A friend told me the other day, that she had overheard the kids talking about which house they liked better, mom’s or dad’s. She took some enjoyment in telling me what my son had said to her daughter, when they didn’t know anyone was listening. It seems he likes dad’s house better “because there aren’t any rules”. She thought I would be mortified, since it’s so stereotypical for dad’s place to be the party house, and mom’s (like her) have to enforce all the rules. She grinned waiting for me to reply.
I thought about it for a moment, and it seemed like a compliment. The kids have bedtimes at home, where my son has lived his entire life, and while they are adjusted slightly as they grow older, his 4th grade bedtime is still around 8:30, depending on how many chapters of whatever book I’m reading him he can talk me into reading. He doesn’t complain about his bedtime, he’s more interested in getting to the book, than stalling for more time. He does his homework on his own, I don’t have to do much, other than remind him that if he doesn’t get started now, he’ll be using up game or reading time later. He will avoid practicing his cello, mostly because he doesn’t like cello, but he gets to it, again, wanting to get through the time to get to the other side so he can do things. His laundry goes in the bin, he dresses himself in the morning in the clothes he picks out.
I looked at her and said, do you know how hard it is to have a household where there appears to be no rules? Bedtime isn’t a “rule” it’s just what he’s been doing since he was little. Brush your teeth, get your jammies on, and get into bed. The routine is so rote by now, that there’s no question. As I thought about it more, we really don’t have “rules”. There are things that aren’t ok, that he’ll be told, “that isn’t ok” and usually that’s enough to curb whatever it is he’s doing. On the other hand, if they ask me to do something, and for whatever reason I say no, and they can provide a non-whiney, reasonable reason to do the thing, then, it becomes ok. I’m open to bargaining, as long as both parties keep their side.
A lot of their attitude comes from treating them like they are real people. When I answer a request, in addition to thinking about how it will affect their bedtime, appetite, homework time, or whatever; I also think about how I’d answer a friend that was asking the same question. If I can’t imagine telling someone I know, “no you can’t do that for whatever reason” it’s probably worth more consideration before saying no to the kids.
My kids have made it pretty clear to me that they prefer my house. I try to attribute this to the fact that they’ve lived in this house forever, and it’s more like home. I usually fail, and pat myself on the back for being a good parent, or occasionally, wonder (to myself) what their mother is doing, or not doing that makes them prefer being “at home”.