Letting Go: Revisiting House “Rules”


“You know when you have too many games downloaded on your tablet, and you need to delete some of them to free up space? That’s like your rules. There are too many.”

My daughter’s comment stopped me in my tracks. Too many rules? Is there such a thing? But rules are good, right? Rules provide order, and order is necessary to keep things moving.

Or not.


I like rules. I like order. I have rules for almost everything because order is good.

Since high school, my friends have teased me for my rules (or “enforced guidelines,” as I’ve been known to call them). I have rules about washing hands, for when it’s appropriate to eat frozen treats (Memorial Day to Labor Day), the order of pillows on the couch, the number of bowls to stack before starting a second stack (it’s four, BTW).

House Rules

Now, to be fair, I’ve been known to allow exceptions to these rules. In fact, since living in Wisconsin – home to some ridiculously delicious frozen custard – my “frozen treat” rule has been pretty lax, and I’ve been known to partake in something from Kopps even on the coldest days.

But when it comes to the kids, rules are important. Especially when our family went from three to six when I remarried late last year and “gained” two more daughters. Rules were necessary to keep everything running smoothly and to ensure we were all on the same page.

This comment about having too many rules? It hit me hard.

Is it even possible to have too many rules?

So I started stopping myself when I wanted to correct one of the kids for breaking a rule. I asked myself: Is it worth it? Will this following this rule make them better human beings? Or is it just for my convenience?

In the weeks since I’ve implemented this new way of thinking, I’ve let some things go. I no longer enforce the silverware rule: eight forks stacked this way, eight forks stacked that way (and repeat with spoons, knives, salad forks, etc.). Of course, this leaves my silverware drawer a mess…to me. (And apparently ONLY to me.) So I, without complaint or comment, fix the silverware to my liking after it’s put away.

I’ve learned to let go of the proper way to fold socks. My husband insists on just laying one sock on top of the other, while I prefer the sock “roll” method. If he’s good enough to do the laundry, take it out of the dryer and (attempt) to fold it, I can be okay with however it ends up in my laundry basket. I’ll just roll my socks when I put them in my drawer. No problem, right?

But other things I won’t let go: making sure everyone sleeps under the flat sheet instead of with a blanket on top of them. That’s just hygienically better, right? I mean, I wash sheets more regularly than blankets and bedspreads. I once heard the top sheet referred to as “underwear for your bed,” and I think that’s true. It’s a barrier layer, and it serves a purpose so…the rule stands.

It’s been a challenge, letting go. And I know I have a long way to go. I’ve lived with “enforced guidelines” for more than 40 years, so change isn’t going to happen overnight.

But thinking about things with this new filter – better humans or my convenience? – has made me stop and think more than once. And that has resulted in fewer arguments and a (slightly?) more relaxed household.

Now I’m off to switch the toilet paper so it rolls the “right” way…

Do you like rules, too? Tell me how you’ve adjusted to changing your rules after having kids?


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