I sometimes want to punt my six-year-old when he says: “No. I’m not doing that.”
I’m a curious person. Always have been. If you’re asking me to do something, and I don’t want to do it, I want to know why I’m being forced to.
Why? Why am I doing this?
I really want reasons. Even if I think they’re bad ones, I like to understand why I’m being asked or told to do something.
Sometimes my parents or other authority figures would say: “Because I said so,” which is the biggest bullshit reason to do anything ever, said every enslaved human being in the history of the universe, and me.
I always try to give my son a reason for everything I ask of him. I’m accidentally a hypocrite sometimes, but I’m never intentionally one.
The house isn’t democratic. He gets his way the vast majority of the time because I don’t like to fight with him, but sometimes I need him to simply follow directions. He needs to learn to respect and obey the instructions of his parents, teachers, coaches, etc.
Why doesn’t he understand that all of these instructions are for his well being!?!?
I wonder how many times he has to drop food on his shirt or lap before my incessant reminders to eat over his plate or bowl will finally sink in.
He probably thinks I’m full of shit just like I thought my parents were full of shit because we all think we’re geniuses until we become adults and realize that we actually don’t know anything, never did, and that even really smart and successful people are part-time dumbasses too.
‘I Don’t Want to Go to School’
My son hasn’t said this yet. But he probably will.
Because school is sometimes stupid.
Not this early part my son is in. First grade is great. He’s really starting to figure out many things related to reading, writing and math, and I beam with pride every time I see his very capable little mind grasp a new concept or retain knowledge from a previous lesson.
But later? High school? College?
Let’s just say if you’re not doing something super-specific that requires specialty training and certification (Education, Law, Medical, Engineering, etc.) I feel like you learn very little of lasting value in school, academically.
I’m not saying EDUCATION is stupid. Education is amazing, and one of my many life regrets is not caring about learning when I was surrounded by academic resources and so many thought leaders, like I was in college.
For a guy like me? School is something you have to do in order to get a decent job. That’s it.
In fact, that’s REALLY the lesson of school: Learning how to complete projects you don’t want to complete and are not interested in by a certain deadline and to the judgement of others.
I didn’t crave knowledge when I was a student. I went to school because that’s what everyone else did! I wasn’t doing any thinking for myself back then.
Later, I craved a piece of paper that would tell hiring managers I graduated college, so they would think I was smart even though my diploma doesn’t prove my competence.
It’s more than possible I’m not giving my school years enough credit, but it really does seem as if everything valuable I’ve learned has been learned in the “real world” on subjects in which I am naturally interested.
Street smarts, if you will.
When I got divorced last year, my entire life fell apart, and I learned that falling apart emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically, financially is something that’s really important for human beings to not do.
But I never learned anything like that in school. I didn’t legitimately crave knowledge until after turning 30.
Because I read a lot about marketing principles, I know that if you give people reasons (even totally bogus ones!) for doing something, they are much more likely to comply with your request.
So when my son finally gets around to fighting us on going to school (hopefully he never does!) I want to be able to give him the reason why we make him go. The reason why it’s important for him to go.
What are the reasons why it’s important to go to school?
To learn how to get along with others? To follow directions? To learn a few basic things?
I’m sure a better advocate for the American education system could better answer that question. Near as I can tell, we send our children to school because we need them to be in a safe environment, and learning socialization skills and government-approved curriculum so us parents can go to work and help finance the government by earning money at a job and paying taxes.
I think they want our kids to learn enough to grow up and want to get a job so that they can help finance the government also, and have children that will also go to school and learn how to get a job they can pay taxes with.
It’s a little cynical. But it’s my most-honest answer.
I wonder how much of that I will ever say to my son. I’ll probably lie and say it’s to learn even though you really don’t learn much academically until you organically want to, and even though I never want to lie.
‘I Don’t Want to Go to Work’
I haven’t wanted to go to work dozens, maybe even hundreds of times.
But I almost always do go, even when I don’t feel like it. I have to pay for food and shelter. I have to pay for transportation. So my son and I can eat and sleep safely. So I can drive to and from my job that I need to pay for those three things.
People do things they don’t want to all the time.
We do it for our jobs.
We do it for our friends.
We do it for our children.
We do it for our spouses, partners, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.
There’s nobility in sacrifice. In generosity. In inconvenience in the name of compromise, or serving others.
And those are important lessons I want to instill in my son. That I want to focus on when I’m muttering because I have to do something else I don’t feel like doing.
My favorite writer is James Altucher, and he writes so much about how he tries to never do things he doesn’t want to do.
It sucks? He doesn’t do it.
It makes him feel bad or uncomfortable? He doesn’t do it.
If people bring bad feelings or negativity into his life? He cuts them out.
It’s a little bit radical. But his point is easy enough to understand and get behind: Life is too short to spend most of it doing things we hate with people who make us feel bad.
Are these ideas irreconcilable?
Is it possible to live a life mostly doing things we want to with people who lift us up and make us feel good?
Or is this it?
Is the human experience always going to include inconvenience?
Living in cold, snowy places even when you don’t like the cold and snow?
Going to work in a cubicle, feeling unfulfilled, and financially limited by meager 3.7-percent raises once a year?
Always with chores and taxes and appointments and obligations we’d have no part of if real choice was involved?
I think maybe it is.
But then I think back to being a kid. Like my little man. So young still. So much to learn.
“No. I’m not doing that!”
Why doesn’t he realize it’s for his own good?
Maybe. Just maybe. There is more to life than this.
Maybe. Just maybe. We are where we’re supposed to be for reasons we can’t possibly understand right now.
Maybe. Just maybe. We’re being prepared for something greater.
Because we’re more than just water and bone.
Because we don’t have all the answers.
Because we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to.
But it’s really for our own good.