I bought myself a cup of coffee this morning: a small, house coffee with milk. “Would you like to make that a medium for just ten cents more?” I was asked.
I am in every sense of the word a twenty first century kid. I don’t remember much of the 1990s, being only eleven years old during the millenium celebrations. My parents and I communicate mostly through video chats and text messages and I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a Buch or Clinton in the White House.
I live in a super-sized world. Bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger waistlines. I drive from Iowa City to Chicago and pass the ‘World’s Largest Truck Stop’ and ‘Iowa’s Largest RV Center’. In the dining hall at school, I heap more food on my tray than I could ever eat in one sitting.
I believe I was raised correctly, which seems static for a topic that remains highly debated and subjective. I’m not saying that other methods of raising children are wrong, but growing up, I was allowed more independence, more opportunities to learn responsibility, than anyone else I ever met. Part of my freedom can be credited to the nature of the town in which I grew up: a small, coastal village where I was never more than a few houses away from a friend. Part of my freedom can be credited to my natural tendencyto be overly cautious and aware of my surroundings. But mostly, I credit my freedom to the foresight of my parents.
At the risk of sounding as young as I feel, I am going to quote Stan Lee’s Spiderman and say “with great power comes great responsibility”. I know it seems like silly, Hollywood syrup, but it is my opinion that responsibility is something that needs to be experienced and taught before it can be used for good. Too often I feel that children are treated like children until they are set free and expected to behave like adults on their own accord.
We need a transition. We don’t just plop a sixteen-year-old behind the wheel of a car and expect him to know how to handle it. A car can be dangerous in the hands of an amateur, but with six months of guidance from parents and instructors, each students transitions into someone trustworthy with a responsibility as great as a car. Responsibility can be taught, but only if the child is given time to learn and experiment with responsibility for himself.
My parents never gave me a curfew, so I didn’t feel the ned to stay out to the last possible minute every weekend. When I was tired, I went home, doing what my gut told me was sensible. I didn’t push the boundaries because there were no boundaries to be pushed.
In this way, I came to understand the advantages of practicality and moderation over mindless consumption. I had no forbidden fruits to be tempted by and therefore no reason to consume endlessly.
I still have a lot to learn, a lot to comprehend. My personal values continue to unscramble themselves daily. Like any college student under the age of twenty-one, I am learning from my mistakes and deciphering my likes and dislikes from those of my peers.
I politely told the Barista “No thank you. I’m fine with a small cup of coffee.” And at twelve ounces, I would hardly call that small anyway. I can’t say I don’t still get excited when I allow myself two scoops of ice cream, instead of one. But every so often, I will pause and remind myself: “Moderation. This I Believe.”
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