Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Authoritatively Speaking

I'm just going to jump right into it without any anesthesia. I have this undeniable, innate urge to please authority figures. Whether it be my doctor, police officers, my dental hygienist, the people who work at the leasing office of my building, I want to please them in some way.

This is nothing new for me. Before I began kindergarten I found out my teacher was going to be Mrs. Santos. She was rumored to be the meanest kindergarten teacher in the whole school. My brother'd had her four years previous and knew for a fact she was mean. The fact that my brother has a very different personality than I do and was a bit of a troublemaker (I'm being kind) didn't cross my mind. I just resolved, in my five year old little head that I was going to be Mrs. Santos' best pupil.

School picture day in 1984. The reason for the lack of smile? I was feeling overwhelmingly shy and scared that day. There were so many people I didn't know!

On the first day of class teacher set out her expectations. We were to salute the flag with our right hand over our hearts, standing up straight and looking at the flag. During story time we were to sit on the floor "Indian style" with our legs folded, and we were not to squirm or wiggle. For most of my peers, this was difficult, but not for me. I was determined that Mrs. Santos like me, love me, sing my praises. So I met her every expectation, standing up straight during the flag salute, sitting "Indian style" during story time, doing my best to color in the lines during coloring time. These were my priorities. Friendships with my peers, not so much a priority. I figured I would focus on that later, once I had successfully earned the respect of my teacher.

And I soon found out that being teacher's best pupil had it's perks. During a playground brawl, I ended up with a bloody nose (I can't guarantee that I hadn't provoked the brawl in some way). When Mrs. Santos saw this she immediately rushed to my aid, found out who was to blame for my bloody nose and brought swift punishment to that child. I didn't revel that the other child was punished, only that I was given attention by an authority figure.

Christmas 1984.

I was pretty proud of the fact that I was an early-bird kindergartner, a spot that was reserved for students that did not need any extra time and attention to learn the essential basics of that first year of school. At least that's how I understood it. I was given the honor, one time, to lead the class to the bus. We would line up, perfectly straight (if I had anything to say about it), and march down the hall to the other end of the school to where the bus picked us up. With me in the lead, the other students lined up behind me. I obediently waited for Mrs. Santos to give us the official go-ahead that we could walk down the hall. Lunch recess ended, the other children in the school returned to their classes, and I stood waiting for the go-ahead. It never came, until much later. And by that time the bus had already left. And I was scared and worried. The school called another bus to pick us up, and I was dropped off at my bus stop, which was a block down the street from my house. But at the time, I didn't realize how close it was. And when I saw that my mom wasn't at the bus stop waiting for me as usual, I panicked. I crumbled from the stoic five year old valiantly vying to earn her teacher's respect to a "common" child, who got scared and cried and wet her pants. Through the goodwill of others I found my way home. After getting some grief from my older siblings about wetting my pants and not knowing the way home, the route from the bus stop to my house was mapped out for me.

As I look at myself now, I still see glimpses of that strictly obedient, stoic little child. But I'm more human now and make more mistakes and fail to wow all the authority figures in my life. Sometime I'll tell you about my recent experiences with my doctor, and how disappointed I was that he was not enamored of me and my obedience.


  1. I, too, am a rule-follower, but I need praise for following the rules.

  2. Somehow I can totally see you as a child feeling like this. Maybe it's because when I'm rolling my eyes at a RS presidency you are always finding something nice to say about them. Makes sense.


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