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Jasper Johns Flags Freedom

I’m thinking about freedom on Independence Day: Freedom from the responsibilities of parenthood, and freedom from technology. It’s complicated.

Last Thursday, I said goodbye to my kids for seven weeks. I’ll see them at the mid-point for Visitor’s Day, but aside from that they’re off to summer camp, free of parental supervision for nearly two months. As I write this, my husband and I are in Mexico for a weekend getaway, to reconnect with each other after a hectic year, free from all our mom and dad responsibilities.

Freedom is a funny thing, especially when it comes to parenthood: Many of us overwhelmed parents yearn for it— search for “me-time” on Google and you’ll get 211,000 articles, most of them geared towards parents. Kids also yearn to be free from our control— as mine get older and see increasing independence on the horizon, I can see how they itch for more leeway, a longer leash, more chances to show me just how capable they are of being free of all that parenting they have to endure.

But are they ready to be free? And are we? Of course kids want their freedom a lot earlier than they might be ready for it, and part of parenting is to give them room to fail, stumble, and grow in the process… if we orchestrate everything then they aren’t ever prepared to launch. But man, that’s hard to do! And as for us, though this trip has been very anticipated (very, very anticipated), I felt like the camp buses pulled out and took a piece of my heart with them.

Freedom. It’s complicated.

Independence Day Freedom

Our relationship with technology is just as fraught with contradictions: This trip is designed to be as tech-free as possible, and yet I’m going to treat myself to some creative brainstorming time (on my laptop) while the days are slow and I feel inspired. In our regular lives, my husband and I are often playing the “who’s ignoring who” game, one of us absorbed in a screen, the other one annoyed. So it will be a delicate endeavor to be on my laptop and not get sucked into mindlessly scrolling Facebook or checking my email— I want to spend this time with my significant other, not my virtual social circle.

Another dilemma: Vacationing has increasingly become about capturing one’s every moment. If you didn’t Snap, ‘gram, post or tweet your vacation, did it even really happen? I have been playing with Snapchat lately (username: carleyknob), and while I think it’s a fascinating place for fun storytelling and behind the scenes access, I find it to be the most invasive of all the social media platforms when it comes to creating content. I was trying to Snapchat myself making guacamole the other day, and at one point I was actually annoyed that my mom and daughter entered the room, because I didn’t want them to wreck my next Snap by talking in the background! How ridiculous is that. So, how present will our smartphones be on this vacation? With our kids gone, the usual “what if the kids call?” justification for having the phones around goes out the window. And my husband, a brilliant photographer, loves shooting with real cameras whenever possible, so I hope we’ll be taking more photography less iPhonography. I can’t promise you won’t see any ocean pics on Instagram, but I will be trying to break free from the ever-present smartphone until we’re headed home.

At the airport on the way here, I witnessed someone being rude to the TSA security guard, talking back to him, and then bragging to his friends about “taking him out” in a fight. With the airport attack in Turkey so fresh in my mind, I was so upset and outraged, so I hung back, then approached him— I apologized on behalf of that jerk and thanked him for keeping us safe. I stopped short of hugging him (wasn’t sure if that would go down well while he was on the job).

I realize how lucky I am to be free in this country: Free to get lost in these first-world worries about child-rearing and technology, and so appreciative to the people who make that possible. Happy Independence Day everyone— enjoy your freedom from wherever you are!

Photos of Jasper Johns “Flag” and “Flags I”

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