Rules! Oh yeah, just what you wanted to focus on for a Friday morning! A “house rule” is literally a rule that applies only among a certain group or in a certain place. The addition of tiny people to an environment creates an obvious need for more structure than when the home includes only adults. Our house rules are probably not unique to only us, but these are a few that help life run a little more smoothly in our world. These aren’t the big ones (use kind words, no hitting people or pets, don’t lick the baby, the window, the floor, etc.), just a few that demonstrate things we never really thought we’d have to clarify until we had the tiny people show us how specific you have to be with your expectations as parents. This is also not a comprehensive list by any means. Sometimes I feel like I have to make daily decrees to correct some weird, new behavior or habit amongst the natives…
1. If you take from the baby, give him something BETTER
Obviously, this rule is newer and temporary. We don’t intend to spoil him rotten. Soon, when he is able to understand a little more about possession, sharing, trading, etc. we’ll teach him to be a human. But for now, oh my goodness. We just need peace. And if he is wronged…we all suffer.
We really want our bigs to know they don’t always have to give in to his whiny, grabby hands. We want them to be comfortable in knowing that it is ok to have special toys, and that they don’t have to keep those toys out of his reach 100% of the time. He’s a tall kid and really can get anything he wants. There’s no such place as a safe place, and we don’t really want them trying to keep him out of anywhere to protect their stuffs. 3 kids, almost 5 years, everyone still has all their fingers. We’re not looking to slam them off in doors… (knock on wood)
BUT if you need to take something from him, you better be equipped with something he wants MORE. Shinier. Noisier. At appropriate times, more edible. Maybe even loudly play with the replacement toy in front of him for a second to make it extra attractive. If you don’t approach that kid Indiana Jones style…get ready…
2. Popsicles Outside
We’re a pretty laid back home. Not a lot of baby-proofing (don’t worry, all sockets covered, all cleaners out of reach), food in the living room (just don’t have time to police that mess and besides the furry beasts help clean up the mess), and we play outside everyday (in the dirt…or mud…). But I just can’t do sticky. And especially, sticky stains. So popsicles are an outside treat! In fact, I’m not really sure my kids know that you CAN eat popsicles inside. They are completely out of reach (garage freezer), and they must play outside and drink a whole glass of water to get one.
3. Shoes in the Shoe Basket
Anyone, parent or not, can relate to the scramble for a missing shoe. How DO they get so misplaced? Meagan is the best at taking hers off in the most random places (Hank’s closet, kid’s bathroom, or somehow, each shoe under a different couch), so we have sympathy for missing shoes. So each kid has a basket in their room where they simply toss their shoes whenever we get home. It’s not the prettiest arrangement, but they’re darn consistent. It amazingly doesn’t end the “where are my shoes?” questions, but we know the answer almost all the time. Check your shoe basket!
4. Two Hands
We’re certain this isn’t exclusive to our home. It’s just one of those parenting things where you think, “Wow…I actually have to TEACH this to someone? I have to help them grasp the physics of this issue?” Our kids are responsible for clearing their plates and cups after eating. What is it about carrying things that suddenly inspires children to be gifted at balancing? I mean, why? I know, I know, they see US carry a plate and drink at the same time. And imitation is so precious. Or they just want to finish the chore as quickly as possible. But, c’mon kid…that half-full cup sitting on your remaining food bits that is ALREADY shaking before you even pick it up is not going to make it to the kitchen while you carry it with one hand…
5. Excuse Me
We are proud parents to 2 chatter boxes, and we are sure #3 will be very much the same. I mean, they don’t stop talking. Ever. It’s kind of amazing, and once you’ve had coffee, really cute. But they are getting so talkative and as their vocabulary (and volume) grows, it’s impossible to tell what anyone is trying to say. And sometimes we like to talk too. So we are working reeeeeally hard on how to politely ask for the floor. It also helps when we are on the phone, out of the house, trying to talk to other adults, or finish a task.
The goal is to have them say “excuse me” once, and then angelically wait until acknowledged. I can dream, right? Cora is doing ok with the concept. She waits an average of 4.5 seconds after saying “excuse me” to repeat herself. Hank will get there. Right now, he either ambushes you with a stream of “excuse me”s that get progressively louder, or he gives one good “umm…Mom…excuse me…” and then barrels right on through with whatever he intended to say.
It’s all a process, and we still have tons of spills, tons of lost shoes, tons of baby screams, and lots and lots of interrupting.
That popsicle rule though. Unflinchingly rigid.