Every household has rules, be they written or unwritten. Some families have specific times for meals. Others don’t allow jumping on couches. Some are specific about the type of language they permit in their home while others choose to keep a specific night a week for family time, free from practices and commitments.
Our family, like others, has rules. As our children grow, the rules change and evolve. One of our more recent rules regards our dinner conversation. Part of the bedtime routine for John and Rosie is getting to watch a little TV before reading books, brushing teeth, etc. This is the only TV they watch during the day, so deciding what to watch is an important topic. Often, it will be all they want to talk about and debate. Lately, we have had to ask them to stop talking about what they are going to watch while we all eat dinner.
Yesterday, we went to the library and Ben picked out a few new movies for he and I. While eating dinner, we started talking about what we would watch after the kids went to bed. Rosie, our sweet, observant 3 year old, says: “Daddy, we don’t talk about TV at dinner time. It’s not time to talk about that. You have to wait until later.” I swear I’m not exaggerating or adding in extra words. She repeated verbatim what we have been saying to her, holding us accountable to our own rule.
Has this ever happened to you? Your child reminds you of your own rules. She looks straight into your eyes and questions if you are bound to your rule, or if you are the exception.
What do you do? Do you admit your forgetfulness, saying that the rule is for the whole family? Or do you carefully explain that some rules are for kids but not for adults? I’m not going to say which way is right, both have their merits.
The whole situation caused me to stop and think about what rules we have established for our family, in particular our children. We have some rules that do not apply to me or my husband – take jumping on the couch. My kids have a rule about not jumping on the couches. It doesn’t really apply to Ben or I since neither of us fancy a jump on the couch nor have we for a number of years. Ben and I do not need to hold hands to cross the street and we don’t go to bed by 8pm.
Needless to say, as we grow and mature, we outgrow some rules. We grow into new ones. There are some rules that continue with us. For example, I have chosen for myself to mind my language and not use offensive words. This was a rule in my parents’ house growing up and I have chosen to maintain it in my adult life.
It makes me wonder about what other rules I’ve chosen to maintain and which ones I’ve let go of. And, as a follow-up question, regarding the rules I’ve let go of, should I have done so? These are personal questions for all of us to consider.
Slightly related while at the same time a shift in focus: Today is All Saints Day. The saints are people who lived real lives, had real struggles and chose, to the best of their ability, to align themselves with God’s rule, God’s will. Rather than creating their own code of life, they conformed themselves to God’s plan. The “rules” they chose for their lives came not from themselves, but from God. Just as there are two sides of a coin, the saints at the same time inspire us and challenge us. We are inspired by their good works, their faith, and their passion for Christ. At the same time we are challenged to do more, have greater trust, and fan the flame of faith to burn brightly in our lives. We look to the saints as models who discovered how to live a full life through obedience to the Father.
Happy All Saints Day!