The boys like to test me, they really do.
One of the things that is difficult as a Dad with limited time, is that you have to be able to overcome issues in a weekend that have been festering in the boys minds for up to two weeks. This means that when I collect them from school on the alternate Friday I get bombarded by all 3 at the same time as they get in the car. We have had to put a “rule” in place about not talking over each other or at the same time, and another rule about not showing Dad the “thing you did at school” until we get home, or if we have to park and wait for big brother to come out we take it turns to show Dad what we have in the school bag. It took a while to get this under control because naturally the boys are very excited when I collect them and are desperate to tell me all their news, and of course there is the competitive element of telling Dad the shared experience first!
The point of this introduction is that we have “Rules”, simple rules but it’s often the case that the rules at Dads are different from the other places the boys spend time. So rules are a subject that comes up fairly often. Rules of the house are agreed by everyone and if they boys want to have a rule for something then we discuss it and if we all think it’s a good rule then we implement it. For example; At bed time if you get ready for bed the first time of asking without moaning or hesitating, to watch a bit more of the telly or to get to the end of the level in the game, then you are allowed to come back down and have an extra half an hour to sit with Dad and cuddle, talk, or read, whatever you like even finish off your game if you really have too. But you must have put dirty clothes in the laundry basket, washed face and hands, had a wee, and brushed your teeth, if you have missed anything , then you only get 5 minutes. It works really well and it means I have never had an issue at bedtime with any of the boys, and of course the real reward is having a chance to read to each other. I have been encouraging the boys for some time to read to me at bed time as well as the other way round, we usually take it in turns, and they absolutely love doing it, bed times become special and something they look forward too.
So a couple of years ago my middle son, came up with the following; a real doozy of a question.
“Dad, Is there one special rule?”
“ONE Special rule”? I suppose always say please and thank you, would be up there, why?”
“My friends Dad said there’s only one rule for life.”
Oh dear, this could be awkward. I don’t want to undermine another parent, but I also need to ensure my boys rethink comments from adults without questioning them inappropriately or seeming to undermine them, so I try to encourage them to think about things, and rather than give a straight answer maybe encourage them to find one by asking what they think, and working an answer into their thoughts. Not always successfully, and sometimes it’s easier to give a straight response, but I try not to if I can help it.
“Oh I see! and did he say what the rule was?”
“You know the thing you always say about do the thing you have to do the first chance you get.”
“Well his is like that. He says; “Do it to them before they do it to you”!”
“Oh right, O.k., Well I think I know what he means, but that’s not really how I would put it or want you to think of it. How could we say it a little different so it doesn’t sound so rough do you think?”
“I don’t know Dad, it depends if you’re hurting someone or helping them”
“Well we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone would we?” He shakes his head, “The truth is buddy that there isn’t one single rule, but I might have put his rule a little differently, sometimes the way we say something can make it easier to understand and to say, how about we change it just a little”
“Change it how Dad?”
“Well How about we say “Do it FOR them before they do it FOR you!?”
“So it is about helping then, like helping someone that wants to help you?
“I think that’s a good way to put it”
Phew!…. So I got to thinking, how many rules do you need? I worry that we have too many because I don’t want to stunt creativity or thought, but I feel the boys enjoy being part of the process of rule making, and certainly the structure they bring seems to help everybody. So we had a chat and decided we should come up with a list of the rules to live your life by!
WOW! Really? Well sort of. The boys wrote huge lists including things like “don’t pick your nose and eat it! Or don’t step on a stone in bare feet! (I don’t know either!). In the end we put them all together and I edited everything and we agreed to a maximum of 50. Still a big number and bearing in mind how many we started with, (I think around 260!)It seemed like a good number. I have tried to make them short and simple, and over the years they have changed a little, but we’ve kept at 50.I tried not to do a list of Do’s and Don’t s as they are negatives, and I wanted the list to be as positive as possible.
So Ladies and Gentleman I give you!…..Da da Dada Dada daa!
50 rules for life: as created by 3 boys and 1 Dad (with judicious editing by Dad!)
1. Admit mistakes with alacrity
2. Ask who’s doing, the best way to do
3. Be bold, have no regrets
4. Be early or on time
5. Be regular
6. Beware a person with nothing to lose
7. Buy the best you can afford
8. Call your Mum daily
9. Carry an organ donor card
10. Compliment someone each day
11. Decide difficult tasks won’t go wrong
12. Do IT the1st chance you get
13. Do nothing when angry
14. Drink water at every meal
15. Enter rooms with confidence
16. Exercise 30 mins daily
17. Give blood yearly after you’re 18
18. Gossip? Never!
19. If you pay and it’s wrong, complain
20.In health matters, get a 2nd opinion
21. It’s o.k. to say “I don’t know.”
22. It’s good to say “I’m sorry.”
23. Keep hope alive, never take it
24. Keep secrets
25. Keep your bucket list on you
26. Keep yourself clean
27. Learn a trade/instrument
28. Listen carefully or you may miss it
29. Look people in the eye
30.Make new friends, keep old ones
31. Never cheat
32. Never underestimate forgiveness
33. Never walk out on a row, “with anyone”
34. Pay for work done, not before
35. Pretend bravery’s just as effective as real
36. Read one new book every week
37. Say “NO” politely but promptly
38. Say “Please” a lot.
39. Say “thank you” more
40. Say opening, not problem
41. Spend less than you earn
42. Spend the REQUIRED time at work
43. Start everyday with Porridge or Bran
44. Support a charity with time
45. Treat all you meet like they were you
46. Use debit cards NOT credit cards
47. Wage war on litter (c/o @KirstieMAllsopp)
48. Watch a sunrise yearly
49. Win wars, choose battles wisely
50. Write a blog/diary daily and keep it!
The End! If you’d like to add any to the list let me know. The only condition is you have to remove one for each new rule. It was tough, I really wanted “Polished Shoes”, but we dropped in favour of War on Litter which we only did a month ago. If we adopt yours I will mark it as c/o @twitter name…. Thanks for joining in!