CAN A SIX YEAR OLD CHOOSE HIS OWN DESTINY? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

“Who’s the boss?” six-year-old Jason asked me, as he watched waiters and patrons milling about the busy Italian restaurant.

Across the room, a man dressed in a suit and tie was writing in a notebook and directing a waiter to clean and set up a table that was just vacated. After a few moments, I got his attention and he came over to our table.

 “Jason has a question,” I said. “Do you have a moment to answer it?”

“Sure. What is it Jason?”

Jason hesitated, looked at me, then back at the man. “Are you the boss?” he asked, a very serious expression on his face.

“I am the boss,” the man said with a smile.

Jason nodded. “How come you don’t work as hard as everyone else?”

The boss laughed and shot me a smile. “No one ever asked me that question before… Well, I work hard, but as you can see, it’s a different kind of work. My work is to tell everyone else what to do.”

Jason nodded again. “Do you make more money than everyone else?”

An even bigger smile stretched across the boss’s face. “I do make more money. That’s why you have to work hard in school; so one day you can be the boss.”

Jason nodded, his little brow furrowed, as he brushed his hand across his short blond hair.

“Thank you very much for spending time with us,” I said.

“Thank you,” Jason said.

“You’re welcome,” the boss said, and returned to his duties.

We each took a bite of pizza and sips of our drinks. Then Jason looked at me, and with utter sincerity said, “When I get big, I want to be the boss.”

“What kind of boss?”

“The boss of Doctors.”

Check back in twenty years to see what happens…

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When was the last time you were actually free? You know, filled with passion and wildness, the guy with long hair and a headband and the gal in a tie-dyed dress swaying in unison to the Grateful Dead.

Back “in the day”, there was no dream too big or “mountain too high”. March on Washington to stop the war in Viet Nam. Stop racial bigotry! Burn your bra and announce to the world that women have arrived!

Then BOOM, you’re an adult. Career success means putting in 12 hour days. Child rearing entails devoting hundreds of hours to soccer and carpools, and strategizing about college. It’s understandable. They need you and their dream for the future has become your dream.

But what happened to YOUR personal dream? Did you achieve it? Is there time left for a new one? Is life just paying the bills and fantasizing about retiring and watching your kids live their lives? Maybe they’ll march on Washington to stop the disgrace and abuse of our financial institutions; or stop the importing of Middle East oil; or stop Iran before it puts its nuclear ICBM into action? Maybe we can help?

The “establishment” is rigid and usually uncreative (Look at our government). Because we’re old enough to be in the “establishment”, doesn’t mean we have to play by their rigid rules. Bill Maher broke the rule with the movie Religulous, showing the fallacy of all forms of organized religion. John Stewart breaks the rules every evening on The Daily Show.

What rules can we break and move our world forward? Our brains never have to stop evolving. Being a follower without really understanding what we’re following is stupid and unproductive. Cross whatever line needs crossing and break whatever rule needs breaking. We need to replenish the gap that Steve Jobs left. Who says it can’t be one of us?