If anyone tricked me into thinking that making my own humans would be fun, easy and figure-flattering, it was Shirley Partridge, Samantha Stephens and Carol Brady – three no-shows the day I brought home Baby #1, only to discover that there was no time to write and perform pop songs, host a client dinner party or even make a few sack lunches.
At the very least, I thought, I could promise myself a carefree motherhood by laying down some simple laws early in my children’s lives, ensuring peace, domestic harmony and the guaranteed production of cherubic, well-behaved human beings as my gift to society.
But which rules? I can barely remember my mom’s rules, except that most of them had to do with strangers. Generally speaking, strangers were bad news, which was particularly inconvenient when you needed a ride somewhere, when you were in the mood for a piece of candy or when one of them showed up on the front porch and needed to borrow the phone.
How hard could it be to teach kids to live by a few time-tested rules, I’d always asked the childless version of myself at the next table in the restaurant, while I sternly judged the parents of feral-cat children for not springing for a sitter (table manners, anyone?)
Within an hour of her homecoming from the hospital, my newborn daughter got a jump on my plan to lay down The Rules for All Humans Produced by Me. She immediately set up house and hijacked The Rules by making up her own, extemporaneously. “Feed me!” “Change me!” “Find my Binky!” “Wake up and get in here!” “Feed me!” “Hang out with me until the sun comes up!” “Feed me!” “What’s the holdup with that Binky?”
Whatever the mood called for, she had a Rule to make it work for her.
This was no way to start motherhood. Sure, the kid was a quick start out of the gate, but I wasn’t about to let her run the whole show. I knew I needed to whip up my own rules – fast – and make them official before I lost the mother-daughter tug-of-war I’d been snookered into. By the time her two brothers arrived, The Rules for All Humans Produced by Me were firmly in place and, as the self-appointed Boss of Everything, I expected them to stay that way.
What’s true about The Rules, I quickly learned, is that they are extremely subject to change, according to the swell of mutiny surrounding them.
The Rules for All Humans Produced by Me and The Amendments:
Rule #1: You may not use scissors without Mom’s permission and supervision.
Amendment to Rule #1: You may not use scissors to cut your hair.
Amendment #2 to Rule #1: You may not use scissors to cut your brother’s hair.
Amendment #3 to Rule #1: You may not use scissors ever, ever again, as long as you live. Not even once.
Rule #2: You may not outline the contours of any piece of leather furniture in the house with a ballpoint pen or any type of Sharpie.
Amendment to Rule #2: You may not stab, pierce or otherwise puncture any piece of leather furniture in the house, even if it’s just a plastic knife.
Amendment #2 to Rule #2: You may not stab, pierce or otherwise puncture your brother, even it it’s just a plastic knife.
Rule #3: Be polite and sit still in the restaurant.
Amendment to Rule #3: Be polite, sit still in the restaurant and use your inside voice.
Amendment #2 to Rule #3: Be polite, sit still in the restaurant, use your inside voice and stay off the table.
Amendment #3 to Rule #3: Be polite, sit still in the restaurant, use your inside voice, stay off other peoples’ tables and quit acting like feral cats.
Rule #4: You may not climb in or out of any window.
Amendment to Rule #4: You may not climb in or out of any window, especially those on the second story of the house.
Amendment #2 to Rule #4: You may not climb in or out of any window, especially those on the second story of the house, nor may you walk around on the edge of the second story roof when you make it through the window.
Amendment #3 to Rule #4: You may not climb out of the second story window and swing from a Tarzan Rope you’ve created from bed sheets onto the trampoline below.
Rule #5: You may not put the gerbils in the same Gerbil City cage until we know whether they are boy gerbils or girl gerbils.
Amendment to Rule #5: You may not let Ricky and Lucy “wrestle” inside the Gerbil City cage.
Amendment #2 to Rule #5: Do not even THINK of coming home from school today until you’ve found homes for all 17 of the gerbils.
*are subject to change without notice