The best childhood lessons are the ones we figure out on our own. You know that kid you shake your head at while you roll your eyes and remark that he’s just going to have to learn everything the hard way? Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who start out that way.
It doesn’t really matter for a lot of us how cajoled and threatened and showered with advice we are while we’re growing up. There’s a stubborn streak that questions the rules and the reasons for them, and makes us stomp off in another direction to do whatever we want.
There are always consequences of course. And little ‘ah hah’ moments when we finally get it. Or gleeful moments of triumph when we prove, if only to ourselves, that the rule was stupid and useless in the first place.
My earliest memories revolve around being made to do things that were unpleasant but supposedly GOOD FOR ME. Eat your porridge. Take your vitamins. Wear a hat. Go to bed early. Respect your elders. Be polite. Wash your hands. This time with soap. Please be quiet.
I remember sighing a lot, and dutifully doing whatever I was told. Wondering why the fun things were bad for me, and the irksome disagreeable things were always for my own good. That must have been my four year old mind-set the day I decided to eat dirt.
The texture and the taste is something that has always stuck with me, never mind whatever ‘lesson’ I had dreamed up for myself at that particular moment. I do recall anticipating that the experience would no doubt be awful, but something I should just do so that I could get it over with and thus become a better person.
I also remember my brother being grossed out and telling on me. And how unfair life seemed if it was always going to be so hard to get things right.
Is that the day I began to nurture the tiny seed of rebellion? Maybe. It may not have been a coherent thought in my childish little head, but I’ve never forgotten figuring out that icky things were not necessarily good, so it had to follow that boisterous fun was not always bad. That black and white produced lovely shades of grey.
I still distrust being told what to do. I question advice, well-meant and otherwise. I know that doing something for my own good which is making me truly miserable should send me off immediately in another direction to find a different way of reaching the same goal. What is good for you may be wrong for me. If I believe that, it will be hard for you to change my mind.
Because since that epiphanous childhood day, I no longer eat dirt.