My home is a rather informal and relaxed place. My husband and I are pretty flexible and lenient parents and we have made our home a place where the kids can be safe and stress free. We have lazy days and sloppy moments and often eat the wrong foods. We have no chore list, no family meetings, and no displayed “house rules”. Home for us is a place to just…be.
Recently I’ve begun to question this parenting style since my girls are getting older. My thirteen-year-old comes home with stories of her friends being “punished” for breaking a house rule, or friends being “grounded” or “device free” for a certain amount of time because their rooms weren’t clean or because a grade was not good enough. I have NEVER punished any of my children. I like to think that’s because they are great kids never doing anything deserving of a punishment but is it because I don’t have any rules for them to break??
This idea began to percolate and I decided that this would be the source of stress to keep me up one night staring at the ceiling. I realized during my stress-thinking, however, that we definitely have rules in this house. They may not be written down but they are known by all and if someone decides to break one they risk causing a family member’s anger, disappointment, or annoyance.
As I set out to write down these “unofficial” rules I realized how many we actually have…
You ask before eating anything that could be labeled as a dessert. Yes, animal crackers are dessert even though other types of crackers are not.
There will always be at least one box of macaroni and cheese in the house that can be used in an emergency. Mom will cook said macaroni if she is asked politely (or if you cry about your dinner in a truly pathetic way).
You must not sit in a sister’s usual seat at the kitchen table unless that sister is not home. If you do, and she catches you, mom will not mediate the argument. Just move.
Put your used dishes into the sink. Do not put used napkins and juice boxes in the sink with your plates. The garbage disposal can’t handle any more sopping wet napkins.
If Mom sees a juice box plastic straw wrapper on the floor anywhere in the house she will lose her shit and make some sort of comment about how her children drink too much juice and how she’s the only one who picks up these STUPID STRAW WRAPPERS. Put that straw wrapper directly into the garbage can while in you’re in the kitchen sneaking said juice box out of the refrigerator.
You always need less toothpaste on your toothbrush than you initially believe. Squeeze gently.
Pick up all of your dirty clothes and towels from the bathroom floor on your way out. If Mom sees wadded up clothes in the corner of the bathroom she will not pick them up and they will not get washed until you put them into the hamper.
Do not replace the toilet paper roll. Simply put the new roll of toilet paper on the vanity. Mom will take care of it.
You can close your door but you must not lock it. Mom or Dad can barge in with nothing but a quick knock as a warning and you are not to complain.
Mom does not care about the status of your closet as long as the door is closed.
Even though your father says “No eating in your bedroom”, you can eat in your bedroom. Do not leave dishes in your room, however. If you do, and your father sees them, you will be forced to sit through a lecture about the danger of ants and be regaled with stories of his childhood experiences with ants in his house.
Singing is fine. However, you must sing the song currently on the radio. If you want to sing something else please ask mom to first turn off the radio so no one (i.e. Mom) gets a splitting head ache from the competing music.
No one is to eat fast food in the car when we are on a long trip, especially if it is dark. Previous experience has taught our family that we must stop, sit in a fast food restaurant while consuming our food, and then wait at least a few minutes for digestion to begin before getting back into the car. Otherwise, someone may feel the need to re-enact a scene from the exorcist because of car sickness.
No one is to touch or breath on another person in the car. At times, it may be advisable to not even look at another person in the car. Look out the window and enjoy the passing scenery.
We say “Bless You” to each other when someone sneezes. Even Mom.
We always give each other kisses before running off to our separate destinations in the morning. Always.
We find time to eat out as a family at least once a month—even if it’s just breakfast at a diner. No distractions, just us and food no one (i.e. Mom) has to cook or clean up.
You can tell each other anything. We are a team and we are always here for each other.
There are no secrets in this house. Mom and Dad speak about most family issues even in the presence of the children. All children are free to speak their mind about any issue at any time.
No matter how annoyed, angry, or disappointed anyone may become, we love each other fiercely. Our home may be loud, busy, messy, and, at times, chaotic, but it is filled with love. And for that, we are thankful.