I have never been a Rule-Follower. Which is interesting, since my husband is very much a Rule-Follower. When there are no cars in sight, he will walk the extra half block to cross at the crosswalk, and I will just cross the road and do a little dance in the middle, just to tick him off.
I think my non Rule-Following has served me well as a parent. This morning, the boys decided they wanted goldfish crackers instead of cereal. They got them. Truly, goldfish crackers are better for them than the fruity-sugary-artificial-colory-junk that my hubby buys, so why not?
My mother is a Rule-Follower, and my father is not. I think it is something in the genetic makeup, something my dad and I have that defies order and loves chaos that make us the way we are. Growing up, I would beg and plead for special things whenever one parent was gone. When it was just me and Mom, my special thing was eating my mashed potatoes with a spoon instead of a fork, which was great fun for me, the non Rule-Follower. When it was just me and Dad, it was eating eleven cookies for dinner.
I am grateful for both my parents in their ways of teaching me. My mom was always teaching manners and gracefulness, and now I can be comfortable in any social situation. I never have to feel intimidated around "proper people" or wonder which fork to use. My dad taught me how to be silly and which rules can be broken. I can change my own oil and joke around with the best of them.
I hope to instill both of these characteristics in my kids. I am not as proper and organized as my mom, my house is a mess and I haven't dusted in months. I am not as handy as my dad, I swear that man can fix anything. But I am a combo of the two, and I can't help but wonder what my kids will pick up from me and Marty. If they get my athletic ability and his common sense, they are in deep trouble. If they get my logic and his ability to sell, they just might take over the world.
I want to teach them when to respect the rules and when it's OK to break them. Couches are for sitting, not for jumping off of in an attempt to be Olympic Gymnast children who fly through the air twisting and tumbling, and trying to reach the ceiling. But couches are also for fort building, and they make great sock-fight forts.
It is tricky trying to instill these qualities in your kids. Some days it would be easier to just survive the day, but they will be thirteen before I know it, and then I will not be able to teach them anything, as they will suddenly know more than me. So I have to teach them now, not only how to behave but why to behave. Because those are the lessons that they will take with them into adulthood.
And of course, the lessons of how to enjoy life, like the circle on the floor of Best Buy is the place for dancing, no matter how crowded the store is or how many people are staring. It's OK to sing at the top of your lungs in the car with all the windows down in traffic. If people start pointing and staring, that's the time to dance and sing even louder. Birthday parties are for stuffed animals, and they deserve streamers, too.
And it's really, really fun to dress in all black and go to your Aunt's house for her 50th birthday, and make signs that say things like "Isn't it Nifty, Karen's 50!" and "Wheelchair Crossing" and put them in her yard. If it is raining, it is best to put the roll of TP on her porch with a note asking her to TP her own yard when the sun is out so it isn't as big of a mess. When she thinks her neighbor did it, let her believe it, and have a little "friendly feud" with that neighbor. Whenever she mentions that that neighbor still hasn't confessed to the prank, giggle a little inside but keep a straight face. For twenty years.
I wonder if Aunt Karen reads my blog. If so, this is gonna be fun!