>Believe it or not, even though we’ve gone through star charts of every conceivable iteration, we’ve never had official “house rules.” I’ve seen them in other houses — often they’re cute (“Hey kids, guess what? You get to follow a few easy rules! Whohoo!”), complex (“You have three options for after dinner play, (a)…”), or just plain and simple (“There are Rules. Here They Are.”)
I’m not sure why we’ve never had a list. We certainly have a few rules (which, according to several members of my husband’s family, is a few too many). But they’re so bloody basic, I just assumed I didn’t need to write them down on stone tablets. They’re more expectations than rules – things we do daily – plus a couple of things we ought never to do. As of late, however, I’ve been getting a ton of blow-back when I ask them to do the simplest of things. Every day Efram looks at me with total shock when I tell him it’s time to shower — as though I’m asking him saddle up the camel and take it out for a drink. I remind him that in this house, we shower daily.. at which point he blows up into full fury, listing all the people he knows who never have to shower. Of course, Bennett needs to get in on this – and apparently he has 5 friends who never have to brush their teeth. (He’s also been setting off the house alarm at 6 each morning to play basketball or skateboard, so I’m feeling rather cranky about him in general today.)
So, in the middle of a Sunday night shouting match (really, I do try not to shout back at Efram who seems to be in a constant rage at the moment, but on Sunday nights my defenses are famously low), I run downstairs, type up a few rules, and stick a copy in the kitchen and on the boys’ door. Within minutes Efram comes marching out: You’re not allowed to write rules telling me I can’t do something when I’m in the middle of doing it!!!
Bennett registers discontent by ripping a hole in the rules.
I see my problem. Growing up I felt I was often on the receiving end of arbitrary rule-making; a lot if it. And in a effort to seem just and fair, and to avoid making my kids feel the same way I once did, I led them to think that parenting is an absolute democracy. That I can’t make up rules exactly when I see the need. Which is wrong, and plain stupid.
So, at the end of the rules, I tack on: HOUSE RULES CAN BE AMENDED BY PARENTS. AT ANY TIME. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
I don’t really feel good about it. But the next day I go over them with Efram, ask him if he has any questions, and make a point of noting the last line. He nods. Of course, I tell myself that he’s happy with the clear boundary, that it comforts him to know I am in charge. But I know better than that. He’s just soaking it all up… and quietly planning his first big lawsuit.