Recently, my husband and I started a tradition in our house: the family meeting. Since
one of our two children is a boy—whose regular communication consists of, but is
limited to, the words "huh?" and "ninja"—and the other of our two children—a girl—(also
known as a real baby) is only 2 years old, our family meetings tend to be short, since the communication is limited. This has also made our family meetings somewhat one-sided, which is exactly how the husband and I like them.
But the other day, our 5-year-old boy person politely raised his hand (he's never done
this before—he must have thought it would get him some extra TV) and informed his
father and I that he had a few things to say. This, of course, alarmed us.
My son, it seems, had learned the word democracy in school (note to schools, never teach
this word to children under 30) and wanted to know why we didn't have one. The
husband and I then went on to explain that, while our house was a democracy, it wasn't at
all. A parent's job is to keep kids safe and healthy, which means making decisions on
their children's behalf.
He then asked why the rules that applied to himself and his sister did not apply to us. We
explained that everyone in our family has to live by the same rules. Then, we sent the
kids to bed before us while we watched the TV they're not allowed to watch, while eating
cookies in bed, which—you got it—they are not allowed to do.
This got me thinking. What if I had to live by the same rules as my kids? Could I?
This is how I imagine it would all play out if I abided by my own kid rules:
1. Everything is shareable: Every time a neighbor or friend likes a
possession of mine; say my car, engagement ring or shoes, I have to give it to
them. Like sand toys at the park, everything is shareable, even my husband.
2. Total strangers will take care of you: Every Saturday night,
my kids are going to get a killer dinner reservation, talk about it and then not
invite me. Instead, they'll leave me home with a half-drunk college student named
Lynsey who hasn't been background checked. She'll promise to get me in bed on
time, but will forget about me when she realizes the HBO show Girls marathon is on right now.
I'll put myself to bed, two hours late.
3. Always finish your dinner: Despite being on a diet since I was a
fetus, I must finish my plate, even if I'm full. It doesn't matter if I'm hungry.
What matters is I finish my food. For dinner, I eat 4 pounds of overcooked
broccoli and 13 chicken fingers, but at least I made everyone happy.
4. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all: I'm in traffic and
some guy with a One Republic bumper sticker on his souped-up Honda cuts me off. I drive up close to his bumper and wait until he looks in his rear view mirror and
mouth, "You're my best friend," just like my kid does. It feels terribly
unrewarding, and I'm itching to flip someone off in the next five minutes.
5. Always say, "please" and "thank you": In the parking lot at the
market, some driver swipes my bumper with his too-big car. I get out of my car
and thank him. After all, it's nice to say "please" and "thank you." All the time. Even
to total jackholes who really shouldn't be driving.
Upon reviewing the rules of the game, it's clear to me I could never live by the
same rules as my offspring. I like candy before bed and screaming at strangers in
traffic far too much to ever be my own kid. Plus someone's got to teach my kid
the most important thing to know about democracy: When it comes to raising
kids, there isn't one.