I picked my 8-year old up from school the other day.
I could tell before he even got in the car…just as he was APPROACHING the car…that it hadn’t been a good day. I could see it on his face.
This suspicion was confirmed when his teacher, who was helping man the carpool line, mouthed “Gunnar needs to talk to you” Ahhh poo. I rolled my window down. She popped her head in and said, “not a huge deal, but just ask him about the ‘bean system’”.
Bean system? Say what?
As we pulled off, I made sure to inquire about other things first. Greet him well. Show him some love. But then….because eventually it had to happen…”So what’s up with the bean system, m’dear?”.
Tears instantly filled his eyes.
“I hate the stupid bean system. It’s the dumbest idea anyone has ever had”.
Turns out the bean system (which actually ISN’T the dumbest idea anyone has ever had) is a system his teacher has created, to prevent children from blurting out and interrupting in class. Each day, every child begins with 5 beans on their desks. Throughout the day, any time they blurt out without being called on, they get a bean taken away. The bean system, almost certainly was birthed entirely because of my child, King Blurter.
As we continued to drive home, I explained to my son that his (poor) teacher has a limited amount of time each day to relay a LOT of information to him and his classmates, and that every time someone blurts out and interrupts her, it hinders her ability to do that.
King Blurter maintained a consistent diatribe the entire ride home, describing why the material they learn is “dumb”, why the rules are “dumb”, why beans and bean systems are “dumb”, why it’s “dumb” to have to stay quiet, when you are an 8-year old boy…the list went on and on. He grew increasingly distraught with each statement, until finally, and rather dramatically, he yelled, “I JUST WANT TO BE FREE!!”
I was torn in that moment between feeling sad for him, and in feeling amused…”I just want to be free”?? …so melodramatic.
I shoved both my sadness and amusement to the side, and for the moment, calmly just asked him, “what would it look like to you to ‘be free’?”
”Homeschool”, he said. “Stay home all day. Maybe do a lesson. Then play Xbox the rest of the day”.
Ah, I see. Freedom=Xbox all day every day.
Later, I was texting back and forth with his teacher, relaying the conversation my son and I had had. Because I’ve come to know her pretty well, I figured that she too would get somewhat of a kick out of the “I just want to be free” melodrama. She wrote back, and said, “Did you shout back at him, ‘So do I!!!!’” Ha. No, but that would have been funny.
And true. I DO want to be free. We all do.
And at the risk of over-philosophizing a relatively inconsequential interaction with a second grader, it did get me thinking. My son actually believes..to his very core…that true happiness and fulfillment and freedom would be found in a life where he was “free” to just play xbox all day. I, as his mother, know that a life where he was free to “just play xbox all day” would lead to him “living in a van, down by the river”...or at the very least, in our spare bedroom for the rest of his life. That ain’t freedom for any of us!
He isn’t unique though, in his quest to find freedom and fulfillment, and he isn’t unique in the fact that his ideas about how to do that, are all WRONG.
A long time ago, I heard a sermon preached on a similar topic. The pastor gave the illustration of a bunch of ducks, wandering around in a small puddle on the side of the road. Just a few feet away from that puddle, was a beautiful pond. These ducks could have been floating around in that big beautiful pond, but instead, had resigned themselves to simply muck about in the dirty puddle. Presumably, they figured that the puddle was the best they were going to get. If only they had just looked up, they would have seen something much more fulfilling available to them.
My son was being a duck that day. We all act like ducks. We aim too low. We are too easily satisfied…. for a minute.. and then we aren’t anymore, because turns out, that experience wasn’t actually all that satisfying after all. Well, crap.
Yes, our grand ideas are every bit as dumb as my son’s idea to have a life built around xbox binging.
We keep on trying, though.
I believe that so long as we continue to live small little lives… focused on ourselves, on the low-lying fruits, on the instant gratification…versus living for something larger than ourselves…we, like my son, and like those damn ducks, are going to continue to long for freedom..just continue piddling around in a dirty puddle…when we could be floating freely in a beautiful pond.
Seriously…what’s the matter with us?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10