The “But” of Consequence

Life gets a whole lot less interesting the moment you’re able to comprehend consequence.

When I was about 2 or 3 I was in the tub with my sister who was 3 years older. My mom trusted my sister with me because she knew that a responsible big sis wouldn’t hold her little sister’s head underwater or smear soap in her eyes. What my mother didn’t foresee was the potential threat that this arrangement posed for my sister.

I distinctly remember my sister lying on her stomach in the tub and me looking down at her little peach bum sticking up out of the water. Now I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I do know that I still laugh hysterically when I think about it.

I very intentionally laid my washcloth across her butt and then proceeded to bite her as hard as I could. Like I said, I can’t tell you why because I have absolutely NO idea what was running through my mind. But, I CAN tell you that for some reason, I thought it was necessary to place a washcloth over her first so as to bite her THROUGH the fabric. I’m not sure if that cloth barrier was for her or for me. But that’s the way it went down.

My sister yelped and cried and my mom pulled me out of the tub. And our whole family has laughed about it for years … save for my sister, who I suspect is still harboring some bitterness over the whole thing. To my knowledge, I never got in trouble for that. I think my parents probably thought I was just an innocent child who was “exploring her world” by biting her sister’s butt. I never did it again. And that’s all I remember. So you see, no consequences = pure, unbridled joy and fun!

My first exposure to suffering consequences for my less-than-stellar behavior came in kindergarten. It was a day just like any other day as I carried my lunch tray to my spot at the table and sat down. I saw my friend Kristi coming to sit next to me and I remember that in a split second a brilliant idea flashed through my deviant, little mind…

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Kristi—with her tray of steaming-hot food—comes to sit down next to me, fully expecting a chair on which to rest her butt, and it isn’t THERE? That would be kind of a funny and unexpected surprise! I think I’ll yank her chair out from under her as soon as she tries to sit down.

So I did.

And she fell.


I remember the visual like it was yesterday. Not because it was funny, but because I hadn’t thought my actions through. I didn’t connect the dots that my friend might get hurt or feel embarrassment or have hot food spill all down the front of her. Nor did I connect the dots that within 15 minutes of the “incident,” I’d be sitting in “time-out” in the kindergarten room while the rest of the kids frolicked on the playground and my teacher paced back and forth in a state of utter shock and confusion at my violent disruption and my parents searched frantically for child psychologists and clergy to help make some sense of their crazed, demon-possessed daughter.

OK, I made up the part about my parents searching for psychologists and clergy. But the rest is genuine fact. You can ask Kristi. She is somehow, by the sheer grace of God, still my friend. BTW… Thanks for still being my friend, Kristi!

I learned that day that an impulsive, ill-conceived action on my part had the ability to cause some rather large ripples afterward—like throwing a boulder into a tiny, shallow pond. Sometimes people get wet. But the other valuable thing that I learned was that because of “consequences” and “ripple effects” life would never be the same.

It would NEVER be as much fun as it was “pre-chair-incident.”