"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 26, 2012
Rules You Shouldn't have to Make
by Hannah Bird

One of the things that parents soon find out about raising children is, it isn’t as intuitive as one might think. In an age where every device is designed to be readily apparent, children remain the last great mystery.

Before I had kids, I did think about parenting. It isn’t that I hadn’t given it any thought. It’s just that all my thoughts were completely useless in a real world situation.

The greatest example of this is the rules I shouldn’t have to make.Before you have kids, you know they’ll need rules. So you try to come up with some. You think about bedtimes, manners, homework, friends, even dating. Those are good things to plan. But they are not the things that come up in the real world.

Kids are great at the letter of the law and awful at the spirit. Apparently, things that look pretty self-explanatory to adults are a complete mystery to children. Very often, general guidelines just won’t do.

I knew I would have to teach my kids to be honest. I did not know that I would need to make a rule about not selling art at confiscatory prices to college students walking past our house. Or rocks. Or apples. Apparently to a 6-year-old, “Be honest,” does not readily translate into, “Don’t become a highwayman on the front lawn by forcing guys to buy things from you so they don’t look bad to the girls they are with.”

There is also a certain level of boundary challenging with children. They have nothing else to do with their day. They can put in the time to wear you down. “Only one kid in the tree at a time” becomes, “If two of you must climb the tree at the same time, no one is allowed to have a spear.” Give it a day or two and the rule is: “If you and your sister climb into the tree and you drop a spear on her, she is getting stitches before I will field your complaints about blood on your shirt.”

There are so many more.

Biting is forbidden, but biting hard and shaking your head back and forth will bring down the holy hammer of mom in a heartbeat.

We do not put the baby in bags.

Only one child can use the same toilet at once.

If you tell a younger child that you will play hide and seek with them, you have to actually seek.

If you are assigned a book report on, “Why Little House on the Prairie is a classic,” you must answer with more than, “Because people didn’t have a lot of options.”

The hose doesn’t come in the house. Take the hose out of the house. For the love of all that is good and decent, turn off the hose.

We do not stand on the sprinklers to see if they will keep turning with our added weight.

We do not say that the impressively large woman at the library is shaped like a ball.

You may not invite the people in front of us in line at the grocery store to come stay with us. Or the people behind us. Or the cashier.

It is fine that you know how mommy got a baby in her tummy but you may not tell your Primary class. And announce it instead of giving your talk during sharing time. And tell the bishop.

If mom says to go outside and play she does not mean a game of “Will it burn?” It will. If you do play “Will it burn,” please tell mommy in a timely manner.

In 18 years of parenting, we have assembled a pretty impressive list. I wish it were good for something. It would be nice if I could pass it on to new mothers with a note that says, “Word to the wise.” But it wouldn’t help at all.

Because the problem with rules you shouldn’t have to make is, you don’t know you will have to make them. Having a list will only ensure that your children require a completely different list of rules that you shouldn’t have to make.

I need to add, “You may not tie string to the chicken to see if she can pull you on a roller skate,” to mine.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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