My Chair Rocks

House rules are also ground rules for life

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Ah, the joys of comfort food! Had my first taho! in years. Loved it. It is good to be home!

A day before leaving Atlanta, I happened upon a syndicated how-to show on television and they were talking about raising children. I listened to a mother of three being interviewed by the host.

She had been randomly picked from an audience of young parents.  There was a child/family counselor on the roster of guests and the subject was, “What are your house rules?”

The woman hesitated, looking a bit puzzled and obviously not too sure of the right answer.  The host was reassuring. “There are no right or wrong answers here. Just tell us, what tools do you use to keep your three children in line? What are your house rules?”

Then the counselor stepped in and asked: “Do you have any?”

She said, “Not that I know of. I just play it by ear.”

Her children ranged in age from 12 to three, from an almost teen to a toddler.

The moderator seemed appalled. He said: “Some call what you are doing ‘Bringing up kids by the seat of their pants.’”

Schools of thought

There are several schools of thought on how to raise children. No one has the surest or best formula. One group urges parents to wing it, to be spontaneous, that no two children are ever the same, and that they must be allowed to “express themselves.”

Other experts encourage us to make house rules and even write them down. They insist that even when there is only one child, it is important to set down markers to make sure the child knows what behavior is okay and what isn’t. I agree.

Studies say that creating rules for kids results in “effective discipline strategies.” It gives them structure and sets limits by making it clear to them how to behave at home as well as outside—

what is acceptable conduct and what isn’t.

A list of dos and don’ts was mentioned in the show. In the long lineup were: no hitting, no biting, no pushing, no shoving, no rude remarks, no screaming and yelling, use inside voice and quiet feet at home, no slamming of doors, no grabbing. Be patient, polite, gentle and kind. Help one another. Share. Treat others as you would have them treat you; yes, the Golden Rule still works, how about that.

There were more: Say please and thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry. Knock before you enter a room, even if you are in your own home. Respect the privacy and property of others.

The counselor advised that the lists must be more than a recitation of don’ts or strict prohibitions followed by threats of punishment. Children need to know there are consequences that follow violations.

No exceptions

Someone on the panel asked if making a “family values statement” was necessary. The answer was an emphatic yes.

The host explained: “We define this statement as the ‘deep-seated beliefs and behavior guidelines’ that apply to everyone in the family with no exceptions.”

All adults, parents specially, must take the lead. Being all grown up does not mean you have license to violate the house rules. If it is wrong for a child to use rude language, it is just as wrong (and even worse) for an adult to do so.

Age does not give us permission to be gross or unkind. Wrinkles, aches and pains, and memory lapses do not qualify us to be cruelly straightforward.

I must admit there are situations where an older person may feel sorely tempted to be “brutally honest” and feel it is justified. I am sure I am not alone when I plead guilty on this count. I have often heard the remark: Hey, at my age, I’m entitled.

But folks, no one has the right to talk nasty, no matter how offended he or she may be.

During the Q&A portion of the show, someone in the audience stood up, identified herself as an “old mother” (perhaps she meant a grandmother?) and said: “These house rules are not just for kids. They are for all of us, old and young, for all time.”

Which of these rules apply to you and me? My answer is: all of the above. It occurs to me that these are not simply house rules but ground rules for life.

Old friends

Back from my travels and not quite over jet lag, I attended a sumptuous Kamayan buffet lunch with my high school classmates.

It staggers me to think that it has been 65 years since we marched on that stage in our flowing white gowns (with pink satin sashes) to receive our diplomas.

We had no nametags at the lunch. No matter. We remembered our wild and crazy days.

Although it is quite disconcerting to see more canes and walkers every time we meet, our reunions are always happy, noisy, full of laughter and warm memories.

Just before we lined up for lunch, there was a loud cheer of welcome. One of my closest and dearest had arrived. She looked almost like her old self, the naughty classmate who had the nuns and teachers at once exasperated and delighted by her exuberant demeanor. Recovering nicely from a recent medical setback, she beamed happily on her wheelchair, pushed by a good-looking, clean-cut young man who seemed just as happy to be there as she was.

I had to fight the urge to hug (and maybe embarrass) him.  Imagine, he could have been playing video games or hanging out with friends. But there he was, doing the rounds with his grandmother, wide smile in his face, solicitous, thoughtful, with eyes only for his lola, watching her every move, anticipating her every whim. How wonderful is that!

Ah, the joy of being a grandparent! Life as a senior has its perks. Trust me.

So, pick up your sagging spirits from the floor, my friends.  Forget that you wobble and waddle. So you can’t remember what day it is. Who cares? Take a deep breath! Taste the goodness of God and give thanks! It’s great to be alive!

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