And that's just the Preface. The whole rule book is longer than "War and Peace."

Priests, teachers, mothers and grandmothers were all in cahoots.  Their rules were suspiciously similar and varied only in circumstance, not substance.

I had visions of them in clandestine meetings and snickering as they added impossible mandates to their already tyrannical catalog of regulations meant to distinguish the Good from the Bad Children. What puzzled me was how they managed to convene and agree, especially given their differing schedules and pastimes, and general stealth-deficiency.

Since mom worried about my sisters for a variety of reasons they fully admit to now, I was her only hope for an angst-free child. I decided at a ridiculously early age to be the Perfect Child: the one she never had to lose sleep over. Being perfect became my Mission.

Here’s what I knew.  Good Children knew and obeyed the rules most of the time. Perfect Children, like I needed to be, obeyed the rules all of the time. And with good cheer. Rare as a pirate’s treasure map that actually leads to treasure, these precious youth were scarce. Other children hated Perfect Children. While I wanted to be loved
by everyone, being adored by adults—especially my mom—was more important to me
than dirty looks on the playground.

I took my Mission seriously, paying close attention to all adults and following every rule in every book. I was polite, quiet, obedient, helpful, cheerful, tidy, smart, dependable—basically every adult’s dream and every other child’s nemesis. That was my plan.

Adults seemed mixed on their feelings about Perfect Children. Some cherished me, holding me up as an idol to be worshiped—or cloned, if possible. Teachers were most prone to holding this opinion.

Some grown-ups treated me with an odd concoction of appreciation and disbelieve—other parents and relatives, mostly. There was an unspoken “but” after every “That Lorna is such a good girl….”  Surely, they must have thought, but she is too good to be true.  I could see it in their quivering smiles and shifting eyes—the look that grown-ups get when cornered by a relative at a family gathering whose new job involves “sales.”
It was unsettling for everybody.

Perfect and Evil Children didn’t exist in my world. Most children were either Mostly Good or Mostly Bad.

Mostly Good Children knew the rules and tried their best to follow them. But they invariably flubbed up and felt awful about themselves. They said “I’m sorry,” a lot and spent a great deal of time wishing they were someone other than themselves while being punished.

Just look at this Bad Child--no rules, no worries! It's unnatural.

Mostly Bad Children were those who didn’t learn the rules, knew the rules and didn’t follow them because they thought they were stupid, or made fun of Mostly Good/Perfect Children. Mostly Bad Children generally seemed to have more fun, regardless of how grown-ups felt about them or what punishments they received.

Perfect Children had to know the all rules, follow them all the time, and be a shining example for all the other children who hated us. Perfect Children, if they make it through childhood, are often found in therapy or prison, writing about their stressful childhoods.

I tried to be a Perfect Child; but my Mission, it seems, turned out to be Mission Impossible.

Well, I wasn't trying to anger God or anyone else, for that matter.