Kids! They’re such little rascals! And when we were kids, we were little rascals, too! In keeping with our Bad Behavior theme issue, we asked our staff writers and editors to share the things that always got them into trouble when they were growing up. (Spoiler alert: Some of us haven’t outgrown our childhood disobedience!)
Alaina, Staff Writer
I got in trouble for looking mean and not speaking to other adults a lot as a kid. Turns out, it was anxiety. And being told I looked mean for most of my childhood really fucked up my ability to say “no” as an adult, so you know, don’t tell your kids they’re mean unless they really are. ??♂️
Alexis, Staff Writer
Dissociating. Whenever I felt overwhelmed/too much yelling dangerous things felt like they were taking place, I’d like pretend I didn’t exist and you couldn’t see me/go like deep in myself until maybe I could come out? But the thing is, people *could* see me but I didn’t really register it, and so now it’s a running joke in my family. Like whenever someone doesn’t want to be seen, they’ll look off (like I used to out the window) when they don’t want to be noticed and everyone calls it “pulling a Lexi”.
On a less traumatic note, just leaving places. Like, I got in trouble for going to different classrooms as a kid and just like, not being where I was supposed to be. This is still a part of me cause it’s like the very small rebellious part of me that’s like “you can’t dictate who I am and where I put this body!” I still very much believe this so, it’s gonna keep happening.
Heather Hogan, Senior Editor
I hardly ever got into trouble when I was a kid because I was already a hundred years old when I was born and something inside me has always been urging me to Do The Right Thing. My friends called me No Fun Heather for my entire life (and sometimes they still do!).
The thing I did that drove my parents the most bananas, though, was question literally everything. I’m happy to do what people tell me to do if it makes sense to me why they’re asking me to do it. If not, though: Okay but like why does my room need to be clean? Why can’t I play outside in the rain? Why do I need to wear a dress to this thing? Why can’t I spend the night at my friend’s house? Why do I need to be home by 10:00? Why can’t I watch this movie? Why do we believe the Bible the infallible word of God? And, again, if the answer to “why” was logical, in my estimation, I was happy to drop it. If not, I was just going to keep on with my rational brain demanding rational explanations until somebody cracked. “Because I said so” and “Because I’m your parent/teacher/boss/pastor” are reasons that have always made me roll my eyeballs out of my head. (Because they’re not reasons!) (Exercise your authority with intellectual honesty!)
I also wandered off a lot on my own because… I wanted to be on my own. Playing with other kids was good and fine, but mostly I wanted to play by myself with my own imagination. And after that I wanted to play only with my best friend and my sister. I really did like other kids but I could only handle their constant noise and rude jokes and inability to talk about anything substantial or sit still for so long — after which I’d just sliiiiiiiiide off to some remote corner of the classroom or playground or, oh I don’t know, way the heck into the deep woods in the middle of a snowstorm for some peace and quiet and time with my own thoughts. My parents used to get furious at me for “getting lost,” but I always knew exactly where I was and why.
Anyway, all of these things are still true about me.
Erin Sullivan, Staff Writer
What’s very weird is that I got in trouble for being quiet at school???? More than one teacher seethed at the sight of me because I didn’t talk a lot? To them? I don’t know! One time a teacher slammed a box of books on my desk and demanded to know why I wouldn’t talk to her, which in looking back was a VERY weird and VERY inappropriate move. Uh, I’m 13 and you’re 40? The most I can figure is that with the unfortunate accessory of my less-than-welcoming resting facial expression, it read as me being smug. I’ve not grown out of my face or my being quiet when I don’t have a lot to say, so if either Mrs. Pace or Mrs. Braun still want to square up at me for this, send them my way.
Yvonne Marquez, Senior Editor
I rarely ever got in trouble at home or at school. I didn’t talk back to adults. I wasn’t a hyperactive child or talkative. I kept to myself and didn’t speak out of turn. I was a good kid! But I remember my family getting after me for two things the most: crying too much and slouching! I was and still am such a chillona so when I was little I was usually crying because I thought my cousins were being unfair when we were playing or I was being misunderstood. I felt too much and didn’t know how to articulate my feelings well enough for my family to understand. My aunts would get after me the most for crying too much and tell me that I needed to toughen up and life was hard so I needed to learn how to deal. I always felt weak for crying but it was like spontaneous combustion, just *poof* and the tears would be rolling down my face. My mom would always defend me and tell my aunts that I was just sensitive.
