Every time I hear the word “Rumspringa” I cringe. There’s no such thing! It’s time that someone sets things straight!
Well, actually it’s not that definitive but probably 90% of the idea of “Rumspringa” is mythical. If I’m not mistaken, it was “invented” by some TV show – perhaps Amish in the City?
“Rumspringa” literally means “running around” or “run around” depending on the context. It is actually a concatenation of two Pennsylvania Dutch terms; “rum” and “springa”. “Rum” is usually pronounced with a long ‘uh’ as in the word “put”. “springa” is usually pronounced “shpring’-uh”. “Rum” means “round” and “springa” means “run” or “running”.
Anyway, here is the idea;
A young Amish boy or girl lives a nice God-fearing life, obeys his or her parents, and abides by the Amish interpretation of the Bible. Then, when the boy or girl has reached a certain age, they are allowed, nay, encouraged, to leave the Amish on a journey of self-discovery. This journey is known as “Rumspringa” and ends at some later time when the young adult has discovered himself or herself at which point he or she decides to return permanently or leave permanently.
Here is what really happens;
A young Amish boy or girl is a typical boy or girl except for the environment he or she is growing up in. Sometimes the child does what its parents teach it to – lead a God-fearing life, obeying its parents, and abiding by the Amish interpretation of the Bible. Other times, the child rebels and is punished by the parents. The parents want the child to remain Amish. For many Amish parents, it is a horrible fear of theirs that their child will grow up and leave the Amish – and burn forever in hell for it. They love their child just like any other parent and don’t want the child to be tortured for all of eternity in the fiery pits of hell. Once a teenager, the young Amish person typically chooses to become a member of the church to live his or her life according to the Amish beliefs. A small percentage of Amish teenagers rebel. They start dressing in “English” clothing and some will even go as far as buying a motor vehicle. Mind you, this was never permitted by the Amish parents. In some communities, the rebellious teenager is allowed to live at home despite owning a vehicle. The parents hope that the child’s rebelliousness is just a temporary stage. Sometimes the teenager returns to the Amish and sometimes he or she doesn’t. If a male teenager returns to the Amish you can pretty much bet that there was a girl involved (way more Amish males leave the Amish than do Amish females). In most Amish communities, though, if a teenager has the nerve to buy a motor vehicle, the parents will unequivocally kick the child out of their home. That is, after asking the child where he got the money to buy the car. The child is generally not given an invitation to return. In many cases, communication between the child and the parents and the child and the remaining Amish siblings stops completely.
So there’s your real life Rumspringa: A child develops the courage to leave the oppressive grip of the Amish, despite knowing that he will possibly lose his entire family. There’s no “Rumspringa”. There’s only ‘leaving the Amish” and “not leaving the Amish”. Of course, if you do leave the Amish, you are generally allowed to return as long as you agree to live by their rules.
As for myself, I was lucky in having Amish parents that are a little more loving. When I got my first vehicle I was no longer allowed to live at home but I was still allowed to visit home as long as I didn’t park my vehicle on the property. Even now, living thousands of miles away from my family and not seeing them for over a year at a time – I still don’t have the nerve to park my rental car on their property when I return to visit. Part of it is that I’m not sure my Dad would allow it and the other part is out of respect for their beliefs (I don’t want to “flaunt” my worldliness).