We were sitting at the gazebo, enjoying a late afternoon meal when I noticed Jenny’s bare feet. I had to do a double-take. I grew up bare foot so that fact that Jenny didn’t have shoes on wasn’t what caught me off-guard. Nor was I surprised by how dirty they were. After all, when you walk around on a farm without boots or shoes, your feet will get dirty.
It was her toenails.
I leaned over to her mother and whispered. “Is Jenny wearing toe nail polish?”
It was a dumb question because, obviously, she was.
Anna sighed and nodded her head. “She’s being naughty, isn’t she?”
Jenny blushed and hid a smile as she began collecting the dirty dishes to take inside.
Naughty? Nail polish?
On television and in a lot of books, rumschpringe is often depicted as youths gone wild…venturing to the city, drinking, doing other unspeakable (or even unthinkable) things that we do not associate with the Amish.
To be fair, some Amish youths do engage in some craziness during the years from age sixteen until they become baptized members of the church. Years ago, I remember reading in the New Holland newspaper about an Amish youth arrested for dealing cocaine. Recently I’ve heard a lot about drug abuse in Holmes County, too. For sure, Amish youth are as tempted by sin as the rest of us.
However, for my Amish family in Lancaster, wearing toe nail polish was “naughty.”
You see, we hear about the Amish youth who get arrested or are in the news. When we read books about out of control youths, we start to think that’s the norm. But the truth is that the majority of Amish youth are not beer guzzling, drug ingesting wild people. Most of them, especially the ones that living in farming communities, might smoke cigarettes or drink a little alcohol. But, for the most part, their running around years consists of wearing a little makeup (girls only, of course), going to movies, or dining out with friends. And, of course, having cell phones.
Apparently even Amish youth would be lost without a cell phone.
Unfortunately, that type of rumschpringe doesn’t make for a very interesting television series, book, or newspaper article.
FULL DISCLOSURE: One of my books, Valley of Hope (available in eBook and coming soon in paperback to Walmart exclusively) tells the story of Samuel Lapp who has a somewhat wild rumschpringe and finds himself in a bit of trouble. Yes, it’s dramatized a bit, but it’s a little more realistic than the things you see on (un)reality television.
Compared to non-Amish youth, I would take Jenny’s rebellious toe-nail painting over what Englische parents encounter with their teenagers (myself included). Fortunately, my youngest child is more aligned with Jenny than with Samuel. Her rebellion consists of collecting horses (and a burro) which, while costly, is better than the alternative. And, of course, having those animals keeps her out of trouble while teaching her responsibility.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why so many of the Amish farmers that I know have children who are less inclined to experiment with REALLY naughty things. 🙂
Sarah Price is the author of the Plain Fame series and the Amish of Ephrata series, among other books. She comes from a long line of devout Mennonites, and her writing reflects accurate and authentic stories based upon her own experiences with several Amish communities. Visit her at sarahpriceauthor.com and on Facebook.