Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The New Rules

One of my many parenting shortfalls is that I’m vague. I make wishy washy rules like, “Food needs to stay in the kitchen.” So it’s no surprise that when I go down into the basement, I find it littered with plastic Squeeze Pop wrappers.

“Well, they’re not exactly food,” my son will say to me.

Technically that’s true. But it is clearly not in the spirit of the House Rules that you would serve your friends Squeeze Pops anywhere other than the kitchen, I tell him.

He’s all taken aback. How dare I call him out on something when he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong in the first place?

“Squeeze Pops are not food,” he hisses. “You tell me that all the time.”

Perhaps the rule must be revised: “No eating (or licking, slurping, tasting, or in any way ingesting anything that has been procured for the purpose of consumption – that is, traveling through the mouth, down the throat and ultimately ending up in the stomach – even those things that are no more than food coloring, sugar and water frozen into a ruler-shaped ice-cube) except in the kitchen.”

I take a moment to reflect on all the many unspoken rules that have been broken in my community, and realize that we, as parents, are to blame. In a fit of conscientiousness, I begin to develop some new, more specific Rules:

Don’t try to “evaporate” gasoline that has been spilled on the driveway by lighting a match to it.

Don’t sell the lock code to your garage door to high school students while your family goes away on a cruise.

Don’t jump off a pergola into your friend’s swimming pool.

Don’t dig up the bulbs and rhizomes in other people’s yards, and please don’t dig them up in the illustrious town garden.

Don’t ride the laundry basket down a full flight of stairs – not even if you’ve positioned an air mattress at the bottom and are wearing elbow pads and a bike helmet.

Don’t beat anyone about the arms and legs with any type of stick or long-handled sports equipment. Unless you’re playing Lacrosse. Then it’s ok.

My house is filling up with post-its, reminders of all the rules that yet need formalizing. Notes about eggs, and wicker porch furniture, and playhouse windows, and lacrosse balls. Sometimes, I’m accused of being a nag. I know, I know, I know, I know. So now, with all of it tidy and written down, I will finally be able to just sit back, relax, and watch my kids behave themselves.

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