On the other hand, I would get in trouble with my mom all the time for my bad posture. “Yvonne, sit up!” was all I heard at the dinner table, in the car, at home, at church, just everywhere I went. My mom would kindly remind me to straighten up but after the 50th time, she would be like “you’re going to have a hunchback when you grow up!” I have terrible posture to this day. I blame my terrible self-esteem from all those years in the closet, being a woman, and my boobs.
Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer
My EXISTENCE was a problem. Growing up Bangladeshi in Malaysia, I was under extra scrutiny to be a “good kid” — but when I WAS being a good kid, that was bad, because how dare a “dirty Bangla” be better than anyone else. I never got enough A’s for anyone’s satisfaction, but I also had a class teacher tell my classmates IN MY PRESENCE “Don’t let the Bangla kid do better than you in the exams.” At some point I just checked out — didn’t bother with homework, didn’t bother studying. What for? Exams are meaningless anyway, but if I’m just going to be punished no matter what why not just spend that energy on the sort of learning I like to do naturally?
This has lead to something of a lack of work ethic: mainly, I’ve not been convinced of the value of “hard work” because nine times out of ten it’s the stuff I whipped together in the last minute that has been more fruitful than the stuff I actually spent effort and energy on. I’m a fast worker, an effective one, but that somehow makes me “lazy.” It’s possibly not the most productive way to do things, but at the same time — why bother?
Molly Priddy, Staff Writer
As a kid, if I went a week without my mom warning me about my tone, it was a good streak. I was smart and anxious and empathetic and verbal, and all that mixed together growing up meant I had a lot of big feelings and opinions on them, but didn’t really know how to properly express those. I saw the world in a very black-and-white lens, and if I was right, I didn’t care about anything but proving that. My dad pulled me aside when I was about 11 to tell me I had to stop fighting with my mom, that she’s more of an emotional person who doesn’t use words the way I could, and that I needed to go easier on her because I’m making her cry. I realized it didn’t matter if I was right so much as if I could make a connection with someone to help get us on the same page, even if it’s not the one I initially wanted. I’ve gotten better at tact and context and appreciating the gray areas of life as I’ve grown up, but sometimes something will just really fuck with me and I’ll burn it to the ground with a viciousness that leaves me feeling breathless and also powerful and then I sort of regret it and know that I can’t live my life that way.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
Lying! Just constantly lying for no good reason. I wrote a whole essay about it, I did it for years and years. It wasn’t really lying to get out of trouble or for a purpose; I was otherwise alarmingly well-behaved, didn’t party or go out, had straight As, etc. But from the time I was very young I would make up pets, family members, bunk beds I was forced to share with my brother, the list goes on. Sometimes I would get away with it; other times it would somehow get back to my parents and I would be forced to awkwardly take it back or apologize, and explain to Christine that I did not in fact have my own horse, etc. It doesn’t really hold any appeal for me anymore, but the skill set of making up something convincing and intricate on the spot is a useful one; I have a thriving and fulfilling partnership with an imaginary boyfriend that I can describe in great detail to strange men on the street who ask if I’m single! We’re thinking of having kids and he’s going to propose soon!
Riese Bernard, CEO/Editor in Chief
As a very young lil bit in the world, I feel like I got in trouble A LOT but I can’t remember what I did wrong! I think I was often reprimanded for blowing bubbles in my milk, talking too much, talking back, getting my clothes dirty, being mean to my brother / making my brother star in elaborate short films and weird plays I put on in the living room, being shy (which came off as rude) around strangers and not wanting to wear a dress or brush my hair.
I think the most… um, revelatory story of me getting in trouble as a kid (which maybe I’ve told here before but I’m not sure!) was in 5th grade when I wrote an entire full-length play, cast it with members of my grade, and held rehearsals during recess, to lead up to a production I was organizing and staging and publicizing myself with the help of my friend Beth who was my Assistant Director. And my teacher called me to the front of the class after casting happened and yelled at me in front of the class for doing a thing that made some kids feel excluded. I started crying and my best friend Janelle, who was really pretty and also our teacher’s favorite, came up to the front of the class and just lightly scratched my back while I was getting yelled at. It made me cry more, that display of kindness, but I was glad she came up there and stood with me. I hadn’t wanted to make anyone feel excluded, I just wanted to put on a good show! I was a theater kid so I’d already been rejected for parts I wanted a million times, I thought it was a fact of life. Not like I’d endured my own rejections with anything resembling grace, but I generally assumed my reactions to things were overblown and everybody else was better at it than me.
