Thursday, February 10, 2011

CAUTION! Rule Follower

Make no mistake, we love Our Daughter. Oh, sure, every now and then we contend with a modicum of attitude. She is a teenager, after all.

Just this morning, for instance, she stormed across the living room, wrapped in a towel, and angrily declared how ridiculous it is that she has only two pairs of panties.

It isn't true, of course. There are at least eight in her dresser at this very moment and one on her body, so she must have meant to say she has only two pairs of panties that fit her with any measure of comfort. She calmed down after a minor lecture from her mother and me in which we explained how the frilly underwear fairies don't whisper to us in our sleep when it's time to bring her to the mall to buy her some new drawers.

Fortunately, these kinds of situations are rare. Ours is a house with minimal drama and a fair amount of laughter. But we've recently been informed of a disturbing development in Our Daughter's behavior by the parent of one of her friends.

This summer, as she has the past two years, Our Daughter will attend a week-long sleepaway band camp at a college campus about an hour from home. Several of her friends also will attend, and she will share a room with one of them for the first time this year. Upon learning of the room assignments, the girl who roomed with her last year gave the new roomie a warning about Our Daughter:

"She's a rule follower!"

Turns out we've raised a goody two-shoes. Last year, when the resident instructor said "lights out and no talking," Our Daughter took it seriously. She wouldn't even whisper to her roommate across the dark dorm room. This shouldn't come as a surprise to us, and it is not necessarily a direct result of our parenting. Her compulsive need to follow the rules has been part of her nature from early on.

Even in preschool, she would follow her teacher around the room, wagging her finger at her classmates and repeating whatever admonishment the teacher was doling out. In kindergarten, she once confronted a kid who was picking on someone else, not because the bullied child was her friend, just because it was wrong.

A few years later, when our school system decided to discard the traditional methods of teaching math -- you know, the ones that have proven successful for thousands of years -- in favor of a new style of teaching, it led to a few arguments over homework. In helping her understand her work, I would show her how most normal people arrived at answers to simple math problems. She would then proceed to cry about how "that isn't how the teacher wants us to do it and if we don't do it the right way she's going to mark it wrong because we have to show our work!"

It didn't help that one of her elementary school teachers reinforced this hysteria by advising us to coach Our Daughter it was better to get all the problems finished than to worry about answering them correctly. Silly me, no wonder I struggled with math in school. I always thought it was all about getting the answers right...

Anyway, my Lovely Wife and I need to address this goody-goody problem quickly. We need to make sure Our Daughter enters high school this fall with some street cred.

Unfortunately, when your daughter is a well-behaved All-County flautist who frequently makes the Distinguished List with all As, asks every week if she can help supervise her brothers' Boy Scout meetings because she loves working with young children, and is a ninth-year Girl Scout working on her silver award that might have her teaching basic dance at a summer camp for kids with special needs, street cred might be a tall order.

I'm just sayin'.

© 2010 Mark Feggeler


  1. Mark, I followed your link over from the KindleBoards. My daughter just turned sixteen in January (oy vey!!!) and for years I thought I was the only parent who had to keep explaining about the underwear fairy. I laughed so hard when I read about your daughter storming in and announcing she had no underwear. I swear, I just had that same stomping declaration of underwear lack here about a month ago.

    What an amazing girl it sounds like you're raising. Street credit? She'll be the one that everyone is amazed by. Just you wait! Valedictorian, student council president...

  2. Hi Jenny!

    That darned underwear sure is tricky, isn't it? Our boys aren't nearly as picky. After all, they're 9-year-old boys. If it doesn't smell too bad, they'll wear anything.

    Thanks for visiting!