Don’t Mis Step

Main Piece:

Informant: “Whenever I was walking as a kid I would always say ‘Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back’. I remember I would always look down at my feet whenever I would walk around because I was so paranoid that I would accidentally step on a crack and didn’t want my mom to get hurt… *laughs* It was something that I learned from my older sister and her friends, and I would always do it with my friends at school. Whenever we would walk on an old sidewalk with tons of cracks and even normal ones, we would be walking in very abnormal strides to avoid stepping on them.”

Collector: “Did you really think it would break your mom’s back if you stepped on a crack?”

Informant: “Honestly not really… I figured it out after my first time stepping on a crack on accident. I remember being in such a bad mood all day at school because I thought my mom was hurt and it was all my fault *laughing* But after the initial experience we all kind of knew that our mothers wouldn’t be hurt if we stepped on one, but it was fun to play along with… Also, it was kind of fun when someone else did step on one, cause we would all make a big deal about it and tease each other if one of us misstepped.”


The informant is a 28-year-old who was raised in the Midwest and has very distinct memories of the game. He stated that he sometimes still finds himself avoiding cracks on the ground to this day even though he is in his late twenties. He claims that this habit and belief are so ingrained in him from his childhood that he still just tries to avoid them.


The games children play are interesting. I feel as though many of these games may have a deeper meaning and may stem from some sort of natural survival instinct or practice. The game of not stepping on a crack or else their mother will get hurt makes me think of watching where you step in general. In older civilizations and societies there were many more dangers to youth than there are today. For example, kids could be waking near dangerous areas where venomous snakes or animals might be lying nearby to strike them, so it was much more important to teach children to be cautious of where they were stepping. I feel like this tradition of do not step on a crack or it will break your mother’s back may have evolved terminus post quem from an older version where the lesson was the same, watch where you are walking.