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Fool's Rules: A Hump Day Hmm for 4-30-08 about Rules, Fairness and Consequences

Bursting beyond the boundaries

When she rides her bike, she'll amble along for a bit beside you, but then she'll thrust forward in a burst of speed, eager to be independent and out front. Her legs pump furiously, her bike a blur of pastel, the pink and purple streamers straight out from her handle bars. Her world is one of rules: stop and wait, look for cars, stay with us, don't get too far ahead, need to leave on time, sit quietly at your desk...a seemingly neverending list. But in that moment, she is motion and air and nothing more, boundaries are falling as far behind her as her parents. She already dreams of the day when she has her own house. She aches for the time that she owns her own life, and her mother aches to never tell her that this time--childhood---is the best she'll get of that. The freer you are, the more you owe elsewhere.

Irritating injustice

Her teacher says her greatest asset is her sense of fairness, and that this normally quiet child will speak out loudly against injustice. In fact, the teacher said in a conference once, "I'd never heard her speak at all until one day she told one child to be kind to another one."

"There is no bullying in this classroom," the teacher told her parents, "So long as she is on the job." In a quieter aferthought, the teacher added, "You can't get away with any inconsistency or inequity, either." Her parents know this, and also that it's not exactly meant admiringly. They know already all too well how some people might miss inequity until it is pointed out to them, and generally, people don't like to notice it.

She suffers, this child, with her scales and measures. Her heart is tender and kind, easily bruised, but it is also strong, which it needs to be to play in concert with her fierce drive for justice. There is a need for her in this world, but she aches fulfilling it, and her mother aches to know the cost her Robin Hood genes will extract in her life.

No light shines brighter, though, than the torch in this child's soul.

Unlikable unfairness

She watches people break the rules and pay different prices for it, or none at all. She sees that not everyone is held to the same rules, or not held in the same way to the rules. So far, she is only catching the little things: somebody took a friend's bike, her sister has more dresses, the pancakes are different sizes, Mom has the chipped glass, Girl A always gets picked first in school yard games, Boy B gets in trouble every day but Boy C is just as naughty but never gets caught. So far, she is only noticing the surface actions. She aches to understand these differences and aches more to right the wrongs. Her mother aches in unhappy expectation of the day when the girl begins asking more why and less what and how, but aches more for the day when the girl quits asking why.

Her mother knows all too well how unlikable unfairness can be. She knows that most people don't allow themselves to get worked up over injustice, and thus can't allow others to, either. It's a cat in a canvas bag, the feeling---feeling a burn of injustice and knowing the binding of expectation to not get twisted knickers.

And so...she aches with and for this child, who sees the rules all too clearly, much too clearly for her own good. Often lacking her own answers, she is at a loss for how to explain it to her questioning child. There is only one thing to say sometimes, "Life's just not fair, baby. Fair isn't really a state of being, it's more a place you visit sometimes, like to ride a Ferris wheel. All you can do is be grateful for the good, and keep it in mind more."

The rules of the game

Do you follow them? Do you break them? Do you pay attention to them, and how others use or abuse them? What rules matter to you and which ones will you break?

Tell us what you think of rules...and what happens when we do and don't follow them...

Note: The title is inspired by a Thoreau quote, although I always found him a bit impractical and thought Emerson had the better way of it.

"Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it."

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American naturalist, poet and philosopher.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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flutter said…
I follow the ones that make sense. I challenge the ones that don't
Anonymous said…
Rules are a byproduct of our need to live amongst each other. I guess at some point someone thought that if a few rules were good than more would be even better.
Bon said…
Julie, seriously...this was like therapy for me. i am still struggling with fair and unfair, at 36. it's like i never got the memo.

i think i'd like her, your girl. i think maybe she'll learn better and faster than i have.
jeanie said…
My problem is that quite often I don't know the rules until I have unwittingly erred!

I didn't play today (had bigger issues to deal with like the repercussions of LAST WEEKS HDH post) but again, the takes on this topic can be many and varied.
what flutter said

that photo? so precious
She is what we should all strive to be. Not the other way around.


PS: Julie I so want to talk to you about your comment on my B boy post a few days ago...but I'm stuck on a family trip with little time. I hope we can do an email exchange on it ?
Food for thought and my brain is chewing slowly this morning. Fairness is such a great ideal, isn't it, and we should always strive for it. It's hard to teach the other side of it, isn't it? That things won't always work out...
Aliki2006 said…
I'm with flutter--I follow the ones that make sense, and that I feel are important for many reasons. Sometimes I worry too much about breaking the rules, but I think it's important sometimes to allow yourself the room to do this.
Gwen said…
Although I didn't realize it at the time, I finished playing by the rules my senior year of high school when all my striving to obey them did not get me the one thing I most wanted. Now I only have rules for myself, for how I want to be.

What's interesting to me about the heightened sense of injustice is the several ways it can manifest. I, for example, am a big old bleeding heart, sobbing for every suffering soul in the universe. But I seldom--if ever--think about whether anything is fair or just for me personally. My husband, on the other hand, is very aware of when "the rules" are not being followed and it makes him crazy. He's personally offended when others don't follow the rules he does, the sort of unspoken laws of social engagement. We "discuss" around this all the time because we are so different in our outlook about it.
Anonymous said…
I'm mostly a rule follower, but I do embrace the freedom to gripe about the ones that make no sense. That said, I become highly pissed when I know of people who are okay with breaking them while the rest of us have to follow.
Anonymous said…
The rules make her feel safe. THe time will come when she breaks them and allows others to, but it is lovely that she is able to order her world.
Kat said…
Which rules? I believe in rules, and the rule of law, and I think rules are absolutely necessary to a civilized society. But some rules are made to be broken, I think.
Laski said…
I follow the rules. I do. I can't help it. Late at night, the light is RED. There is no one around. What do I do. I sit. I wait. Why? With my luck a cop will be right there, just out of my eyesight, ready to pounce.

That's just my luck. I get caught. I get busted. I pay the price. Each and every time.

HOWEVER, if one MUST break a rule, you must know it first and have a sincere purpose behind the breaking of it (at least I tell this to my students who choose to break GRAMMAR rules). Ugh.
we_be_toys said…
What an amazing little girl you have - I would love to see what she does with the world when she grows up!
How do I feel about rules? What rules do I follow? I haven't thought about it much, really - not recently. I guess I follow the rules I have to follow, recognizing there has to be some order, but I also grew up in a household where the philosophy was "rules were made to be broken". I think its both a blessing and a curse, to carry that kind of philosophy, but at least I'm never just mindlessly following the crowd!
Love that picture - I think you have FAB kids, btw!!!
painted maypole said…
i love htat she sees inequities for others, not just when they are against her. she may be a powerful social justice advocate someday. much like her mommy.
Florinda said…
Late as ever, but I really liked mulling over this topic.

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