Saturday, May 26, 2007

Unfamiliar rules

When I was about 10 I went on a camping trip with a friend and her family. I had not spent much time with the girl's family, but she had played at my house quite a bit.

Much of the trip has faded in my memory, but a couple of moments are very clear. They are moments when I got in trouble, when someone was really angry at me, because I did something that I did not know I wasn't supposed to do.

At a meal there was a bowl of cut up tomatoes on the table. I don't remember what we were eating (burgers or tacos maybe?), but it was something that it made sense to put tomatoes on. I reached out and put my hand in the bowl and the mother slapped my hand. I don't think that my sin was using my hand. I think it was that I was apparently taking more than I was supposed to take.

I remember struggling not to cry. It was not that the slap hurt (though it did). The real issue was that I was "a good girl" and no one had given me any guidelines about the tomatoes. If I had known what the rule was I would have followed it.

I spent the rest of the trip being anxious. I watched carefully. I waited until someone else had done something before I did it, so that I would know how it supposed to be done. I noticed that my friend and her family were much louder than my family was. Much to my surprise, laughing and sqealing so loudly that you could be heard at the next campsite was not against the rules. When my friend did that, no one told her that she was acting like a wild animal and that she should be considerate of others. In fact I remember feeling like I was not impressing people with how much fun I was having just because I expressed myself quietly.

On the other hand, changing positions while reading when I should have noticed that the older very artistic brother was sketching me was terrible. It was taken as evidence of my lack of civil upbringing and my basic selfish nature. It is entirely possible that the way I remember this trip was not quite how it really happened, but it is how I remembered it.

I was so tense on that trip. All I wanted was to go home.

I wonder how often this happens to the kids in our care. How often do we get angry at them for failing to follow rules or standards of behavior that no one ever taught them?

1 comment:

  1. interesting issue. I volunteered as an aid for a kindergarden class once and I remember being bothered about kids being punished for breaking rules when I was able to see (from outside the situation) what really happened didn't warrent punishment.


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