It was inevitable, I suppose.
“Can I see the mommy rule book?” No. No, you can’t.
“Why not?” Because you’re not a mommy. Yeah, they’re not buying that one.
Speaking of buying…”Where do you buy the mommy rule book?” You don’t buy it. “Then how do you get it?” And that is where I got truly inspired…You don’t GET it. You LEARN it.
People who are a lot smarter than I am, say there might be evidence to support that. It’s called “The Internal Working Model.” My best understanding of that is, that even young babies learn about themselves and how to do things – including how to be a mommy or daddy – based on how they observe the world as infants. They internalize their infant experiences, and that becomes their working model for how to handle life.
But that doesn’t satisfy the kiddos. They want something in writing. I’ve tried to fake it. Sometimes, I’ve even thrown in chapter titles. However, when I tell them stories, the kids always call me on it if I change a minor detail or leave something out, so I dare not be inconsistent with this.
So, here’s my attempt at writing down the Mommy Rule Book. (Inevitably, it’s going to change. But I’m not trying to be definitive, or make real rules, or even be complete – I’m just trying to keep it straight in my head, and maybe get a couple of more years out of it!)
Chapter One: Because I’m the Mom, and I Said So
First of all, there’s that whole Internal Working Model thing. We can “say so,” because we’ve learned so. And because we understand germ theory. And social convention. And manners. And seat belt laws. And….all that other stuff the kids won’t listen to explanations for. But there’s often a reason for what we say. Really, there is.
Chapter Two: Hygiene
Kiddo doesn’t want to leave the playground at McDonald’s, even though urine is in danger of turning the tube slide into a water park? “I’m sorry, honey, we have to leave, it’s in the Mommy Rule Book.” Sweet little moppet threatens a category five temper tantrum over washing her hair? Yeah, I invoke the MRB.
Subchapter 1: Boo-boos. “Yes, it hurts, but you have to let me wash it and put a band-aid on it.”
Subchapter 2: Dentists
Chapter Three: Food
It’s hard to explain things like, “In fifty years, when your first bone density test results are awesome, you’re going to thank me for making you drink a glass of milk every day.” Probably, “Because childhood obesity is threatening to cut your generations’ life span,” is a bit much, too.
Subchapter One: things that aren’t food. (Gum, paper, play-doh, whatever…)
Subchapter Two: Inconsistency Loophole. “I know we had ice cream for dinner last night, but we can’t do it three nights in a row…”
Subchapter Three: Yes, you have to try it. (Subchapter Three has a loophole – things that just about everyone agrees are icky. “Just hide the….whatever that is….under your napkin, and we’ll stop on the way home.”)
Chapter Four: Safety
“Don’t stand on dead tree branches.” “Wear your bike helmet.” “Buckle the seatbelt.” “Don’t pet strange dogs.” “Change the windshield wipers.” “Drive with the headlights on.” Graphic explanations are for school health class and after school specials. Chapter Four is for me.
Subchapter One: Internet. Because there is some scary stuff out there.
Subchapter Two: Hygiene, again.
Chapter Five: Inclement Weather
I’m sure I’m not the only mom who sends a jacket to school with her kid, knowing the child isn’t going to wear it, but not wanting the teacher to think I’m the kind of mom who wouldn’t send a jacket.
Chapter Six: Social Niceties
Yes, you have to say please, thank you, and excuse me. No, you can’t run naked through the mall. No, you can’t scream at the top of your lungs in…anywhere indoors. No, you can’t stand on your seat in the movie theater. Etc. Etc. Sorry, it’s in the MRB.
Subchapter 1: Inconsistencies Loophole. That’s for grown-ups or movie characters only. Like why that man in mommy’s favorite TV show says THAT word all the time, but she can’t. “That’s the rule. It’s in the MRB.”
Subchapter 2: It’s not because YOU want to; it’s because THEY would appreciate it. Funerals. Appropriate clothing at weddings (or anywhere else). Photos at family reunions. And all that jazz.
Chapter Seven: Social Responsibility
“I know it’s show and tell day, but you have a 101 fever and you’re covered in purple spots, so you have to stay home.” The funnier (if it’s not you) “Don’t pee on the slide.” Also good for sitting in the sick room during doctor’s visits and why you should cover your mouth when you sneeze. The answers to “why” on these actually exist, but are complicated. (Thank goodness for Google and wikipedia. The MRB usually buys me enough time to reference them.) If you have pets, you can throw in leash laws, pooper scoopers, and why you want to prevent your cat from having kittens, too.
Chapter Eight: Let’s Go. Because my job is to encourage you to try. So, we’re going to dance class/band practice/football practice/sleepaway camp….
Chapter Nine: Education I’m doing you kids a great disservice if I’m not helping you learn stuff.
Chapter Ten: I Know You Don’t Like This Rule, But It’s For Your Own Good
Or, rules intuition tells you are good, but you couldn’t say why. Have a bedtime. Don’t eat worms. Do something other than watch TV. Rules that you know must have a good explanation, but you haven’t looked them up yet, or the explanation is too complicated to make sense to you, so you have no hope of explaining it to them, or filing it neatly somewhere else in the MRB.
Subchapter: I’m YOUR mommy, and I said so – I don’t care if s/he’s allowed to do/not do it. If I were her/his mom, then s/he would have this rule, too.
Chapter Eleven: Because If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy You are perfectly entitled to Mom’s Night Out every once in a while. And having your own games on the tablet and phone. And having an occasional glass of wine after the kids go to bed. Or cooking what YOU like for dinner, every once in a while. It’s like that little card in airplanes that tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping the kids. It’s counter-instinctual, but if you pass out from lack of oxygen, then what good are you to them?
Chapter Twelve: Just Because, That’s Why
Sort of the intersection of Chapters Six and Ten. This is for stuff you just want for the family, but the only explanation you have is the one that feels really corny: memories. Maybe you want to institute a monthly game night. Maybe you want to take family pictures. Or sing a song in the car. Or whatever. Your husband may or may not understand your sudden need for everyone to decorate the Christmas tree together with handmade strands of popcorn (popped in a saucepan over the stove and strung lovingly in front of a cozy fire) while sipping apple cider and singing Jingle Bells. He doesn’t have to. But you’re allowed the attempt. It’s in the Mommy Rule Book.