don’t think society understands this. I remember going over to my friends house when I was 22, and his mother apologized to him for not cleaning his room! That’s why we have a nation of 30-somethings who still live at home. They’re safe in their ignorance, with no idea of how to interact with the outside world. If I could do it all over again, I would have fought for a little more freedom. Maybe then I wouldn’t be sitting here eating Top-Ramen and Pop-Tarts for dinner because I don’t know how to cook for myself.

ed note: This man does not have children.

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