I guess we worked it out somehow because I put on two plays that year? As a teenager I’d face similar persecution for my school-adjacent creative endeavours that the school wanted nothing to do with; including but not limited to a school newspaper that reported on what we perceived to be draconian disciplinary methods and an erotic literary magazine. Also in that same 5th grade class, everybody was collecting trolls and keeping them on their desks and giving them personalities, and I turned our collective troll collections into a mini-society with a government and media and a gossip magazine and a phone book, which eventually got way out of hand. Somehow troll-related drama led to a kid stabbing me in the arm with a pencil?
I was also constantly getting scolded for being too shy and withdrawn OR for being too social and speaking out of turn, which still checks out. 50% of situations make me unbearably socially anxious like I’m an insecure 7th grader and 50% of the time I won’t shut up and am saying inappropriate BUT FUNNY things nonstop. I remember “Marie is too social” was on a lot of my report cards.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Staff Writer
I did not break rules as a child. I was so adamant about everyone following all rules at all times that when my parents told my Norwegian cousins we could set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve, I pulled out a coloring book my third grade class had been given by the fire department that noted that setting off fireworks in our county was illegal and cried until they agreed not to do the fireworks. This is how I became known as the least fun cousin.
That being said, the one thing I used to get in trouble for both in school and at home was talking too much/too loudly. The one and only time I was reprimanded in elementary school was because I wasn’t using my “inside voice,” and I cried for about two days about it until my teacher finally apologized for yelling at me. I really did not like to break rules or get into trouble of any kind. And even though I’ve become a little more #chill over the years, that aversion toward breaking rules still follows me a bit. On my first date with my girlfriend, I got a little drunk and confessed to her that I’m a rule-follower which is, you know, a super cool thing to tell someone you’re trying to sleep with. Meanwhile, my mom still yells at me for talking too much at the dinner table smh. I have a lot to say!!!!!!
Laneia, Executive Editor
I was constantly in trouble for talking back to the adults in my family and for sulking when I was mad. Oh! And slamming doors! My mother’s favorite story to tell about me is that one day, after years of me slamming the door, she’d just had enough, so she had my stepdad come and take it off the damn hinges. No door, no slamming it. HER PROUDEST PARENTING MOMENT. For the record, I no longer slam doors and no one in my house has ever been permitted to slam a door and they’re all terrified of me thinking they did slam a door when they didn’t — like when a cross-breeze slams it shut, they’ll scramble to make sure that I know it wasn’t them! That was the wind! Sorry!!! You are forgiven, my child.
I will never grow out of talking back or sulking. These things are part of me like blood and bone ok. And I like to think I’ve put my talking-back skills to great use as an adult who enjoys proving points and getting the last word and being right.
This is the roundtable about defending your most obnoxious traits, correct? Great.
Alyssa Andrews, Cartoonist
I always got in trouble for silly little things. Growing up, I was more of a clown-type than anything. I was painfully sarcastic, and always finding excuses to take nothing seriously. I spent a lot of highschool in the Principal’s office as result. As an adult, I feel like I have outgrown a lot of the obnoxious clowning and become quite the rule follower, but I definitely have some of it left in me.
Carrie Wade, Staff Writer
The thing about my worst childhood behavior — being a little shit to my older sister — was that I rarely got in trouble for it to the degree I deserved. Which obviously makes it worse! But I guess I knew how to game the system at that age. I was simultaneously a prankster and a Good Kid who mortally feared punishment, so I’d push riiiiight up to the line of plausible deniability and get out unscathed way more often than I should have.
Those kinds of behaviors feel completely foreign to me now and I’m mortified that they ever happened in the first place. (Can confirm the Good Kid won.) So let me take this moment to say to her, and to all upstanding older siblings similarly roasted by their counterparts: I’m sorry, and you never deserved it. Thanks for being my friend now.
When I was younger, my older sister decided her favorite color was blue and that as such, I wasn’t allowed to have blue as my favorite color. I didn’t fight her, I just decided green was nice too. The same way that my sister claimed blue, she claimed trouble — not on purpose, but that’s how it shook out. I was a good kid. I kept to myself, I got good grades, I didn’t DO trouble. I had to call my dad to ask him what bad things I did to which he said, “I can’t think of anything big. You weren’t a problem child. We didn’t worry about you.”
The things I got in trouble for most were: 1) Fighting with my sister (usually about sharing) . 2) Tracking mud into the house. 3) Bringing toads and newts and bugs anywhere near my mum. 4) Reading at the dinner table, and 5) Bringing the neighbor’s cat into the house, which I had my neighbor’s permission for but my mum’s explicit forbiddance.
