Broken Bricks


When I was around seven or so years old, we lived next door to two brothers, Tommy and David, who were the same age as my sister and I.  We played together--a lot--and there was a lot to do.  Hide-and-seek is the most memorable sport we played, along with trying to throw things on the roof.

I remember one day when the whole family was at our neighbor's house for a BBQ.  The adults were inside and I was goofing off outside with the kids. One of the boys showed me a hammer and how he could break a brick with the hammer.  Their shrubs were surrounded by a brick border.  It looked like good fun and, well, no red flags went off in my head about how inappropriate it would be to break all of their bricks.

And that's exactly what I did. I just hit one brick after another with the hammer until the game was over (ie. no brick left unhammered).  The boy disappeared, probably because he knew this was not a crime for which he wanted to be an accessory.

The thing is, I thought nothing of breaking the bricks. It was entirely an explorative process.  Yes, I was old enough to use common sense, but I guess you can say that my common sense was a late bloomer.  I didn't even realize I had done anything wrong until I saw the expression on the adults' faces when they saw what I had done.

I was acting on a very non-cognitive impulse.  I was seizing a new experience. I was following what felt like a natural sequence of events. There was a hammer available.  There I was. Hammer, bricks.  What was a girl to do?

I try to keep this experience in mind when I see children doing things that they "should" know is not okay, yet they do it anyway.  More often than not, they are just using a hammer to make broken bricks.

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