Thursday, March 15, 2018

On Liberty and Parenting

John Ruskin
(8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900)
The other day whilst traveling through the blogosphere, I came upon an interesting quote over at Rev Paul's place -
One evening, when I was yet in my nurse's arms, I wanted to touch the tea urn, which was boiling merrily … My nurse would have taken me away from the urn, but my mother said "Let him touch it." So I touched it – and that was my first lesson in the meaning of liberty.

~ John Ruskin (1819-1900), The Story of Arachne, 1870
This, as these things often do, made me think. I liked the quote and thought that it says quite a bit about human nature and the right/wrong way to raise a child.

Then I watched a movie, Wind River, a most excellent movie in mine own humble opinion, a friend recommended it to me, I saw that Netflix had it, so I stayed up past my own self-dictated bedtime to watch it. Am I glad I did? Yes, I like movies which make me think, this one did.

The movie* is about a rather unconventional murder investigation and deals with the unthinkable (for any parent, or rational member of our species) subject matter, the death of a child. The film takes place on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, hence the title of the film. An 18 year old Arapaho woman is found dead, in the snow, miles from the nearest dwelling. She is found by Jeremy Renner's character, Cory Lambert, a hunter for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (You can read Variety's review of the film at the source of that photo above.)

He recognizes the dead woman immediately, only later do we discover that Lambert's half-Arapaho daughter was murdered two years earlier, the latest victim was his daughter's best friend.

When Lambert goes to talk to the murder victim's family, as he's talking to the father of the latest victim, one of the things he says is...
"You cannot blink. Not once, not ever."
Which immediately brought that John Ruskin quote to mind.

On the one hand, it's important to let your kids make mistakes (like touching the boiling-hot teakettle), on the other hand, you have to pay attention, always. If you don't...

Things could go horribly wrong.

The Missus Herself and I have three kids. All three are now successful adults. I'd like to think that I had some influence on the raising of the progeny, though I know that the day-to-day grind of feeding, cleaning, nursing, and nurturing was the bailiwick of my (much) better half.

In military terms, I was the logistical tail, she was on the front line. Yes, logistics are important, but that day-to-day stuff is the leading edge, the tip of the spear if you will. While the progeny love me, and think I'm a fun guy, they love and deeply respect their mother. I mean, in the garden and around the manse, I do the heavy lifting. When it came to making sure the homework and chores were done, the love of my life did the heavy work.

While I'm not sure if it's true that you can't blink, not once, not ever, I do know that you have to keep your eye on things. You can't be everywhere at once, and every now and again the kids will get into trouble all on their own, no matter what Mom and Dad do. Something that's missing in some parts of the world right there: Mom and Dad. One of each sex, preferably, as it's how we're designed to function. But maybe that's just me.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, bad things happen. Even if you never blink.

Kids, you've got to give them the freedom to learn from their mistakes, but you need to be there for them when life gets overwhelming. Which can happen even when they're "all growed up." No matter what, no matter how old they get, they're still your kids.

Another quote from Mr. Ruskin that spoke to me, and rings of pure truth -
"Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back."
They will most likely never forget it.

As to the movie, I highly recommend it. Judge for yourself...

* Which also stars one of my favorite actors, Graham Greene, that's him on the right.

Sarge Note: Apparently I wrote this post while half asleep. I have corrected a number of grammatical errors since I published it this morning. Argh...


  1. Mom and Dad. True words. As a single custodial parent for most of my two younger sons I say you need a team. All three of mine are doing ok, but with many unnecessary bumps in the road.

    1. It can be done solo, but...

      Like you said WSF, lots of bumps in the road.

  2. I saw Wind River when it was in the theaters. It was an excellent film.

  3. Dang! Between you and OldNFO, sleep is getting further and further away.

    Concur with your thoughts on Parenting and see a lot of results of both good and bad parenting in our students. Both Parents and Students were adversely affected when Schools dumbed down discipline in the 80s and 90's. Children who were not properly taught self-discipline in the 80s and 90s are now Biological Procreators (they're not Parents) and have no concept whatsoever in teaching self-discipline to their offspring.

    1. Yes. Yes. And, yes.

      Our society has, in many respects, failed. A generation which was never disciplined (at home or in school) is now raising undisciplined offspring. I don't know what the answer is, but certain possibilities frighten me.

      And a certain political party is taking advantage of the lack of discipline and lack of knowledge, when (if?) the other follows suit, we're doomed.

  4. We do not have a 'gun problem.' We have a parenting problem, especially evident in that portion of society where the 'nuclear' family is not encouraged and has been basically destroyed, by law. While good people slept in their beds, our government was modified to kill off the family, because "it takes a village to raise a child." And now we are reaping the field of evil we allowed to be sown.

    It seems like every day we are getting closer and closer to Communist China's "Cultural Revolution." Common sense, rule of law (via the Constitution and Bill of Rights,) statues and history, math (Math? Math is 'socially wrong'?) and science and art and real history are all on the chopping block, heaped up there by massed hordes of children and post-children (I refuse to call those creatures 'adults.') Open displays of communist flags, all we are missing is a cultural messiah.. oh, wait, he and his wife are getting a TV show on Netflix.

    As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    I hope we have some hope left, a chance to right the wrongs. Maybe if we get rid of all the activist judges we can stem the tide a few more years. That is my true hope, that the current president will give our nation some breathing and thinking room so we can reset softly, without the hardship of civil war.


    Darned, yet another reason why growing up when I did was great. We had "Pogo."

  5. A most excellent movie and highly recommended. Hard hitting and at times it felt like a gut punch. Had me thinking how much I care for my children and, although they are fully grown adults, they're still my children and I want to maintain an overwatch position "just in case".

    1. Roger that Barry. Have to be ready for those "just in case" scenarios.

  6. When my first husband and I split up due to his heavy alcohol use, I made sure that he was still involved in our son's life. When I went back to school, he was offered the chance to babysit while I was at class, and he went to his dad's every other weekend, unless there was a good reason not to. He was told if Dad was drinking, or he felt uncomfortable, to call Mom and I would come and pick him up no questions asked. Told Dad the same thing. There was only 1 time he ever called and that was when my nuts crazy sister-in-law slammed her hands on the front door window and broke glass all over everyone.

    My second husband made it very clear that he would back my decisions, and as he said It's the parents against the kids. My reply to that was the parents will always win. Used to tell my step-daughter our house was a benign dictatorship, that she was allowed to have an opinion, and express it politely, but that the parents would make the decision and she would obey it.
    Lol. At her house with her Mom, she got her way 100%. At Susie's there were rules. But both she and my son turned out very well. So I wasn't too far off track. Both the steps and the parents worked together, and some days it took work, but we all wanted the best for the kids.

    1. It definitely takes work. Sounds like you did a good job.


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