The bubblegum indicator.

“Tienes chicle?” I will never in my life forget how to say “Are you chewing gum?” Okay, really it translates to “Do you have gum?” but considering it was my 7th-grade Introduction to Spanish teacher asking the question, I can understand why she dumbed it down. I must have heard that question 500 times that year. Tienes chicle? Tienes chicle? Tienes chicle?

We weren’t allowed to chew gum in class. Most students aren’t. But seventh grade was the first year I my friends and I bothered to rebel, even the tiniest bit and with the smallest of infractions. Maybe the other kids had been bending the no-gum rule for years, but my friends and I came from a tiny little neighborhood school where our teachers were friends with our parents and you didn’t dare step out of line because, well, because it was like disrespecting your family. It was personal. Junior high was different. It was the polar opposite of my little insular elementary school. Gum chewing hardly rated on the scale of infractions. And even then, even though everyone was doing it and some teachers tolerated the practice, I rarely tried to get away with chewing gum during class. Between classes? Maybe. Before and after school? Always. But never during class. I didn’t want to hear “Tienes chicle?” being directed towards me in any language. It was a rule. I could not, would not break rules, Sam-I-Am.

Fast forward a hundred million years (or so it feels) to now. I’m grown up (ha!) with two girls of my own. One of them refuses to get gum, except sometimes on the mornings when she’s being dropped off at her dad’s an hour before school begins. The other will test my limits, rushing to get a piece of bubble gum even as I’m yelling that it’s way past time that we needed to be in the car. Go ahead and guess who is who.

Gracie has a hard time letting thing just be. It’s been brought up that gum isn’t allowed at school, and Bee always responds that she spits out her gum when she gets there. Is it a waste of gum on those mornings when we’re just making the five minute drive to school? Yes, probably. Is it a battle I’m willing to have? Nope. Bee gets told “no” so many times that I’m willing to let the gum slide. And Gracie likes to boss so much that I’m okay with her having to squirm her way through not controlling this particular situation, too.

Still, I find it incredibly interesting to see the personalities of my girlies developing. Gracie tends to be more like me: she hasn’t met a rule she doesn’t want to follow. Of course there are times when she conveniently forgets about those rules, particularly when she’s trying to get away with something. But chewing gum at school? It’s completely within character that it would scandalize her. Bee, on the other hand, likes to play chicken with the rules, seeing how to close to getting away with things she can get before she has to blink (or the opposition does). She’s all, Meh. I’m going to spit it out. Eventually. And if I get caught, the teachers usually give you a warning anyway. And Bee’s okay with that. It makes me uncomfortable playing chicken with the rules, even bubblegum rules, but I’m not Bee. If she wants to make her own choices about bubblegum, that’s great! I can’t think of a better, safer example for her to test out her growing sense of responsibility.

Which is why, when Bee was making a mad dash to grab some gum this morning, and Gracie got a bit panicked, I told Gracie to pipe down; that Bee knew what was allowed at school and she knew that if she got in trouble at school, she’d get in trouble at home. That I trusted Bee to take care of herself. Gracie struggled to swallow the rest of her protest, but turned to go get into the car. Bee didn’t even glance at me as she shoved the gum in her mouth and took off after her sister.

Secretly, I side with Gracie, but I’d much rather get a note about gum-chewing than about cheating or bullying or stealing lunches. Bee has a very different relationship with rules and expectations. She follows them, but she’s much more comfortable fuzzing the edges. They don’t make her nervous. I’m sure there’s something that does, but this ain’t it. And you’ve got to let your children – all of them, in all shapes, sizes and types – be who they are.

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One Response to “The bubblegum indicator.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Bee is so much like my younger child. Oh he loves rules when they work for him, but if they are “working” for him then he will fuzz those edges, push the limits and see just what the punishment might be. Good for you, letting her be her own person and perhaps discovering what the consquences will be. That part is hard as a mom but it has to be done.

    Did the girls love football last night? I didn’t think the game was ever going to start and. . .then I feel asleep. 🙂

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