House Rules

Here’s our brand new wall decal (or sticker, if you will). It was on sale at Catch of the Day a few weeks ago and on the screen, in the gallery with all the others, it looked cool, so we bought it. Pretty simple, really. People make spontaneous online purchases all the time. And we weren’t even drunk! Nothing to praise – or to blame – but our sobriety!

Except now, a few days post-installation, I’m not sure how I feel about it anymore.

Yes, it does have a whiff of ‘fad’ about it; yes, the plastic does shine more than I’d like (you can see it in the photograph); but more than that, now that these ‘rules’ are up for all to read and – theoretically – be obeyed, I’m not sure I want to. I’ve always been petulant in that respect – tell me not to do something, and that’s what I want to do.

I know the list ends with a conveniently negating command “Break these rules once in a while”, and I daresay I’m over-thinking this, but I guess my greatest desire as a parent would be to instill the kind of values in the children that are modelled by example and in turn are not explicitly ‘taught’. When I was growing up, both of my parents worked hard, pushed us at school, took us to the library and whatever shows or movies our modest family budget allowed. I had it all without having a decal up on the wall, next to our dining table, where I’d sit and chew my broccoli and consider its message every night.

Critics could even suggest that the rise of similar decorations, even canvases and artworks, could point in the direction of dwindling parenting confidence – do we really need these ‘touchstones’? Why are they ‘in’? Irony could be at play, so too a retro, hat-tipping to a simplicity of familial life that no longer exists (if it ever did).

Perhaps it’s my anxiety. Those of us who have it, we seek out our weaknesses to test it, poke our emotional bruises. So when I look at it, sometimes I see the things I’m accomplishing, but I mostly see my failures: I don’t always tell the truth and I certainly don’t want to try everything once.

Even Riley, upon reading this for the first time, exclaimed, “Mum! You and Dad have broken a rule already! It says ‘No Whining’, but you drink wine all the time!”

I couldn’t argue with that.

So, it’s staying because I don’t want to take it down just because it confuses me. That wouldn’t solve much either.

What do you think?


Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is Crying in the Car: Reflections on Life and Motherhood.