For the most part, I was a good kid and followed the rules.
For example, when I was sick with the measles, my mom had to run out and she told me not to answer the door and not to let anyone in the house. I was about 5 years old, and that’s just how it was in those days – for good or bad – nobody called the cops when your mom had to run out for a little bit and leave a child alone. Turns out, my mom had called my Grandma Harris to come over and watch me. Unfortunately, Grandma Harris did not have a key to the house. And the child she was supposed to be watching, adamantly refused to open the door for her. I didn’t even answer the door – she had to go around to my bedroom window and knock on that and I explained to her that I was not allowed to let anyone in the house. So my mom came home to find my poor Grandma waiting patiently outside the house.
But when my Grandma Harris was filling the pool for the summer (nothing huge, but I sure loved it), and I asked if I could go wade in the water while it was filling, I was told absolutely not. In fairness, we had been somewhere and I was all dressed up in my “good” clothes. My six-year-old mind did not see what harm there could possibly be in me wading into the pool, so I snuck out and went wading and fell in the pool and got totally soaked. My Grandma Harris seldom got angry but boy was she furious with me . She told me that she was going to take down the pool and not put it up again EVER. My mom found me sobbing in the bedroom over the unimaginable horror of a pool-less summer, and she explained to me that, when angry, adults sometimes make threats they never mean to carry out. Needless to say, the pool stayed up and by the next day all was forgiven (if not forgotten).
And on it went. Me being selectively obedient, much more so than my mother ever knew.
I learned that it wasn’t so much about not breaking the rules but not letting your folks know what rules you were breaking.
Later in life my mom said she imagined I had done a lot of things that she was not aware of, and that she was probably happier for not knowing.
Smart woman, my mom.