Attention parents of children ages nine and younger. I want to share something with you so that you can be better prepared than I was. You may have not yet heard of or encountered “Rules for Parents”, but I can guarantee this: THEY ARE COMING!
My first encounter with “Rules for Parents” was when my daughter was 12. I was taking her and her friends to a movie. I had the radio on and was singing along rather loudly. On the way home after we had dropped off everyone, she very gently and sweetly said that she wished I wouldn’t sing when her friends were around. I was stunned. I mean I sing all the time. I don’t even need a radio! And I think I have a halfway decent voice.
“Yes,” she said, “You do have a good voice…it’s just that…” She didn’t go any further. “I embarrass you?” I asked. “Well,” she replied. “No…it’s just….” At least she was too respectful to actually come right out and say that she wanted (RULE #1) her parents to be seen not heard. (Truth be told, RULE #2 would be that parents not even be seen, but they’re crafty enough to realize that when you need a driver even a mom will do.)
Soon after, I went on a school field trip (RULE #3 for some parents, not me YET, but some of my friends – don’t even show up on school property) and we were all filing out to the bus — one of the moms near her daughter spoke to her. It was disastrous! She got a look from her daughter that was horrifying to witness. “Oops,” said the mom. “I keep forgetting that I’m not supposed to talk to her in front of other kids.” (RULE #4 – no addressing child in front of other children.) “Wow!” I thought to myself, not believing that I didn’t know of this rule, “That’s got to be kinda inconvenient. Do you carry a notebook to jot down anything you need to say but can’t? I’d sure have a hard time remembering it later.” As I turned away I smiled, realizing I must be doing pretty well… my daughter had not told me to stop talking yet. (As if I would listen to HER, anyway, ha!)
Later that day when the field trip bus stopped for lunch, I witnessed another parent breaking perhaps THE Cardinal Rule…RULE #5 – do not sit with me, like ever. This rule is so sacred that it is unspoken and even I had been aware of since back when my daughter was in 3rd grade! I was shocked that this unruly parent would break it.
Okay, let’s take a moment to review. As far as our kids are concerned the best place for a parent to be is at home….always. (Oops, forgot RULE #6 – a parent may never be in the same room as her child when she has friends over.) If we must venture out of the house say to drive our kids somewhere, we should wait in the car, preferably one with tinted windows. The hat and sunglasses for disguise is apparently optional, and if used, the child gets final approval of said hat and sunglasses. I’m pretty sure we are still allowed to choose our own cars, of course that may change when the child starts to drive. (I don’t know that rule yet as my daughter is still too young. I’ll keep you posted.) After all drop offs, just hang in the car until they need your services again. Now if for some reason you have to venture in, (“Really, Mom? Ugh!”) to the mall, movies, etc. do not stand, sit or walk near your child AND avoid eye contact. (You are, however, always allowed to look and listen when they ask for more money. Please do not roll eyes at their absolutely, 100% reasonable, judacious and very serious reasons why or believe me, you will hear about that later too!)
BACK to the field trip: a father I’ll call Mark, evidently a newcomer to the chauffeur/field trip circuit, learned the error of his ways in a rather harsh manner. Sad to say I saw it all unfolding before my eyes, but could do nothing to stop it. We had stopped to eat at a food court. Mark’s daughter, Abby, was at a table full of girls. There was one seat left at the table. As soon as I saw Mark eyeing the empty seat, I knew there would be trouble. “Look,” I said to the parents seated w/ me (at the parents table—-FAR, FAR away from the kids) “Mark’s headed over to sit with Abby!” “Oh my!” said one mother as our heads spun to watch the drama. Mark had almost reached the table. As he approached, one girl looked up, then another. The disbelief spread among the girls as each looked up and recognized that a dad was moving in. Then all heads turned to Abby who was still unaware of his presence. Just as she noticed the horror and sympathy in the girls’ faces and turned to see what they were looking at, Mark leaned in to set down his tray next to hers. I’m not really sure what happened next. I heard no noise and could only see her face from the side as she turned to look up at him, but I could see Mark’s face. By the look of shock that came over him I can only guess that he had never been given “the look” by his daughter before. Evidently he’d been left to run wild up until now. He was not used to rules. But now it was plain to see that he knew he had crossed a line. As we watched him slink away we waved him over to join us at our table FAR, FAR away from the kids.
I know some of you reading this are certain you’ll never succumb to Rules for Parents. You think that you are the boss, the parent, the ultimate authority and that you will never, NEVER accept rules set by your children. Well, consider this. Last year our family was invited to the Bat Mitzvah of one of my daughter’s good friends. There were many kids from their school attending. We met up with some other adults we knew and ended up sitting with them. During dinner I asked where their daughter was. “Who knows,” the mom answered. “Jessica told us before we came that we were not to talk to her for any reason tonight.” I laughed. “What, your daughter didn’t give you any rules?” she asked. The mom went on to say that Jessica had given them the following instructions before leaving the house: 1) Do not talk to her at the party 2) Do not sit with her at the party 3) Do not dance at the party. “No, we have no restrictions,” I replied smugly. I thought they were crazy for obeying these rules. She seemed fairly impressed. I thought to myself how lucky I was that my daughter wasn’t completely ashamed by us. “Why can’t you dance? It’s your night out, too,” I reminded her. Soon Aretha started singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” a song that always gets me moving. As I was shaking it on the dance floor, I looked over and saw my daughter out dancing with her friends, too. “This is so cool,” I thought, smiling because we were both out dancing to some great music and thinking that it was probably one of those mother/daughter bonding moments. I hustled over to where she was so we could start the bonding. To her credit I have to say that she never once looked mortified. But I couldn’t help noticing that all of her friends were giving each other looks then gazing pityingly at my daughter. Soon I realized that almost every kid on the dance floor was looking our way. I could see the thought bubbles above all their heads. “Poor Rachel!” each and every one of them was saying. That is when I started following a self-imposed Parents May Not Dance with Their Teenagers rule.
The last thing you should know is that the rule book is constantly being rewritten. There are rules I haven’t mentioned and new rules are constantly being added. The good news is that the punishment for breaking a rule really isn’t too harsh. After all, we ARE the parents. Of course, more often than not, being grounded for a week would be easier for us than knowing our behavior has led to the pity or ridicule of our children.
Are there any “fun” rules that your kids have set in stone for you?