If you want to go to heaven, you’ve got raise a little hell

There was a topic recently on the evesun.com forum questioning whether or not there should be mandated curfews for kids.

I think so.

When I was a budding youngster, kids had to take an active role in their development. That often meant getting in trouble. Because in the mid-1990s video games hadn’t replaced real adventures and computers were still for nerds. Nope, we were outdoor kiddies who learned from the school of hard knocks (and run when the porch lights come on). And curfews – especially when you break them in the formative years – were good learning tools for those who wished to one day be street smart.

If there weren’t any when I was a teenager, my friends and I would have rammed around town day and night without a care in the world, probably causing all sorts of senseless trouble. What would that have taught us? Nothing. Instead – fearing the consequences from police and parents, but born with hot sauce in our shorts – we had to raise hell consciously. That, people, teaches discipline (which is what keeps most of us from acting like the selfish, rotten and evil creatures that we really are).

Curfews disciplined us to be resourceful. Planning well in advance and making due with whatever supplies were available were keys to survival. For example, replenishing a dried-up stock of Little Debbies alone was not worth breaking curfew. However, if something else came along that was – like the prospect of crashing a slumber party across town – we’d pick-up the Ho-Ho’s while we were out (this brings us back to being well prepared; the least publicly-used route to a destination was always mapped out before venturing off after curfew. That often meant the difference between playing truth or dare and getting grounded).

Skirting the rules also disciplined us to be patient. If you’re dodging cops and/or mom and dad (who think you’re at a church lock-in) after curfew, you can’t just go around egging every house you pass or snowballing every car you see. That draws attention. Back then the secret was picking the right moment. Watching and waiting. And when the time was right, we’d let a few fly... “BAM! BAM! BA-BAM! BAM! BA-BAM!” Then you were gone before they even had a chance to slam on the brakes.

We were disciplined to be efficient. There weren’t second chances to get the job done after curfew. But in getting it right the first time, we usually produced works of art (i.e. the Mexican snowball stand-off of ‘95, the Egg Eclipse in ‘96 and the ten-year Shaving Cream Wars, 1997-98). I often think about the less-than-quality work we would have cranked out if the law wasn’t there to keep us in check.

And put us in check they did – any decent hell-raiser found out the hard way that sobbing when your parents showed up at the police station wasn’t nearly as bad compared to wetting your pants in the squad car. Having those humbling experiences – separately, in succession, or at the same time – would make any kid, or adult, regret breaking the rules (for a few months, anyway).

But that’s what rules are for; testing, bending and breaking. If you break the rules, get punished and feel bad enough not to do it again, you just might be learning what it means to be a good person.

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