Informant: Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.
The informant learned this from her peers in her school.
Children would say this whenever someone else was about to step on a crack in the sidewalk. The premise being that if you did step on a crack, your mother’s back would break. As a result, kids would hop over cracks or pay very close attention to where they stepped.
The informant was very cautious of not walking on cracks; a habit that has persisted to today.
Collector: Would kids ever purposefully step on cracks?
Collector: Why do you think they did it on purpose?
Informant: Maybe people did it to test if it was real.
This superstition expresses children’s fear of harming their parents (as they represented stability and safety to them) as well as their belief in supernatural events.
The idea that kids would purposefully step on the cracks at times to test if it was real shows how children perceive consequences differently than adults. Perhaps they didn’t like their parents or were mad at them, or perhaps they saw it as worthwhile to risk their mother’s health to see if the superstition was valid. The latter could be because a child’s concept of pain is different than an adult, children don’t know the financial issues that would be involved and therefore don’t fully understand the repercussions and the extent to which this would inconvenience and harm their mother.