The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Studies in growing up

Five-year-old child with her mother on the bus. Fascinated by the bell cord. Inevitably pulls it -- two stops too early. Comes the lecture: "Did I tell you to pull it?" and the forced apology to the bus driver later. Others around me thought the girl looked contrite, and thus cute (but were careful not to say so within her hearing). I thought the girl had gotten what she wanted, and at the cost only of a coerced apology and an unheard lecture. Perhaps she had learned that some things were off-limits, or perhaps she had learned only not to get caught. Had she been taught the value of embarrassment? In a very similar situation around the same age, I remember having learned only to hate the one apologised to, and hating being forced to the apology in the first place. The consequences learned to be associated with the action of disobedience, I think, might perhaps not have been the ones the mother had intended to teach.

Try this for an alternative: "Well, dear, you pulled the bell. That means we have to get off and walk the rest of the way."

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