Last week, I promised to share strategies that I’m using to help me stay sane and find balance between my deeply intertwined work and family life. This week, I wanted to share an evolving project: My family manifesto.
I am a huge fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (know by many fans as DS9) a spin off series of Star Trek: The Next Generation (known as TNG among fans) . In DS9, we see a more complicated world – a world where Federation officers must work together and co-exist with a society rebuilding after a devastating occupation. A world where we see how the “enlightened” values of the Federation hold up in the face of inter-galactic conflict. A world where all the problems can’t be solved in 45 minutes.
One of the characters we get to know through the series is a Ferengi named Quark. He’s definitely an anti-hero. Ferengi society is an ultra-capitalistic alien race, and Quark is a caricature – constantly scheming, exploiting the workers in his bar, pushing the limits of legality in a quest for profit, and slowly discovering that he can be happier and more profitable by valuing assets like kindness, freedom, and fair play.
Ferengi Society is ordered by a set of rules known as The Rules of Acquisition.
Over the years, my husband and I have developed what we called The Penton Family Regulations. It all started when my older daughter went through a phase where she didn’t want to wear clothes.
We live in Florida. It’s hot 355 days a year. I sympathize.
But, when we go out in public, it’s important to wear clothes, and she had definitely passed the age where she could get away with sporting a diaper in public. Thus, the first Penton Family Regulation: All little girls must wear clothes. Notice, this is not the #1 Rule. Our #1 Rule is Don’t Die. And…I realize that death is an inevitability that we must all face, but I really want my children to survive their childhood. And “Don’t Die” encompasses a lot of things:
Q: Can I climb up on your dresses?
A: Would you die?
A3: Probably shouldn’t climb on the dresser.
Q: Do I have to sit in my car seat?
A: Would you die if you didn’t?
A2: It’s highly likely
A3: Gonna have to sit in that car seat for a few more years.
So, this rule acknowledges that I want my children to be aware of their safety and not do brazenly dangerous things…and they really flirt with that line the way Quark flirts with the lines of legality and acceptability in Deep Space 9 – hence the rule. Don’t die.
For some reason, making important ideas like this a “family regulation” made more sense to my toddlers legalistic little mind, and we had fewer tantrums and arguments, and more time being clothed in public.
I’ve noticed that I come back to other rules and guidelines for myself and my parenting, which I’ve come to refer to as The Penton Family Regulations. Here they are:
The Penton Family Regulations
- Don’t die.
- All little girls must wear underpants (Note: if there were any little boys in my house, we would use a more egalitarian phrase like “every one” and we’ve had discussions about how little boys must wear underpants also, but it just doesn’t have the same I mean you! feel when you say Every one)
- When we leave the house, we wear clothes
- All feelings are okay, but not all behavior is okay
- We don’t pee or poop on people (we try to take this literally and figuratively)
- No phones at the table
- Saturday is family movie night
- We do not work on Sunday.
- We wash our hands after we go to the bathroom
- We wash our hands before we eat
- If you don’t want your child to say it, don’t say it. Ever.
- If you don’t want your child to do it, don’t do it. Ever.
- Thursday is Ice Cream Day
- Naomi gets to play ABC Mouse only when she finishes her Tiger Class
- We do our chores before we watch tv
- We hug goodbye every time.
- When we make food for the family, we share with everyone.
- Books are for sharing.
- We always take a bath after we swim in a pool or in the ocean.
- You don’t have to share. But it’s not fair to play with a toy you aren’t going to share in front of someone else.
- We don’t get things by yelling / When we want something, we use nice words
- Say Yes whenever possible.
This list covers a lot of ground: when we use screens, how we treat each other, when we do things. I can imagine that The Rules of Acquisition or any other guide for living could have developed organically, as The Penton Family Regulations have – as a way to keep track of things that are important, but intangible. A way to turn your values into action. A way to steer you towards your better self.
I’m curious – do you have family rules?
I used to be very opposed to “family rules” – they’re rigid, and I like to be flexible, but I find myself saying these things, over and over again, and using these rules daily. So, like it or not, these are my rules. But I do like that they have a name: The Penton Family Regulations. Somehow that gives them an air of fun and authority at the same time.
Are there rules I’m missing? Suggestions? Things that come up in your family? I’m especially curious what your rules are if your kids are in school. My daughter’s starting VPK in a few weeks, and I’m sure I’ll have lots of new opportunities to add to The Penton Family Regulations. There are 285 Rules of Acquisition, so if The Penton Family Regulations are going to keep up, I have a ways to go!
p.p.s. If you’re interested in the DS9 Documentary What We Left Behind, here’s their pitch, which was 423% funded less than 30 days after they put it out. So, I’m guessing I’m not the only DS9 fan out there!