Rules. As parents, we remind our children daily to follow them – or at least we do here in the “Lyons Den.” We have to. With five kids and no rules, chaos would prevail. Where would we find the homework folders? Where would they find their mittens? How would we ever get out of the house? We need rules. They are guideposts, guidelines, our guide for daily living. They remind us that homework folders get lined up on the table for easy review by Mom and Dad when we get home from work and that mittens go in each kid’s respective little cubby. Rules help us get out the door each day. They minimize the inevitable chaos of our lives. They teach responsibility and ownership. And they can be really really hard to follow. Even for us.
One rule is to eat your dinner. No complaints and no made-to-order meals here. As we sat down tonight, one little “Lyons Cub” snarled at me and pronounced he “hated” his dinner. That’s a major no-no in our house for several reasons, not the least of which is to be grateful for what we have. So, I gave him three warnings and told him that if we got to #3, he’d have to go to bed without dinner. Not five minutes later, he shouted as he pouted for the 3rd time “I DON’T LIKE THIS DINNER!!!!!” I sighed as I looked down at my own plate. I did like this dinner. In fact, I like almost all dinners. Dinner is my favorite meal and the one time during the day I actually get to sit down and enjoy my food. And my family. I love to loiter over dinner as we share tales of our day and ponder what might be for dessert. Putting this surly little Lyon to bed would mean missing that. My dinner would be cold when I returned and dinnertime — family time — would be over.
Did I have to do it? Did I have to get up to put this pint-sized pesky person to bed? I really really didn’t want to. But I had to. I had no choice. I made the rule and if I didn’t follow it through, how could I expect them to? How could I hold them accountable? What sort of example would I be setting?
So I did it. As four other sets of wide pint-sized eyes observed (five, if you count my husband, whose look revealed an odd mix of humor and pity), I got up, hugged him tight and nudged him up the stairs. “It’s over buddy,” I told him. “Tomorrow is a new day, you can start over.” As he kicked and cried and resisted, I continued to nudge him upwards. After brushing teeth and settling in with a book he looked me in the eye and said, “Sorry Mom, I don’t feel good. I don’t want dinner. I’m sorry.” And kind of like the Grinch on Christmas, I felt my heart grow three times in that moment.
It would seem our rules are working. This little fella understood he was wrong – and he had a good reason for it. He didn’t feel well, he was tired. And that’s ok. I’m tired too. But I sure am glad I got up and followed the rules. They get it. Deep down, kids actually like rules. Maybe we all do. They provide structure and set expectations. And though they are made to be broken, in the end, they give us all a chance to shine… and if we’re lucky, maybe even get out of the house on time.