The P Word

muddling my way through parenting; living life to the full

Breaking the rules

I just gave my kids sweets. In the bath. Shortly before bedtime.
Now I’m not sure how many parental ‘rules’ I broke in that moment of madness, but I’d probably struggle to count them, even with a full complement of fingers and toes.
The summer holiday is, at least in our household, a season when rule-breaking is rife. Feel free to judge (I know you’re not perfect either!) but we’ve let standards slip on TV breakfasts (not to mention lunch and tea), diet, treats, gifts, bedtimes … in fact, most basic parental boundaries have been stretched in the past few weeks.
However, quite frankly, I don’t care. I don’t quite go along with the ‘rules are made to be broken’ school of thought, but surely there’s an element of truth in it.
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I’d stake a lot of money that the vast majority of happy, lasting childhood memories are created when the rules are broken. The unexpected treats, the outlandish exceptions, the surprising ‘yes’ in response to the desperate request out of pure hope, not expectation.
Now it has been noted by some that we can be a touch on the strict side. My wife and I expect polite, decent behaviour, and we make no excuses for that. So perhaps by breaking a few rules we’re not moving the bar particularly low.
But regardless of the starting point, the fact that children know they’re getting away with something that wouldn’t usually be permitted can’t fail to give them a bit more joy. It strengthens the bond between rule-breaker (parent) and beneficiary (child): the shared mischievous grin that cements emotional ties; the eyes lit up in amazement that say, ‘Dad, you’re brilliant!’
And the memories. Oh, the memories.
I doubt that my own offspring will recall the bath-time sweeties on an otherwise nondescript August evening. But, deep down, I know it made a difference.
Having said that, it’s impossible to predict the memories that will last the test of time. My mother was mortified when my sister and I reminisced recently about one of our fondest childhood memories: watching the wrestling on Saturday lunchtime (Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, et al) while stuffing our faces with pickled herrings. Not an everyday occurrence, but an occasional weekend treat that obviously struck a chord with two young children about three decades ago. Happy times. Fun times. Together times.
I hope your summer season was full of fun family times, however many rules you managed to break along the way.
Anyway, with growing and changing children the goalposts are moving on a fairly regular basis, so hopefully you’ll get away without causing too much of a confused mess to sort out in the aftermath. And with any luck, I won’t now spend the entire autumn battling over re-defining those stretched and misshapen boundaries.

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