My friend Tiffaney and I were cracking ourselves up yesterday, discussing all the random rules and logic we pull out of our hindquarters during the daily parenting rigmarole. (Oh yes. I just used that word. Semi-correctly.) Because as Director of Development–aka Mommy–the one main perk of my job is that I am The Boss. The highest human authority. The Big Kahuna. Of course this is a jobshare situation when Daddy is home, but I’m talking about the long days when he is at work. As The Boss, I have the executive authority to decide on new founding principles of our family unit, create new standards and also imply that any such newly articulated guidelines have been in place since the beginning of time. And with this executive authority, there are no checks and balances, people.
In the defense of these tactics, might I point out that there are some rules that I never KNEW would be needed. For instance, my friend Amanda was recently shocked to find herself declaring “We never, EVER lick the toilet. Under any circumstances. No. Licking. Toilets.” See? New rule! I had no idea we’d have to formulate our family’s clothing (and lack thereof) policy. “You have to at least be wearing underwear when you leave your bedroom. You must have pants on when answering the door or talking to neighbor girls. Sydney must have a shirt on as well. I know, it’s not fair, but it’s a cultural expectation that we will abide by.” Speaking of the outdoors, I tend to make and break my own guidelines on when it is and is not permissible to urinate in the backyard.
But it gets rather humorous when I start getting all “moral high ground” on the kids. No, I’m not proud of it, and please don’t see this as an invitation to help me rewrite our household rules or my parenting technique, but I have been known to say things like “That would not make Jesus happy.” I know! Mommy guilt PLUS religious guilt! So terrible. But actually kinda true. My “go to” fly by the seat of my pants rule creation is the ever-popular “IN OUR FAMILY.” See, we learned early on that you can’t make sweeping rules that seem universal, because then your kid will learn that it is forbidden to stick his tongue out (which is like flipping the bird in our family) and then fly off the handle when some other kid does it innocently on a playdate. (Or the reverse, like when your kid is allowed to play with light sabers and other kids are not!) So we focus the rules on OUR FAMILY. Oh, man, I use this one a lot. I justify it in my mind by thinking of the wonderful foundation of justice and goodness that I’m surely laying in their little minds.
IN OUR FAMILY, when we spill something, we clean it up. IN OUR FAMILY, we slide down slides, not walk up them. IN OUR FAMILY, we don’t splash mommy when in the bathtub. IN OUR FAMILY we don’t say “butt” or “shut up” or “hate.” IN OUR FAMILY we don’t like being late. IN OUR FAMILY we flush the toilet promptly and jiggle the handle in the front bathroom because you know that one gets stuck. IN OUR FAMILY we don’t roll up in the floor rug, thus exposing the disgusting stuff underneath that mommy doesn’t ever clean. IN OUR FAMILY kids don’t hold fancy cameras or permanent markers, they don’t drink mommy’s soda or coffee, and they don’t put stickers on glass or wood.
Tiffaney said her special off-the-cuff authority spouting is the “threefold reasoning.” When she gives an instruction or order, and some child pouts and says “Aw! WHY?” She is never to be found without reasons, demonstrated with dramatic finger gestures: “FIRST, you’ll do it because I told you to. SECOND, you’ll do it because we need to take care of our things. And THIRD…you’ll do it….BECAUSE I TOLD YOU TO DO IT!” She is very wise and witty, and I’m sure she never falls short on the threefold, but I know I do.
But as with the vast majority of my parenting practices, the goal is to get through the day without harming anyone and making sure everyone knows they are loved. Then just pray that by God’s grace they really will find a balance of justice, morality and sanity that they picked up…IN OUR FAMILY.