House Rules

Chris and moi, being the patriarch and matriarch of our wee yet busy family of four, have developed some ground rules for coping with the series of crazy days that we're told (a) shall pass and (b) will eventually be looked back on with great fondness.

These rules are nothing groundbreaking, but they DO make life a little . . . better.

Rule #1. When both children are crying, we must laugh. 
The reasoning is simple: If you don't laugh while both kids are melting down, you will cry yourself. And if you cry, the chaos will only increase. We started this rule a mere day or two after Lorelei was born. It's a keeper.

Rule #2. Every well-child doctor's visit shall culminate in a trip to Dogfish Head.
Dogfish Head is our favorite brewery-slash-restaurant, it's very family friendly, and its beers are just the hoppiest. Because it's a mere exit or two away from the pediatrician's office, and because I always schedule the latest possible appointment time, the timing works out. Going to Dogfish Head is a fun disruption to the daily routine, and it gives Chris and me a chance to discuss what the pediatrician said, look at growth charts, and so on.

Rule #3. If Mommy puts down BOTH children at night, Daddy will use his child-free time to ensure Mommy has a cocktail waiting for her for when she's done.
I typically put Lorelei down, treasuring that quiet minute or two of rocking and formula top-off that is probably unnecessary but started when I needed something to replace the evening nursing session post-weaning. During this time, Charlotte is brushing her teeth, picking out jammies, and so on, and she inevitably announces, "I want MOMMY to read me my books." Chris is not offended in the least, because reading toddler books is just not his favorite. Frankly, I could happily live out the rest of my days without ever again reading "Froggy Gets a Baby Sister," but we all know that reading to children is IMPORTANT. Usually, I do it, plus the after-reading snuggle time with Charlotte. Our deal? Chris will not spend that half-hour I'm tied up with the kids doing utterly unproductive things, like Facebook or reading The Monacle. No, he will fix his wife a drink and start on dinner or water the plants outside.

Rule #4. I will sort your laundry. I will wash your laundry. I will dry your laundry. I will fold your laundry. I will neatly stack your laundry on your side of the bed. BUT I WILL NOT PUT IT AWAY.
This one drives Chris bananas. His rationale? If you do all those other steps, why not see it through and put my laundry AWAY? My reasoning is this: Chris already thinks little laundry elves keep him from wearing smelly, grimy clothes. Call it shallow, but I want him to SEE the work I've done, in between raising two kids and working full-time, to keep him in clean clothes. Besides, I already have to put away my clothes, the kids' clothes, all the linens, beach towels, dish towels, bibs, and so on. He can put away his own socks, in my opinion.

Rule #5. Saturday, Mommy sleeps in. Sunday, Daddy sleeps in.
We had this rule before Lorelei, but it got postponed for months and months after Lorelei was born, mainly due to breastfeeding. I ALWAYS had to get up early to feed her, but part of our deal was that Chris would get her and change her diaper first. Well, now that Lorelei is formula-fed, there's no good reason he can't handle a morning feeding solo. (One BIG point scored for formula feeding.) Charlotte usually gets up before Lorelei, but either way, the other parent gets up early and attempts to let the other one sleep. Chris and Charlotte are so freaking loud that I have yet to sleep through their ungraceful exit from our bedroom, but I do appreciate the extra half hour or hour to read or blog or JUST LAY THERE.

Rule #6. You may have 6 inches of sunlight, but getting out of bed = darkness.
It being summertime, and Charlotte having a bedtime hovering around 7:00 p.m., it's still light outside when she goes to bed. She has blackout shades, so I lift her shades 6 inches, and she can look at books, play with toys, or whatever, so long as she stays in her bed. If she gets out, the shades go all the way down and she'll only have her night light glow for light. We never had a problem with Charlotte leaving her room post-bedtime until we FINALLY trained her to poop IN THE TOILET, not her nighttime Pull-Up. It took a LOT of intensive, um, parenting to teach and train her that leaving her room to go poo was A-okay. We finally succeeded and the child has been a toilet-pooper for several months now, but with this freedom to go to the bathroom when she wanted came completely pointless trips out of her room. The window bribe has worked wondrously. Charlotte tested our resolve only once, and when she got those shades lowered to a dark room, despite her screaming and promises she'd stay in bed (again, leaving her bed/room to go to the bathroom IS allowed), she never dared test it again. At night, I say, "You know the sunlight rule, right?" And Charlotte says, "I stay in bed, or you lower the shade. Don't worry, I'll stay in bed." And I high-five her and tell her what a good job she did the night before.

Now, there are some new rules I want to integrate into our family, which I intend to start soon. First, Charlotte needs to be the one to de-clutter her room when the cleaners come. WHY DO I DO IT FOR HER?

And related to that, everyone over the age of 3 needs to clean up after themselves. By Sunday night, my hips and lower back are actually sore from two straight days of picking up shit off the floor. I haven't done a very good job consistently having Charlotte clean up after herself, but I've nagged Chris pretty consistently, and that doesn't seem to work either. I can always put Charlotte in time-out or confiscate those toys she refuses to pick up, but there is no "consequence" for a grown man that isn't utterly passive aggressive. Tips, anybody?

With Lorelei 9 months old, we do have a pretty good routine at this point. That said, I think there's a little too much of an assumption Mommy will handle things. The other day, I asked Charlotte to go upstairs and get her shoes. "No, Mommy. YOU DO IT." Um, excuse me? And there's the inexplicable habit of Chris's in which he'll rip the foil seal off a new gallon of milk and leave it right on the counter . . .  right next to the garbage can. So! Close! Whhhhhyyyy does he do this to me?!

We also have mutual rules that are less shrill-mommyish that we're trying to bring in, like no iPhones at the dinner table, no TV past 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays, and whatnot.

If I had my way, I'd plug in about 100 new rules, but I suppose nobody can run their house and family like the military, no matter how much they like neatness and order. But picking up your toys (or, um, cooking magazines) off the floor? I think that's a new rule we can do, right?


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