By Lisa Lucke
I got all tripped up in my own rules the other day. Most of the time, they stay out of my way, but occasionally, they’re like a squirming, coiled rope that I have to dance around carefully. I made the mistake of taking one of my eight year-old daughter’s laundry basket into the laundry room for her…breaking my newest rule, which is: anyone needing their clothes washed must get their clothes basket to the laundry room and then tell me it’s there. I, in turn, promise same-day turnaround, which means at some point before they go to bed, their clean laundry will be stacked on their bed, waiting to be put away, or thrown into a corner at bedtime.
What happens when you break your own rule? Every other kid notices and wants to know why. I cleverly pointed out to them that taking one’s laundry to the laundry room is actually something they are expected to do; it’s more of a personal responsibility. Therefore, I simply decided to lighten the load a bit for that person. They weren’t buying it. I immediately knew that the family scorekeeper (the nine year-old) would be monitoring my every move for the rest of the week and waiting for me to lighten her load…
I once read that anything a kid can be doing for themselves is something the parent should NOT be doing. I like that. I don’t expect my kids to do their laundry just yet, but hauling their laundry basket into the laundry room, located on the same floor as their bedrooms, is a responsibility they can handle. So, that one does not, in fact, qualify as a rule. Rules, as a friend of mine has always reminded me, are stupid, and are for regular people. I guess my kids, until they turn 18, will be classified as “regular people.” Wow, and I always thought of them as highly irregular…go figure.
What it comes down to is this: rules (not to be confused with responsibilities) are part of my neverending quest to trick myself into thinking I don’t have as many children as I actually do (four). Lately, though, I’m finding that the amount of rules in our household has become cumbersome. It isn’t that the rules of engagement in our house are unusual, or cruel, they’re just numerous. We have the typical ones that are must-haves in large families, like put your shoes away, load your own dishes, speak only when spoken to, but also a few others that are getting a bit hard to manage. For example, the other day, one of my daughters asked if she could sit on the couch. I said, “No, dear, it isn’t your day. Check the calendar. It isn’t even your day to speak to me.”
Some might say this is going too far. I mean, a rule against sitting on the couch? Well, if kids have perfectly good chairs, and even beds in their own room, why clutter up the public space with bodies? Right now, the air quality is manageable, but that’s because they’re all under the age of eleven. Just think of the stench that will be wafting around in just a few short years. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll make a rule against puberty…
Typically, I like rules. I never have to answer questions about who sits in front on the way to school because they each have their assigned day. Friday is the day nobody sits up front, which conveniently frees up plenty of space for my ice chest (full of iced, caffeinated beverages, of course). And I’m particularly fond of the rule prohibiting getting the dog too worked up. That’s a fun one to monitor. Hmm, are they playing, or is that a near growl I hear? Did I just hear the dog run? Are those squeals of delight, or panic? Who made that sound? Who’s playing with the dog instead of getting ready for school? Most mornings I just shut my bedroom door and let that one work itself out. Gotta love the rule against coming into mom and dad’s room during “getting ready” time: getting ready to go to work, getting ready to shower, getting ready to lose my mind…
It has occurred to me that I may need to cut back on making rules. Or, maybe I’ll just call them policies, in honor of our new administration in Washington. I can see it now…
“Um, Jackson, what are you doing?”
“Getting something to eat.”
“What’s the policy for opening the refrigerator?”
“At least one hour after, but not less than one hour before the next meal.”
“Exactly. When did we finish lunch?”
“An hour ago, Mom.”
See the difference between “rules” and “responsibilities?” My friend is right – rules are stupid, but they keep me sane. Therefore, rules rule.