On the hottest day of the year last month, when Seattle temperatures hit record breaking numbers – we headed to Block Buster, stocked up on family friendly classics and hibernated in the basement. That afternoon we watched three movies in a row, ate snacks out of bags, ate dinner in front of the television and had dessert, twice. Temperatures higher than 72 can turn me into the Wicked Witch of the West. At 103 I was looking for my broom. Rules needed to be broken if my sanity was going to be maintained, children were going to stay alive, I wasn’t going to fly the coop.
Taking a break from the movies and getting more Gatorade upstairs in the hot kitchen I thought, What am I doing? It’s a beautiful summer day. – hotter than hell, but a lovely day – and we are inside. My questioning was brief for I remembered two happy children were sitting downstairs. Beat and tired from playing hard outside all morning. Doing this movie thing all afternoon and evening wasn’t going to turn them into couch potatoes.
We set rules for our kids out of love, out of a desire to raise well-rounded, respectful, loving children. Every household creates their own guidelines and enforces their rules either strictly or loosely, dependent on how the parents were raised themselves – their guilt factor – their standards – their personalities. Kids need rules. Kids need to know their boundaries.
Growing up with a single mom, with all my siblings old enough to be living on their own, I believe my mom didn’t set a lot of rules for me, out of guilt for leaving me alone much of the time while she was at work. Then when I was a senior in high school she rewrote the book, giving me a curfew for the first time in my life. She was torn between giving me my freedom and keeping me out of trouble.
Now as a parent I am faced with the same thing. I want my children to enjoy the pleasure other kids get from watching that STUPID SPONGE named BOB but I don’t want them to remember the TV lineup like I do from my childhood: Speed Racer, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Giligan’s Island, Leave It To Beaver, The Partridge Family……..the 6 o’clock news.
Today we have certain channels they can watch – no TV after dinner – and although my kids know who Sponge Bob is, they have no idea what time he is “on” or which channel.
When we veer from the norm and hole up in the basement to watch The Wizard of Oz for the first time after just having watched Brother Bear and High School Musical 3 – they appreciate the rules being broken. They don’t expect it the next day and they still are respectful when it is time to put away the ice cream and turn off the boob-tube.
The other day when I walked our dog around Greenlake, I had the rule book thrown at me. By a stranger non-the-less. Walking our very friendly, incredibly social, 8 month old puppy around the lake I was aware of how patient he was seeing all these dogs pass us on their leashes. He had never seen so many dogs at once and not have any of them pay attention to him. Until we passed Cocoa. Cocoa was a Labor-doodle who clearly thought wearing a leash was for the birds. After a brief exchange with the dog’s owner, we agreed to let them play on the grassy patch away from the walkers and their leashed dogs. All they wanted to do was stretch their legs before going back to obediently walking aside their owner. A little dog humping can do wonders. A romp here, a chase there, a little growl and spit swap. The two had been at it for less than five minutes when the Grim Reaper walked by us. There’s a leash law here you know. I wish you would leash your dog. I obediently hooked my dog back up to his leash and said my reluctant goodbye to my dog’s new best friend’s owner. (Sometimes I’m too obedient for my own good. Catholic guilt perhaps.)
Shortly after this, a cyclist past me with her mumbled remark that I was walking in the “wheel” lane not the “feet” lane. The only wheels I past the entire hour walking around the lake. I wasn’t hurting anyone. Yes, I was breaking the rules, but was anyone getting hurt or just merely inconvenienced? Their comfort level broken. Boundaries crossed.
I understand the need for children to have rules far better than I understand my need for them. Call me hypocritical. Call me the Wicked Witch or the Grim Reaper. Just don’t call me late for dinner. That’s at 5:30. No later. And not in front of the TV………unless it’s 103 degrees outside.