A power to influence or command thought, or opinion, or behavior is Merriam Webster’s definition of “authority”. And I have absolutely no problem with the concept in, and of, itself. What I do take umbrage with is the presumption that any of you people can assign an agent or agency to exercise authority over me, without my consent. And I am quite certain that when it is put in such plain terms, most everyone else would take exception with that idea. So then why is it that people so willingly abdicate authority over their own lives and even worse, why do they feel the need to force their laziness and bullying behavior onto others?
Last night, I watched Parental Guidance, a surprisingly heartfelt and entertaining movie starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marissa Tomei (my celebrity lesbian crush), as well as a guy whose name is lost on me, but who will forever be embedded in my mind as the darling drummer in That Thing You Do who liked snappy tunes. Using humor to poke fun and dare I say “ridicule” the contemporary mindset on parenting, Billy Crystal argues against the “everyone’s a winner” protocol that has oozed its way into sports and education, claiming that to eradicate competition undermines the opportunity for success…and failure- an intrinsic aspect of being human and having choice, or as I like to say “free will”.
Parallel to this concept of making everyone equal (notice that an authority has to impose that standard as people are not naturally equal in their abilities, talents, intellect, or capabilities) is the idea that judgment and discrimination are in direct contradiction to equality. Sadly, this paradigm has spilled over into all aspects of society to where people do not even judge their own behavior, nor do they exercise discretion but instead answer with “It’s all good”…even when it’s not. So what happens when you raise up a child to believe that reward is not directly related to production? You get adult-sized children who must seek a power outside of themselves to steer them in the direction they ought to go and who incorrectly presume that everyone else needs that also.
Third child, and redheaded demon-seed, Barker with his imaginary friend, Carl the Kangaroo, was a gorgeous illustration of parenting run amok, albeit with the best of intentions. The titian Tasmanian devil was rude, disrespectful, impatient, disobedient, and non-compliant, causing others to experience loss. What was so convenient was that Barker blamed every misdeed on Carl. What was so wonderfully demonstrated was the growing-up the young man did when he finally embraced the idea of personal responsibility and self-governance, killing Carl off, and burying his childish behavior. Amazing what can happen when a person says, “I am the captain of my ship.”
Can an authority, outside of yourself, cause you to be good? Can an authority, outside of yourself, cause you to create? Can an authority, outside of yourself, cause you to grow from child to adult in mindset and deed? Of course not! All that an authority, outside of yourself, can do is use force to punish, which does not provide goodness, creation, nor growth. Further, that “authority”, if imposed on a large segment of people, has to appeal to the lowest common denominator since people are not naturally equal in abilities, talents, intellect, and capabilities, as well as proclivity to adhere to what is noble, worthy, and stalwart.
And that has often been my contention in a courtroom: the State is beneath me, in every way, regarding the standard for my behavior and those for whom I am responsible. It is not because the State has said that I must send my child to school that I educated my children beyond the minimal requirements; it is not because the State says that I must not harm another that I leave everywhere I go better than I found it; it is not because the State says that I must contribute to a safety net that I help friends, family, and strangers with my resources. It is because I am the captain of my ship and I will my compass to point north.
All of this rambling leads me to my own parenting situation that has overwhelmed me in every way. I too have a third child. And he is a ball of sunshine shining on all those around him…as well as sometimes being quite the scorcher, particularly directing his fire upon me. Many times, I have been at my wit’s end, literally dropping to my knees in desperation because the situation seems to be fraught with failure. I have reached out for help to friends and family and have, for the most part, been ignored, with a sad response prevailing: “Contact the authorities.” WHAT???? Who in God’s name is the authority over my child and what takes place in my home, if not me? I don’t have a husband or partner to share in the magnanimous role of parenting, so it’s on me. What could the “authorities” do anyway? Punish him. That’s it. But what can I do? I can persevere, do good, set an example worth emulating, create new options, find solutions, resolve conflict, as well as make sure the fridge and cupboards are stocked while he navigates his way from the remains of childishness to manhood. After all, what I am growing is not a drone who must depend on another to direct his flight, but instead a bold, adventurous, daring person who will depend upon himself to steer his journey and who will exercise self-control, the indication of a mature and sentient being. So yes, I fail. But because I am a human being, endowed with free will, I get to choose to do it better next time and so does he…and so do you.