Leave Them Kids Alone

Some tv randomness: The theme song for the FX network’s Sons of Anarchy opens with a line about “riding through this world all alone.” It’s an existential line. I get that.  And it’s iconic: the lone outlaw. I get that, too.

I also know that the line belies the truth of that series: that the Sons don’t ride alone. The club is all about creating and maintaining community — family, brotherhood — so its members don’t find themselves all alone.

Feeling all alone can be a terrible, terrible thing.

This is what Kurt Vonnegut had to say on the subject:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Who’s Afraid of Loneliness?

Here’s a hypothesis: What if the rampant desire within our culture to control one another and our physical surroundings — manifesting in everything from physical abuse of partners and children to drug laws and truancy laws and to issues of obsessive/compulsive behavior and personal perfectionism — is rooted in the fear of being left all alone?

Because if you have your hands — your desires, your rules, your insistence — on someone, on some place, on some item or other, on someone else’s behavior, you’re linked to that person, place, item, are you not? And when you’re linked, you’re not alone.

Maybe for some, being linked matters more than being loved. Maybe, for some, it’s one and the same thing.

Fear of loneliness is such a primal trigger for some people that they can get confused when they hear an unschooler say — as I sometimes do — that it’s good to leave the kids alone. What I’m saying is “Don’t meddle with every last little aspect of their lives. Don’t try to control their experience of the world.” What they hear is “Abandon them.”

The misapprehension of unschooling as a philosophy of neglect — or “unparenting” — can probably be traced in part to this confused understanding.

Leaving Them Alone

Vine Deloria, Jr. once wrote that Native Americans didn’t need the government to pass another law on their behalf, unless it was a “Leave us alone” law.

That’s the kind of “alone” I’m talking about.

Leave the kids alone. Let them be.  Let them get on with the daily acts of living their lives without unwarranted interference. Be present, be supportive, be helpful, be a participant and a facilitator and the one who can say “yes, let’s!”

But stop meddling. Stop trying to control a thought, an emotion, a propensity.  Stop conflating love with that desire to control.

Something like that.

There’s a difference between being all alone and being left alone.  And there is a difference between being left alone and being left.  Alone.

Leaving the kids alone doesn’t mean leaving the kids alone.