Sunday, April 27, 2008

My sister and I were talking -- we each spent part of the weekend separately working with kids, and it got us thinking about the juvenile mindset... and that perhaps we were the same when we were their age... but different.

Specifically, the way we dealt with punishment. We both agreed that getting punished by our parents almost never taught us a lesson. Today, we see the error of our ways, but back then, Mom & Dad laying down the law just made us go through the motions of correcting our mistakes, though in our hearts we believed we were right.

Here's the differences in us as kids: I never understood why my sister was so resistant to accepting that we got in trouble. No matter what caused a fight between us kids, when our parents were fed up, they'd send us to our rooms -- now! But Julie had to fight it. Had to argue that she didn't do anything wrong, that Mikey started it (very often true). And at first, I relished her compounding her punishment by arguing her case... but then started to feel bad for her. I started to mutter, "shut up, shut up, you're only gonna make it worse..." until Julie doubled or tripled her sentence with my infuriated and impatient parents. The punishment was inevitable -- why try to fight it? Any surprise that today my sister's a lawyer?

My sister questioned why I got myself in trouble so often. Specifically, I had chores to do, but never did them, which always got me punished. Julie said, "You knew you had to do 'em, why not just do 'em? Why add a punishment to the chore? I never understood that." To the best of my recollection, it wasn't defiance -- I wasn't some kind of conscientious objector to taking out the trash. I just kept forgetting, or putting it off. And no punishment in the world seemed to get through to me.

My sister said, "Nothing got through to you?"

"Almost nothing," I said. "Not until Mom started tearing up my MAD Magazines."

"Oh yeah..."

"That was just cruel."

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