I very much used to be of the opinion that ‘my house, my rules’ was sacrosanct. I didn’t care what you let your child do in your house, when they were in mine they followed my rules. You may have let your child draw all over your walls, good for you. Not in my house. You may have let your child jump all over your furniture, kudos. Not in my house. You may have liked to feed your children Easter Eggs for dinner, I bet they loved you. Not in my house. But now, I’m starting to disagree with myself. I’ve started adding caveats, and now it’s more like: ‘My house, my rules, unless…’ ‘Your house, your rules, except when…’
Why have I started thinking like this? It’s really quite petty, so please forgive me, but a dear friend of ours – who we love to bits – is very lackadaisical in her parenting methodology: there is no bed time for her kids (8 and 4 years old) they go to bed when they are tired; there are no meal times, they simply eat when they are hungry; there are no restrictions, if the kids enjoy doing it, then they enjoy watching them do it. And that’s fine, for her kids, in her house. You’ll have already read about my current situation, so until I could find a more permanent solution to someone looking after George from 12-3pm, she agreed to pick him up from school and look after him until I finished work. She was even willing to pick my daughter up from school at 3:15pm and look after them both in order to allow me to get home from work, rest for a couple of hours and then pick them up from hers. She would feed them dinner and ensure that they did their homework. A saint of a woman. I took her up on her offer, who wouldn’t.
What actually happened was: she asked the kids if they fancied doing their homework, they said no, so she sent them out to play. Before sending them out to play, they each had a wedge of chocolate biscuits and a Flake. While they were playing, her children periodically filtered through the kitchen grabbing chocolate from the draw, a Freddo here, a Kinder Egg there, until the ice-cream man arrived on the estate at 4:45pm (my kids normally eat dinner at 5pm). They each had a 99 complete with Flake, then settled down to dinner at 5. Unsurprisingly, mine couldn’t finish their buffet of nuggets and chips, but were rewarded none-the-less with a bowl full of Carte D’Or chocolate ice cream. By the time I got them home, bathed them, finished their homework, and rubbed their aching tummies, it was 8:00pm. Needless to say they didn’t have a great night’s sleep, and were very tired the next day, affecting their behaviour and performance at school.
I said to her that I had asked her nicely to not feed them with loads of rubbish and to make sure their homework was done, but she laughed it off and said “kids will be kids, they need to be happy and enjoy life.”
For one moment I imagined this happening every school day for the next six months and I physically shuddered. I cringed at the thought of how, through the best intentions, our friend would completely change our children’s outlook on what we have taught them is acceptable and what is not. My son no longer considers her by her name, he now calls her the ‘biscuit lady’ because like a puppy she rewards everything he does with a nice chocolatey biscuit treat. He no longer wants me to pick him up from school, he wants her to do it because he knows full well – despite my protestation – that she will give him things that I won’t. Before you judge though, I’m not a complete bastard. The kids have gone through a significant period of control and manipulation in the house that has clearly affected their outlook on food, and I’m trying to normalise that, but you can do things in moderation. Why give them five biscuits when two will do? Why give them the largest ice cream the van has to offer and a Flake, when a small one will do? It’s that moderation thing rearing its head again.
Before I would have argued on her side. It’s her house, and she is doing me a massive favour, so I should be willing to accept what happens in her house is her business. Her house, her rules. But it just doesn’t sit right with me, particularly because of the frequency with which they would have been exposed to the antithesis of my parenting approach. Thankfully, it’s now moot because George has been accepted into school full time and work have given me permission to drop them off and pick them up every day.
What are your thoughts? Is it your house, your rules, or do you have caveats too?