Thursday, 16 June 2016

"I Don't Want To Be Good"

The most epic meltdown as a child that I can remember was when I was about four. Funnily enough I don't remember much about it myself -  it was more the numerous recounts of the event as told by my parents, describing the one monumental tantrum they chose to preserve in our family's collective memory.
Blogger @4: Not so innocent
The story goes that I had gotten some money for my birthday; my aunt living far away in Canada always diligently sent her nieces and nephews in Serbia a generous monetary gift each year of our childhood, nestled in a beautiful Hallmark card. The three-figure number (a lot of money for Serbia) precisely outlined by little perforated dots that felt like Braille on the back, the intricate design on the thick stock of the Toronto Dominion bank cheque. 
So my parents asked me - likely as a joke - where would I want to invest my money?
     "JIK bank - a bank in your home!" - I answered right away and they all burst into laughter.
There was a radio commercial for Jugoslav Investment Credit bank that aired constantly. Having stayed home with a nanny while all the other family members were in school or at work caused me to hear the marketing message so many times a day that I even said it with the intonation of the voice actor.  This had brought on an flurry of giggles. 

JIK bank pin
However, my own parents didn't bank with the JIK bank and no one was seriously committed to honouring storing my Canadian dollars the way I had personally elected to as a young investor. When I realized there was no call being made on my behalf (JIK bank's pitch promised they would even send a representative to one's home to open an account!) I immediately opted for that meltdown that everyone remembers till today. The story was that I cried for hours, voice hoarse and eyes red and swollen. My mother made an executive decision to send me to bed without dinner - likely a difficult and heart-wrenching move for her given at age four I was skinny as a toothpick - a hopelessly poor eater. 

All these years later, it turns out that as an adult I am equally unprepared to deal with authority that offers me a freedom of choice within well-established rules, only to neglect honouring it when decision time comes. In minor cases I am talking about offers which 'expired' and can't be honoured even though the fine-print is clear and the date is right. That's when I become a relentless warrior of the customer service line until the issue is resolved to my utmost satisfaction. In major cases -- well, I am not going to be talking about major cases. You get the point. 

I'm not sure if this childhood incident ignited my moderate yet unfaltering type of righteous-rebelliousness to see each "because I say so" type of injustice through until its very end, but this just might be the case. Don't circumstances usually forge the behaviours? Adamantly forbid something and sure as hell it will be done behind your back: Not staying off the grass. Underage smoking. Experimenting with drugs. Not asking your doctor. Driving over the speed limit. Drinking while at work. Using business hours to browse the internet, write a book, sell shakes, jewelry and even real-estate? 
Pretty much every time a parent, a boss or a politician tries to go hard-ass with some safety or productivity or political rule, it backfires. And in case the parent, the boss or the politician showed a smidgen of incongruence with their own rule - the very core of that structure starts to rot, perhaps not visibly at first, but surely leading to an individual if not collective collapse down the road. 

Bottom line - those making up the rules or making accusations better make them and enforce them carefully - perhaps highlighting guidelines that honour integrity, core values and the big picture; ensuring they themselves first adhere to the very last letter of it. You can't take a 'green day' then expect your teenager to stay off weed. It just doesn't work that way!

My guilt-ridden mother tells me she entered my bedroom shortly after she sent me to bed on that day. My breathing was still heavy from all that drama and she wanted to kiss and make nice, thinking I wouldn't be able to fall asleep until we said 'sorry'.

    "Hey darling, I came to say goodnight. I'm sorry you were disappointed. We will talk about the bank tomorrow." She sat near me and tenderly stroked my hair. "Is there anything you want to say to mama?" 
    "Yes." My quiet voice answered and my mom smiled. I shakily drew a deep breath:     
    "Mama, actually, I don't want to be good!" Then allegedly relieved, I fell asleep. 

The way I try to parent my boys is by being fluid. Have the core rules we are proud to honour in our family each and every time no matter our relative rank by age: being kind, honest, hard-working and light-hearted. Light hearted. It is extremely important not to take ourselves too seriously, let alone make comparisons to others. That goes under 'kind': kind to ourselves. Compete today only with who we were yesterday and no one else. And then there are those rules which are welcome to be 'broken' especially when folks with born-into-it status or those with default authority are in question. By example, I often teach my kids "not to be good"-- coaching them to sense and question inauthentic behaviours and one-sided rules, challenging the unfair, exposing the fake and the ridiculous. Like an everyday version of a PG-rated bad-ass, steadfast in being the proverbial 'troublemaker'.
It's my pleasure to be one!
Proudly raising the next generation of troublemakers! 

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