In my old neighborhood there was this small boy, maybe around 8 or 9, who everyone-- and by everyone I actually mean all us other kids-- used to call “Lil Money”. He earned this moniker from always having more cash on him than most normal boys and girls his age. We would watch enviously as he came strolling into the nearby liquor stores or markets where he would buy anything he wanted. Or would have a blast playing the arcade games for hours. You could not get much cooler than Lil Money. He was out as late as he wanted, came and went when he liked, and always had cash on him to do whatever he wanted. Even when it was time for the rest of us to go home at night he would just shrug and wander off to seek some other adventure to get into.
We rarely understand the full context of situations and actions in this world as children. The nuances and complexities elude us. On the surface Lil Money appeared to have everything we thought we desired as kids; money and the freedom to do or eat anything we wanted.
I only accidentally stumbled onto this truth after overhearing two of the neighborhood mothers partially discussing him while walked by across the street. One sadly mentioned there being something “not right” about his mom and the dad not being around to help. The other talked about the mom giving him $100 a month and no supervision being dangerous. Both agreed something had to be done soon.
There it was. That truth shattered my perceptions of Lil Money, instantly rearranged the fragments, then put them back together after changing it from a colorful fantasy to a dreary documentary. He was basically a kid being forced to take care of himself. He came and went as he pleased because there was no one to enforce a curfew. He did whatever he wanted because there was no one to offer guidance and rules. All those times we watched jealously as Lil Money bought candy, ice cream, chips, soda, and other snack foods in large amounts to eat was him having his breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Neglect can eerily mimic freedom.