Sunday, May 17, 2015

On Obligations

A few weeks back at work during one of our meetings, the subject of disciplining your children came up.

A surprising number of people there believed in the traditional punishments: a good swat on the behind. Grounding. The taking away of privileges: the right to have a television with a PS4 hooked up to it, cellphones, whatever. A few leaned towards the Biblical end of the spectrum, which is probably a topic for another day.

It occurred to me that my parents rarely ever bothered to punish me.

I suppose there were a few reasons. I'm a stubborn bastard. Always was. If you apply thumbscrews to me, my natural reaction is to dig my heels in and fortify. I once spent an entire evening sitting at the kitchen table, alone, because my parents told me they wouldn't let me do anything else until I ate my bowl of lentil soup. I was that kind of kid: if I tell you I'm not going to do something, then by Jove, I'm not going to do it.

Another reason might have been my brother. He's a much more feisty bastard than me and my parents had simply grown tired of the usual punishments by the time I rolled around. Their arms, so to speak, had grown weary from him over the years.

But the real reason is probably that I'm not terribly rambunctious. I'm not the sort of person who goes out and starts drama. I'd much rather work within the system. Or at the very least, not go out and throw rocks through neighbors' windows or soak the cat in baby oil (true story). Occasions where my parents would get angry at me were fairly rare.

In any case, in the rare occasions they needed to they quickly realized that there were better ways to motivate me.

Guilt's the big one. I was raised fairly Dutch. The feeling that I'm not living up to obligations is something which keeps me up at night. It's a kind of on-edge feeling, on par with that sensation you get when you head off on a two week road trip and realize four hours in that you can't remember whether or not you locked the front door.

The annoying thing is that it's obligations of all kind, including the imaginary ones I set for myself. Hell, I feel guilty about not cleaning out my car often enough, even though I'm the only one who really uses it. It's awful how my brain works sometimes. It's a constant process of telling myself "wait, no one cares about that, focus on bigger things."

So, missing out on writing kind of chews holes in my brain. On the other hand, the previous posts still stand--I've got bigger fish to fry and when I'm not frying fish I should probably be resting up, recharging and preparing for the next big thing.

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