Do You Think for Yourself?
This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.
Me: What time did you wake up this morning?
The Young Statesman (13): 5:30
Me: People are going to be interested in knowing what it is that causes a thirteen-year-old to wake at 5:30 in the morning. Can you tell me about that?
YS: If I get up that early I can go to the gym and I can practice the organ. Those are two things I want to do every day and we do that every day. It’s done and I don’t have to worry about it. When I wake up early I can get that done early.
Me: You didn’t just wake yourself up, did you?
YS: I woke The Baby Anarchist (8).
Me: How did you do that?
YS: I tuned on the light and woke him and gave him his clothes. While he brushed his teeth I made his bed. Then I went to my room, made my bed, tidied up, put away my laundry, brushed my teeth, and went downstairs. I let the dog out, I fed her, I filled up the water bottles for the gym, I got the breakfast cooler together, and we went to the gym.
Me: Did your brother need help with his shoes?
YS: Yeah. The shoe laces aren’t that good so I helped him.
Me: Why do you help your brother?
YS: One day I’m going to want his help. I’d might as well be nice to him.
Me: Did I tell you to do these things?
YS: No. You said you were going to the gym at 6 in the morning and if I got up early I could join you. Then you asked BA if he wanted to come so now all of us go.
Me: You’re a pretty independent kid, aren’t you?
YS: I don’t like to be told what to do.
Me: If I started pestering you to do things, what would be your reaction?
YS: I’d wonder if you’d been hit in the head.
Me: If I were insisting that you do these things would you be as willing as you are?
Me: Why not?
YS: Because when I’m being told to do things that puts me in a passive frame of mind. And it makes me not like you if you’re bossing me around.
Me: Tell me about being passive.
YS: If I try to take the initiative, I’m going to end up butting up against you. I’m living off of you and what you’re telling me to do. I stop thinking.
Me: At that point you’re just being directed.
YS: I stop thinking. I’m just in brainless mode. I’m like a dog.
Me: How long can you stand to be in that mode?
YS: Not very long. If you’re in that mode for very long, you rebel.
Me: So you act rebelliously?
YS: Yes. In response to not being allowed to think for yourself you make stupid decisions. You don’t even think before you act.
Me: So your actions aren’t so much your own decisions as they are reactions against authority. I don’t think that’s just what adolescents do. Anyone who is being dominated and doesn’t think it’s legitimate is going to do that.
YS: You’ve taught me to think. Not to obey. You don’t tell me what to do. You give advice. I can take it or not.
Me: Would there be a problem if you didn’t take my advice?
Me: You’d just have a different experience. I notice that you take my advice more often than not. Why?
YS: Because when I haven’t taken your advice I’ve gotten hurt. Remember when you told me not to run in flip flops and I didn’t listen and I scraped my face across the road?
Me: That was so awful.
YS: I was trying to take something back to a neighbor. It really hurt. I’ve never run in flip flops since. Do you remember when you told me not to shriek and cry about everything because you wouldn’t know when I was really hurt? And then when we were at the swamp and I broke my arm and I was screaming and crying and you didn’t come because I screamed and cried at everything. That was a learning experience. And when dad told me not to run the chisel towards my hand and I did it anyway and we ended up in the ER for five hours. Or when he told me not to shove sharp things and I was in the ER again. I’m learning. Slowly. And painfully. But if you had stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned to listen.
Me: We would have stopped you from getting hurt if we could have. Do you think the injuries were worth it?
YS: I do.