Tag Archives: anti-hegemonic

Break your Mom’s Back

Main Piece:

B: People would say, “if you step on that crack then you’ll break your mom’s back.” 

Me: Who did you learn that from?

B: A classmate. One time we were walking out to recess and there’s like a crack in the concrete. And so he told me (laughing) that if you step on that crack then you’ll break your mom’s back. And then I just stepped on the crack (laughs). And then I was like- “are you sure about that,” (laughs). 

Me: You did it on purpose?

B: Yeah because I didn’t believe them, cause it was fake. So then I was like “what are you gonna do about it” (laughing). 

Me: Did other kids believe it?

B: No.


My informant is my cousin’s 10-year-old son, who is in the fourth grade. He lives in a suburban neighborhood near Des Moines, which is the capital of Iowa. He goes to a public elementary school in his district, where he first heard this superstition in first grade. He finds this superstition silly as if it could never be believable. He laughs often in this telling, showing that this superstition is rather a funny story to him.


This is a transcript of our conversation over the phone. Lately, he has been telling me stories about what goes on during school, though this conversation was prompted specifically for this collection project. He brought this up on his own.


This superstition was something that I also heard in elementary school. I similarly went to a public school, not too far away from his in the capital (Des Moines). When I was told this, it was also in a playful manner as his re-telling of the superstition suggests. It’s interesting that children find humor in a superstition that sounds rather brutal; a situation where you could be the cause of a potentially debilitating and painful injury to your mother. This act of poking fun at a brutal hypothetical then points to how children often find humor in being anti-hegemonic, where the mother in the situation is the authoritative figure in a child’s life. How a child reacts and perceives this superstition, whether it be humorous like my informant, or fearful, can speak to how a child views the authority of their parent.