Monday was Emma’s kindergarten field trip to Milky Way Farm, for which I had volunteered as a chaperone. About a week before the trip, we received an email from the teacher: “You must have your child abuse clearance and criminal background check on file in order to chaperone the trip.  No exceptions. Please call Barb in the office for further info.”

Well, I knew my clearances were not on file, and the few times I called the office Barb was either at church or in the bathroom.  I had my clearances done before but was pretty sure they were expired, but was equally sure I couldn’t get new ones in a week.  What’s a mom to do?

Phil said, “Just go. That’s bullshit.”  I didn’t disagree.  I wasn’t driving any children, nor was I riding the bus.  Never was I going to be alone with children.  Never mind that I am Emma’s MOTHER, not some shady priest stranger sporting Wranglers and a handlebar mustache.  It seemed like a ridiculous restriction. But I kept going back to the email, my eyes zeroing in on “No Exceptions.”

If I went on the trip, I would be breaking the rules.

When I was in kindergarten, I clearly remember the day we painted our Father’s Day paperweights.  Mrs. Young handed out a rock to each child and instructed us to paint it red or blue, depending on our dad’s preferred color, and then top it off with yellow polka dots.  Her instructions gave me pause, as I was not sure if my dad was a red or blue kind of guy- his sneakers were blue but his windbreaker was red.  What’s a girl to do?  I decided the safest solution was to paint ½ red and ½ blue, and then add the yellow polka dots.  Genius!

Well, Mrs. Young didn’t think so.  “What are you DOING?  This is ALL WRONG!  You didn’t follow the RULES!”

I was mortified, traumatized, scarred for life.  I was a Good Girl: the oldest child, the perfectionist, the people pleaser. I wore plaid skirts and monogrammed sweaters and received gold stars for cooperation.  Yet here I was, relegated to the naughty table during Free Play with Randy Rodecki, who was no stranger to the naughty table.

Never again did I want to experience the humiliation of public admonishment and the shame of the naughty table – thus creating a conflict between self-expression and the need for approval.  Following the rules seems easy…until you begin to realize what you sacrifice for rigid obedience.  For me, the wakeup call came in the form of a man who represented all the fun I WASN’T having: Phil.

Phil, the baby of six children, self-admittedly has “a blatant disregard for rules.”  When we first started dating, I found him so frightening it was fascinating.  Within a month of dating, I had broken more rules than I had in 24 years: I used the men’s restroom several times, stole wine glasses and a pumpkin, drank from open containers in moving vehicles, snuck back stage at a reggae concert for which I had no ticket, and threw my underwear into the Schuylkill.  Being with Phil reminded me of Ferris saying to Cameron as they sat watching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field: “Hey Cameron, do you realize that if we played by the rules, right now we’d be in Gym?”

This got me thinking about Rule Breakers and Rule Followers.  We all resemble at least one of the charcters from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as it pertains to civil disobedience:

The Ferris

The ultimate rule breaker.  Both charming and devilish, he has mastered the art of skirting the rules without getting caught.  At the heart of the Ferris is resistance to authority and the systems put in place by those in a position of power.  While at times The Ferris may push the limits out of pure resistance to being dominated, for the most part he/she questions the validity of a rule before challenging it.  When faced with a restriction, The Ferris asks “why?” This is especially true when the integrity of the source is questionable: “If I’m gonna get busted, it’s not gonna be by a guy like that.”

The Jeannie

The Jeannie secretly wants to break the rules but doesn’t think she can without getting caught.  She resents The Ferris for leading the charmed life she feels is out of her reach: “I could be bleeding out the eyeballs and you guys would still make me go to school!”  Early in our relationship, Phil pressed the buttons of my inner Jeannie as he charmed his way into the hearts of my friends and family.  After a bizarre third date involving partial nudity while driving and modeling sunglasses for Japanese tourists at a reststop, I confided in my friend Krystin that I was about ready to call it quits.  She replied matter of factly, “He’s awesome.  You just need to stop being such a bitch.”  The Jeannie can be saved from a lifetime of bitterness by recognizing if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em.

The Sloane

The Sloane is the loyal follower of The Ferris. She is intoxicated by the sense of freedom from conformity The Ferris provides. The Sloane is the good solider, seamlessly executing the plan set forth by The Ferris without question.  However, it is not in her DNA to be the leader. She chooses to challenge the status quo in more subtle ways, like by wearing shorts with white leather boots and a white fringed jacket.  But without The Ferris she would still be yawning her way through English class.  Sadly, I will never be a true Sloane.  I am a loyal follower of Phil’s schemes only when I am unaware that what we are doing is illegal.  I also could never pull off shorts and boots.

The Cameron

While possessing qualities of The Jeannie and The Sloane, deep down I am really a Cameron.  Uptight, neurotic, and scared of his/her own shadow, The Cameron adheres rigidly to the rules out of pure fear: “Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a piece of coal up his ass, in two weeks you would have a diamond.” The Cameron needs The Ferris to save him from himself….or at least show him what he is missing (“To Cameron Frye, who doesn’t think he has seen anything good today!”).  But ultimately it is up to The Cameron to make the choice to come to the other side; to take a stand against conformity and embrace his personal freedom.

So, I didn’t go to the farm….but I did stress about it for 48 hours consider it.

If Emma was not easily bribed by a trip to Rita’s upset about me not going, I would have challenged the system.  But I tried to look at the bigger picture.  The motive behind the rule – to keep kids safe – was a good one, so I decided to save my personal revolution for another day.  The Mother’s Day Tea is tomorrow….

Does anyone have a white fringed bolero jacket I can borrow?


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