I remember coming home on a Friday from high-school with a few friends, to only come across a note when we went inside. It said “I’m staying at the San Carlos Inn in San Carlos, Mexico. See you in a week- love, Mom. In traditional belief, adolescents should not be allowed large amounts of freedom because that is what leads to seclusion and trouble. But in my case, being given freedom as a child has positively shaped my life. My background is pretty simple, my parents divorced when I was seven and I have three considerably older siblings. It was clear to all of us at an early age that getting good grades, learning new things and pursuing higher knowledge were of the utmost importance. We all lived with my mother until graduating high school and going to college, while my father lived in another state.
With my mom always maintaining a relaxed attitude, I was left to explore life independently once my closest brother went off to college. This freedom led to early exposure of alcohol and drugs, things most are long sheltered from. The key was that the relaxed setting promoted open and truthful communication. As long as my grades remained high, no punishment would come my way. This positively affected my life because it taught me independence early, and made me constantly seek to learn new things on my own. It also limited my ego as I was obviously not the center of the world. I was left to figure things out and it made me learn to exercise my mind to find the correct solution. Additionally, I was exposed early on to situations most do not experience until ‘adulthood’ which made me mature ahead of my peers.
In my experimental phase, I had a number of good friends who were brought up under much different circumstances. My friend Chris lived in a traditional religious-Italian household where his parents asked a lot of questions and were constantly monitoring his life. This led him to naturally cover up a lot of his activities, and often blatantly lie. I witnessed his relationship with his parents deteriorate, as it was based on a false reality. My other friend Jonny was brought up in a non-religious household where he experienced a lot freedom, but was heavily punished for his actions and lack of success. His family never emphasized goals or setting a good example, they simply expected that he would turn out alright.
Presently, I am the only one of my old group of friends who attends a university. Chris is still living with his parents as he struggles through drug addiction. Jonny has moved around all over the country, and cannot stop changing his mind about what he wants to do in his life. My freedom as an adolescent made transitioning to college very easy, and it has been taken very seriously from the beginning-four years ago. I watched new peers struggle and fail out of college because they go so crazy when they first attained freedom. I knew how to carry myself socially and keep myself in control from a young age, so the independence of the college lifestyle wasn’t a nuisance.
Nowadays, my mom will sometimes apologize for her lack of involvement throughout my adolescence. This is always funny to me because I see Jonny’s parents just blaming him for his troubles. In complete honesty, I reply by actually thanking her. I believe that children need to be made aware what is ultimately expected of them from a family that actively sets good examples. Children can no longer be truly controlled once they become teenagers, it is then time to let them explore life and personally learn its fine points. Parents should adopt more of a consultant role as time goes on, so honesty and openness can truly exist. I certainly believe that this formula for childhood freedom has positively affected my life, and has helped me excel as a person.
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