When we remodeled our kitchen last year, I bought a prefabricated “Family Rules” canvas at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $19.99 to round out the decor. I’m sure you’ve seen a canvas just like it in a store (or home) near you. They list rules like hug often, listen intently, help others, and so on. The rules themselves are lovely and certainly speak to mantras we want our kids to live by. But, they seem to be missing some important ideas.
Take last Thursday, for example. As our girls were getting ready to head to preschool, our eldest asked which shoes she could wear without socks.
“None,” I responded. (Cue the bottom lip quiver.) I explained to her that she needed to wear socks because otherwise the sand from the sandbox and the tanbark from the play yard would get in her shoes and hurt her feet. (The first tear slid gracefully down her cheek.) My husband explained to her that wearing shoes without socks would make her feet smell. (And so began the tears rivaling Niagara Falls.)
“Why are you so upset about having to wear socks?” I asked her. Through sobs she explained that one of her friends doesn’t wear socks and that it wasn’t fair that we were forcing her to wear them. There it was—“it’s not fair.”
And so bred a new family rule. “Our family rule is that we wear socks to school,” I found myself saying. “There will be some rules that you have that your friends don’t, and there will be some rules your friends have that you don’t. I expect you to follow our family rules.” With bright red eyes, she nodded and hesitantly put on socks.
The family rule that suddenly emerged—“wear socks”—was simple yet simultaneously complicated. For the first time, my daughter was beginning to understand that everyone isn’t operating from the same set of rules. Each family has their own code of ethics and rules to live by, and not all things are created equal. As simple as socks might be, what those socks represented is so much more. Today it’s about socks, but tomorrow it will be about dating, driving, and making good choices.
This has helped me think of a few more family rules that Bed, Bath and Beyond inadvertently left off of the canvas hanging in my dining room.
1. Your sisters will be your best friends above anyone else. Protect them, share with them, and love them even in moments when they drive you nuts.
2. Kiss your grandparents hello and goodbye.
3. Always look someone in the eye when saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”
4. Leave a room in our house cleaner than you found it, which most days isn’t saying much.
5. Don’t worry. Mommy and Daddy always come back.
6. Don’t get in the car with someone you don’t know.
7. You will get in more trouble for lying than for telling the truth, no matter how bad the truth is.
8. If you are in a house with a gun, leave. Immediately.
9. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Believe in yourself and know that we are behind you 110%.
10. There are no secrets in our house. And no hitting, kicking, or biting either.
11. We all stay at the dinner table until everyone is done eating.
12. Kindness trumps. Treat everyone with kindness, and put the needs of others above your own.
13. No running in flip flops.
14. Small objects do not go in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth… or any other holes in your body.
15. Represent yourself with integrity. Don’t change who you are for anyone.
16. Family comes first. Always.
Family rules change and evolve. I’m sure when my kids are teenagers, I won’t need to remind them where they can and cannot put small objects. We’ll inevitably keep some of these rules and change some of them to relate to where our children are in their developmental stages.
I love the family rules canvas that hangs in our dining room, but it falls a bit short, so we’ll supplement where and when we need to. But, I guess our family rules above don’t fit as nicely on a $19.99 mass-produced canvas from a major box store. So, this blog post will have to do.