Non-scientifically I’ve broken the world into two kinds of moms. Those who let their kids touch the walls and those who don’t. Personally, I let my kid touch my walls. I let adults and other kids touch them too. I touch them and lean against them. The cats brush against them. What’s the big deal?, I think. If the walls get touched, you wipe it off.
I don’t understand the thinking of people who don’t let their kids touch the walls, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Getting walls repainted is expensive but I think it goes even deeper than that. Most of the time when you lean on walls or touch them, you can’t see much of anything at all. Children aren’t room décor. So I asked around. The wall-touching rule is about dicipline, boundaries, and keeping the wall clean. It’s about rules. Rules I could never make, let alone keep.
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My own mom is of the wall-touching allowance type. We were even allowed to tape things on the walls when we were younger. Yes, tape, the old fashioned 1970’s super sticky before the fancy removable tape. Our own artwork and, later, Don Johnson and N-Sync posters. And, yes, upon removal the paint did come off in big, huge chunks that were fun to snap into smaller pieces like super giant potato chips from a freshly opened bag.
Were we disciplined? I think so. None of us smoked, did drugs, drank, or had children before the age of 31. My sister was salutatorian of her class and went into the Ivy League. My other sister and I also did well but nothing that glamourous and name-dropping. None of us did anything that would make the National Enquirer or the Neighbors Police Blotter.
Funny enough, I knew peers who would smoke, drug, drink and have sex with abandon but they wouldn’t touch the walls.
I didn’t have a curfew growing up. My friend Natalie and I would go clubbing every Thursday and Saturday til 4am. Yes, on a school night. And we’d be up for school at 7am. I never missed a day. That was the deal with my mom. School was important. A proper, respectable bedtime was not. I may have slept through a few 5th period Social Studies classes but somehow I passed my AP. I graduated 36th in my class. Still top 10% and I was going to do something creative so it didn’t really matter. But let’s say I did do poorly, she warned me. I’d only be punishing myself. If I failed a class, I wouldn’t be graduating and my choices of college would certainly be different.
To my mom it wasn’t about setting rules for rules sake. But setting ones that mattered. The no curfew wasn’t because she threw up her hands and said, I can’t deal with these kids. It was very calculated. She figured if I was going to get into trouble I was going to get in trouble. It could be at 2am or right after school in a rarely frequented section of the golf course. (This being before the Internet, it was very easy to claim to be at the library.) And doesn’t every kid on after-school specials have a curfew?
I think it was the trust that kept us from doing wrong. I was more afraid of my mom finding something out then the police, God or the afterlife. Train your kid right and that internal guilt is the most punishing of all. Tell your kid if you catch them drinking you’ll drag them to AA. That’s what my mom told us. And she was smart. The only catch to the no curfew rule was that we had to wake her up when we came home. That's was her chance to sniff for clues. Yes, she’s sniff to see if we were drinking or smoking. Ask no questions, get no lies. She was being an aware parent without making it obvious. In fact, the reason she had us wake her didn’t occur to me until years later. Maybe if I’d know I would’ve sprayed myself with Marlboros.
Tell a kid not to smoke and they’ll go do it. Tell them you trust them not to do it because they know the facts and consequences and they’re not idiots, you trust them to make the right decisions when the time comes because they’re smart and know the facts, and it's a whole other story.
I think that’s one of the hardest parts about being a mom. Deciding what is important to you and what isn’t. There’s a fine, fine line. So walls she can touch. Wall sockets, a definite no. And there are so many things that are in the middle.
Do I force my child to wash her hands after playing and before eating? Or remind her, and if she doesn’t do it, fine. I know more than one kid who had worms.