One appeal of all cults is that they provide a bunch of answers to unanswerable questions. Why are we here? What is my purpose in life? What happens after we die?  How should I treat people? Some of them are even pretty good answers. But where they become cultish is when they offer specific answers to every tiny aspect of your life. What level of heaven will I go to? What should I eat/not eat? What should I wear? What should I read? What kind of music is OK? Who can I marry/date/have sex with (or not)? How should I fix my hair? How should I raise my kids? They take over your life. These answers eventually begin to isolate you the more you buy in to them. If these are all the right answers in front of you, everyone else is therefore wrong.  They aren’t doing things the right way or believing the truth. You lose all respect for those not in the cult. They are so sadly misguided…

I know because I started my parenting journey this way. When I first found out I was pregnant, I immediately wanted all the answers. I didn’t want to hear “It depends” or “Find what works for you” or “There are no easy answers.” I just wanted to skip ahead to the answers. I discovered a parenting philosophy that had ALL those answers. And they sounded so simple and logical and beautiful. I bought in hook line and sinker. And then I actually had the baby. I learned quickly and brutally that the answers I so doggedly believed in were not working in my situation. One by one, everything was backfiring. Nothing was simple or logical or beautiful about the way I was bashing my head against a wall trying desperately to follow these precepts.

I felt like a colossal failure. And there was no shortage of people in the parenting “cult” who basically agreed with me, saying they were “sad” for me, for my lack of effort, lack of faith, lack of patience, inability to tolerate pain…  And yet, here was my baby thriving and outrageously healthy. I finally had to ask myself: How am I really failing here? Look at this kid!

The only one I was actually failing was myself, for not enjoying this experience and this amazing child to the hilt, and I’m failing that community, by not being what they think I should be. That community – who are not here every day in my house slippers, seeing my real efforts and my successes.

I cut them all out of my life eventually. That’s fine if their answers are still great answers for them. I still think they have a whole lot of good ideas. It wasn’t a wholesale rejection, but my life is better without all the judginess from the people who are full-on devotees to the cult. I have freed myself to follow my own instincts in parenting, and my instincts are pretty good actually.

That’s why when I see an article like Michael Esch’s on “6 Ways Parents Teach Their Children Socialist Values” I just feel really dismayed. This is where libertarianism starts behaving cultishly. The not-so-subtle implications in the article are that if you are teaching your child sharing and obedience, you are not being a good libertarian parent. THIS is how to parent as a libertarian…

First of all, I have learned that ANYTIME anyone in a book or a blog tells you they know just how you should raise your kids, what they are really talking about is how you should raise THEIR kids. But you are not raising their kids. And every child is different. Every parent, every living situation, every family is different.

One size does NOT fit all.

The aggravating thing is you really do just have to figure out what works for you. Read all the advice and theories and methods you want, but take them all with a grain of salt and find your own way. Outside of a very broad spectrum of practices, you won’t be wrong, as long as you love your child.

Second of all, hold up here. I just think that government is too big and intrusive. That is what makes me a libertarian. I believe people need more freedom, and to be treated like adults by their government. More freedom, more responsibility, less taxation, less control. Full stop. That’s it and that is all that is required to be a libertarian.

I appreciate Esch’s perspective on raising kids. I do. And I agree with a lot of what he says. I like to give my kids as much choice as I can. I like for them to feel ownership of their toys, and accept consequences and all that. But teaching my boys to share a toy is not teaching them to be socialist. It is just not that simple, and I don’t want other young parents and parents-to-be to feel as if they must follow strict guidelines in order to raise perfect libertarian babies in a perfect non-aggressive household or their house is going to turn into something out of “The Wall” and Pink Floyd songs will start emanating from their walls.

What works for Michael Esch might not work for you. And that’s OK. Doesn’t make you or your kids socialists.

I am a libertarian because I want to determine my own path. And now there is a whole cadre of libertarians who will tell me what my path has to be in order to be legit libertarian. What? They will tell me to eat paleo, drink milk straight from the cow, home birth and home school, live off the grid, own guns, own gold and dried food, etc. These are lifestyle choices that are fine. They are a cause with libertarians because they are at least somewhat subversive or counterculture.

But there is a whole world of difference between “Thou shalt be free to do such-and-such” and “Thou shalt do such-and-such.”

I’m not a “statist” or a socialist parent because I want my kid to obey me before I can use reason and logic with them but after we’ve started walking through parking lots and after they can reach a hot stove. Don’t tell me that sharing is just a statist construct they don’t need to be exposed to, when sharing actually happens all around us. We share the road, we share elevators. We share meals, we have communal shopping carts and share the aisle we go down by staying to one side… I’m sure you can think of a lot of examples of adults sharing every day. It’s part of interacting in society. It makes you not a douchebag. There is a time for sharing and a time for property rights. It’s a hell of a lot more complicated than “Sharing is statissss!”

Sending my kid to school is not going to make them a statist. I went to school and I’m a libertarian. I bet I can raise them to still make up their own minds and think critically even if someone else teaches them math. Here is a radical concept for you: I can send my kids to the public schools I am forced to pay for AND STILL think government is too big and intrusive in our lives.

I can interact positively with the society all around me and engage with others EVEN THOUGH society is not just exactly how I’d like it to be, and even though those people I engage with believe differently than I. I don’t have to withdraw in order to be a good libertarian. I can live my life and have friends and eat what I want and raise my kids according to my own instincts and STILL BE a libertarian.

Whoah.

If we require the exorbitant expense of private school or the incredible time commitment and sacrifice of home school as a price of admission into our little club, it will always be a very small little country club. Fact.

Here’s another fact: I’m a libertarian because I don’t want to fit in someone else’s box. Not even a “libertarian” one.