It’s all pretty low-level kid stuff that I either don’t do anymore or don’t get in trouble for as an adult.
“But in school,” says my dad, “at parent-teacher conferences across the board, your teachers said that you’re too quiet and you don’t participate in discussions.”
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
When I was a kid, I used to masturbate everywhere. Obviously as an adult I realize this is very much Not Okay, but as a kid you don’t know anything! I taught myself how to masturbate when I was really young – like 4? – but I didn’t really have a concept of how it related to sex at all, I just knew it felt really good and I wanted to feel good all the time. I must have known on some level that it wasn’t really something that was okay to do in public because I remember trying to be secretive about it but unfortunately I was not particularly good at being subtle, as it turned out. You’re shocked, I’m sure.
At that point in my young kiddo life masturbating basically involved humping a firm surface, and I am embarrassed to tell you that multiple elementary school teachers had to ask my mom to tell me to stop humping the rug/floor at story time. My mom also had to explain to me that I couldn’t masturbate in a public swimming pool using a pool noodle, in the living room of our home, or in the bathroom while I had friends over. I wasn’t trying to be bad – I was just obsessed with feeling good.
I would say the spirit of this behavior is still with me, in that I am very interested in getting what I want when I want it and I have no patience and a very high sex drive/desire to masturbate, but no, the literal behavior is not still a part of me because I’m not interested in making others around me feel intensely uncomfortable just so I can get off.
Carmen Phillips, Staff Writer
I guess… I talked too much? I was VERY chatty as a kid. I never, ever shut up. That’s probably the thing that got me in the most “trouble” with teachers.
Off the record (as in I wasn’t caught for this behavior) — I went through a random mean girl phase in the 4th grade? I was a very angry nine year old; I started puberty a bit earlier than the other girls in my class and my hormones were off the charts. At the same time, my grandmother was battling cancer and that took a major toll on my whole family. I’ve never connected it before now, but I think those two awful milestones lead me to take out my bad behavior out on the girls around me. Girls who (presumably) had grandmothers who weren’t filled up with tubes and getting sicker by the day. Girls whose bodies hadn’t yet betrayed them.
My war strategy was cold and calculating. A full on Regina George of my elementary school (with a teeny, tiny burn book)! I’d methodically plan out the exact meanest thing I could say to needle some poor kid’s insecurities, and then I would say it out loud! Or I’d write it down in this composition notebook I kept and then share it behind their back. A group of girls and I pooled our lunch money together and started a “secret club” where we would, like hoard the Little Debbie brownies from the cafeteria? Or something? To keep the treats from the other girls? I can’t quite remember. The details are fuzzy.
Looking back, I seriously regret that there was a phase in my life where pint size me could be so cruel, especially to other pint size girls. It feels so far and distant from who I grew up to be. I know I was in a lot of pain. People in pain who don’t have productive ways to heal, often cause pain in others. By 5th grade I had mostly moved on, and by the start of middle school I was a different person entirely. Still, sometimes I wish I could back to those other girls in my 4th grade and apologize. They really didn’t deserve the hurt that I caused. And now I can’t even remember their names!
Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor
As a small child, my younger brother and I were determined to destroy each other – I’m talking Spy vs Spy level plots to take each other down. If you’d asked me, I would have told you that his birth had been designed as a personal insult to me, and that his only purposes in life were to intentionally get me into trouble or to take things I felt were rightfully mine. We fought constantly, from the time he started talking to… probably the day he got taller than me, and I’m pretty sure I was in college by then.
Both of my best friends also had little brothers, and while one of them also had a Ferguson-from-Clarissa-level antagonistic relationship with hers, the other seemed to actually like her brother??? In a healthy and normal way??? I was completely confused by that dynamic. How was it possible? As far as I could tell, we were natural enemies. I recall seeing an awful lot of self-help books about sibling rivalry and destructive children on my parents’ nightstands.
As an adult, honestly, my brother is fine. We couldn’t be more different (he’s the most straight laced 31-year-old little old man you’ve ever seen), but we are actually friends in a way that seemed inconceivable to us as children. This probably has a lot to do with us not living in the same house for 17 years.
I am still a wildly jealous nightmare person though, that’s real.
Valerie Anne, Staff Writer
The first two things that came to mind were getting in trouble in school for doodling and at home for staying up past my bedtime to read. Which is really all you need to know about me to know all you need to know about me. I still doodle in meetings at work, and now I’m usually staying up too late to watch another episode of TV vs another chapter of a book, so really the only thing that has changed is that there’s no one around to yell at me.