Don’t put the cat in the tumble dryer, it’s the rules.

 

Childhood is full of rules – make your bed, eat your broccoli, don’t put the cat in the tumble dryer… and that’s all you see as a child. Rules.

We spend our entire youth suffering the rules of others. Occasionally rebelling against teachers, parents and other rule makers, but mainly we just go along, beating our own drum, slightly differently to any one else, but never loud enough to bother the rule makers, else they ask us to turn it down. We spend years, tapping away lightly, contriving the most befitting beat, ready for that day we’ve been dreaming of – the day we are no longer bound by rules.

Ah! To be grown up, to have the freedom to do as we please, eat what we like, and to be able to create masterful painted artworks in the living room.

So we wait with bated breath. Thirteen years, hooray, we’re on the road. Fifteen, just keep holding those cards close to your chest. Sixteen, getting closer. Eighteen, start shining those drum kits. Twenty one, aren’t we there yet? Twenty seven, what’s happening? Did we miss the boat? Thirty, hold on just a darn tootin’ second, this isn’t what I signed up for.

Thirty – surely the age of freedom, right? If you ask a teen, thirty is on the other side of the hill that freedom sits atop. How did we miss it? How could we have made it all the way up that hill, lugging these heavy drum kits, waiting for the day we could show the world our unique beat, and then miss our opportunity? We find ourselves back at the bottom of the hill, once again surrounded in rules.

In all our wishing and hoping for freedom, in all our planning for life after rules, in all our practice sessions to discover our own unique beats we turn around and realise that instead of our parent’s, teacher’s, and grandparent’s rules, we now have a whole new set of rules. Our own.

Still we make our bed, we resist eating cream filled éclairs for dinner in favour of broccoli and pumpkin, and instead of wondering what it would feel like to paint on the carpet, we are screaming at our children to put down the cat and step away from the tumble dryer.

We have turned into the rule makers, and we realise, rule makers have rules too. But it gets worse.

Should you break a rule as a child you are punished, perhaps ordered to do the dishes, or miss a friend’s party, or massage your father’s hairy feet. You accept your punishment, with tears perhaps, but once it’s over, it’s forgotten and you start looking for the cat again. As an adult, everything is far grimmer.

As an adult, if you break a rule, there are no punishments exacted (criminal rule breakers aside), the dishes need to be done anyway, there are no hairy feet. Perhaps it would be better if it were, for should we make a mistake, we can submit our apology, accept our punishment and be happy again. But it’s not.

As an adult rule breaker we look forward to the worst punishment any crime could inflict. Guilt. We carry it with us, it dampens our drums and it tells us that we are bad even if we are not. We stop drumming, some of us, forever.

Guilt, no one wants it, therefore we endure our rules, looking up longingly at that mountain peak where freedom resides and wondering why there is no one there. Surely someone has made it to freedom by now?

But no, we all follow our rules, and the peak stays lonely, haunted occasionally by a very lucky cat, and the faint sound of drums.

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~ by Alissa Anderton on May 25, 2010.

2 Responses to “Don’t put the cat in the tumble dryer, it’s the rules.”

  1. Hah I’m actually the first reply to this incredible post?

  2. This post speaks to me! I follow and make and police rules all day everyday as a teacher … I keep thinking Jack Nicholson style “Is this as good as it gets?”

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