I recently had a discussion with some people about consequences. It started off with us talking about our kids and teaching them consequences, but rapidly turned into a big share-fest of personal stories about consequences.
For one guy, it was touching a hot stove. For another, it was throwing snowballs at cars and hitting a police car with one. For another, it was getting cut when handling a pocket-knife for the first time. Mine had to do with throwing rocks. At windows.
I was about 9 or 10 and our house was next door to small apartment building. I always thought that was odd, considering it was the only apartment building on the whole entire street, but I’m told it’s because the neighborhood was built before certain zoning laws were established and, well…there you have it.
ANYWAY…I was about 9 or 10 and my next door neighbor (other next door, NOT the apartment next door) and I were playing in his back yard. We got to wondering if we could throw rocks all the way across my backyard and hit the window on the apartment building. This was not a big pane window, it was divided into small squares.
So, we spent some time throwing nickel and quarter sized rocks at this window until one of us, I can’t remember who, broke it. Yay! Mission accomplished! Whaddya wanna do now? It never entered our heads that this was vandalism, or it was wrong, or that someone was going to have to pay money to repair it. We just wanted to see if we could do it.
WELL…as you can probably guess, we were caught. Turns out the old woman who lived in the apartment had spied us through the window and she told my dad. I was the older one, so I MUST have been the ring-leader. My dad paid for the pane replacement and I had to spend an hour each day for a week helping this lady with some chores. I vacuumed her floor, washed her dishes, mopped her floor, took out her garbage, etc. But I was OK with all of that. In my mind, my punishment was just being around her.
Those of you who know me well are no doubt aware that I’m rather quite, introverted and uncomfortable when it comes to interacting with people whom I do not know very well. That hour each day was the longest hour ever. Being 9 or 10, I wasn’t very good at the chores I was doing and she was constantly talking to me about how to do it. Looking back, she was actually trying to teach and help me. She was very patient and she didn’t criticize, she’d dry the dishes while I washed, she’d get the bucket and mop ready…pretty classy. She could have been a mean old bitch, but she wasn’t.
But, damn, I hated it. I would have just rather done the chores and not said two words to her. But no. I had to talk about my school and things I liked to do and listen to her tales of changes the neighborhood had gone through. ::Shudder::
When the week was over, my dad asked if I had learned my lesson. I said yes. He asked what it was that I learned. I told him that you shouldn’t throw rocks at windows because you might have to be with someone you don’t know and talk about things. I remember him agreeing about the rock throwing and was satisfied that I wouldn’t do it anymore. He wasn’t too thrilled with my reason though. He explained the whole “vandalism” and “respect for others” to me, which was all well and good. But I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of the punishment if it was just going to rely on those concepts. The “having to be around and talk with someone you don’t know” thing is what really drove the lesson home.