Recently, I found myself uttering the following sentence to my two-year-old: “We, as a family, don’t sneak into the crib and slick our baby brother up like a seal with Daddy’s Old Spice deodorant.” Now this got me to thinking — I often find myself making reference to the collective “we.” We don’t do that or We really like this or We shouldn’t say that. This gave me an idea: I was going to create a set of house rules, paste them up on the fridge and be done with it. House rules — the rules all inhabitants of said household shall follow. Don’t like ’em? Move out. Period. This way, no one’s the bad guy, that’s just the way this house rolls.
So my husband and I took a crack at creating the initial list. We then reviewed it with Jack, as we felt his input was important so he felt part of the solution. If they think it’s their plan all along, they shall lovingly embrace it and follow it. (Rule of Directing, 101.)
Now before I share what we came up with, I have a confession to make. I loved the overall concept of coming up with this list, but it got me to thinking: kids hate rules. Hell, for the most part, adults hate rules. Yes, they’re important and make sense (for the most part… that’s under the grand assumption that the person making them possesses a modicum of common sense), although no one likes being told what to do. So I thought on this and came up with a solution. Why not find a fun way to get the same message across in a way that might be a little more stimulating for the kids? Use something we have an abundance of here on the Prairies?
Here’s what I came up with. I’ve written each declaration on a rock and numbered the other side; not only can they play with the rocks (and in all likelihood, eventually throw at each other’s heads), but it’ll help them learn their numbers. Two birds, one stone. Oh, friends, my cleverness rears its ugly head from time to time, and there’s no taming that beast. And the kids? They LOVE them. They take them out, ask us to read them, line them up in order and then put them back in their box. Occasionally, James tries to eat one; really, there’s no end to the fun. So without further ado, here they are — Our House Rocks:
ROCK No. 1 — We love each other. No matter what.
I’ve written about this before, and I’ll say it again. I firmly believe it’s our role as parents to teach our children how to love each other. No option. You don’t have to be the best of friends with all your family members (in my case, prescription drugs certainly help), but you do have to love them and have their backs when times get tough. Period. Love them for who they are, don’t hate them for who they’re not. DO NOT let your kids off the hook on this one. My parents taught me that you stick it out as a family, for better or for worse. It’s the first vow you learn to take and not break.
Now parents, be forewarned: the first time you put your son on the time-out chair after incorporating this particular rule, you’ll be admonished (quite fiercely): “What’s rule No. 1 in this house, Mommy? Rule No. 1 is that we love each other. And you’re not loving me right now by putting me on this chair!” Oh, sweetheart. It hurts me more than it hurts you. (Not really, but I’ve heard other parents say this. I want to appear equally charming and maternal.)
ROCK No. 2 — We are nice and thoughtful.
ROCK No. 3 — We hug after fights and say sorry. Gently. (Jack asked me to add the “gently” bit… when I asked him what he meant he said you’re not allowed to shout it. It has to be gently. Wise little dude.)
ROCK No. 4 — We always use our manners.
ROCK No. 5 — We cover our mouth when sneezing.
ROCK No. 6 — We don’t pick our nose. Unless it’s stuck. (The last part was another addition from Jack. He makes a valid point; if God hadn’t intended for us to go on in there, he wouldn’t have made our fingers fit so beautifully.)
ROCK No. 7 — We take turns with toys and share.
ROCK No. 8 — We listen to each other, we don’t interrupt and we’re respectful when talking back. (We allow talking back, as most things we tell them lead to questions or comments, which we encourage. We just ask that it’s done, gently.)
ROCK No. 9 — We always tell the truth. (We don’t ever want them to be afraid to tell us what happened. Sh** happens. Let’s talk about it.)
ROCK No. 10 — We know that Mommy and Daddy are in charge. (As my mom so cleverly shared with me, kids come to live with you, not the other way around. They become part of your life, they don’t run it. Your choice.)
ROCK No. 11 — We all pitch in to help with chores. Even during playoffs. (The latter being added for my husband. It’s bound to sink in one day.)
ROCK No. 12 — We talk about our favourite things every day.
ROCK No. 13 — We read a story every day.
ROCK No. 14 — We say our prayers every day.
ROCK No. 15 — We stay in our own beds for a good night’s sleep. (Translation: We don’t wander the house during the night like an intruder, only to give our mother a heart attack when she opens her eyes to find us breathing on her face.)
ROCK No. 16 — We don’t push, hit, bite, punch or kick. (Addition from Jack; this is a very important rule in school and day care and he insisted it be included. For the record, I refrain from doing any of said things to my children.)
ROCK No. 17 — We don’t jump from the roof because we will hurt our self and die. (Final addition from Jack; he was so serious when he said it that I had to add it. Better safe than sorry.)
ROCK No. 18 — Our House Rocks — with silliness, laughter, singing and dancing.
One of my favourite quotes is from the author Shauna Neiguist and it goes as follows: “I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact colour of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
Although the “stay up all night laughing” is in direct violation of ROCK No. 15, this quote is how I want to live my life, and in doing so, pass the gift on to my children. I want God to know that we love his gift… that our love for it is staggering.
I’m sure over the coming years, modifications will be made — some rocks will be changed out, some will stay, some will go, new ones will be added. Take Turns might morph into Be Gracious and No Nose Picking may turn into Please talk to us before you make any big decisions about your body. But for now? They work. As for my rocks? They’re the people who live in this house — when things shift around me and I can’t see through the darkness, they’re my light. When I feel like I can’t go on, they’re my strength. They’re the rocks I pray are with me the rest of my days. †