My kids don’t have a lot of rules put on them. I try to keep it simple and relaxed. I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re being smothered by too many restrictions. For the most part respecting everyone else’s needs seemed to be a good guideline. For the most part this makes the rules pretty invisible because there’s no need to enforce them. The rest of them fell into the guidelines of safety. If you can’t do it safely, you can’t do it.
Two rules have always stood out as actually being rules. The kids have found them to be restrictive, though in the case of one of them, they realized pretty early on that it’s more of a courtesy than a restriction. They both applied to playing outside.
- Always inform Oz or me if you’re going to be leaving the yard.
- Be in by dark.
Each of these rules has a very specific reason that I made sure to share with the kids when I set them down. We all agreed that they were fair and served everyone’s best interest. I figured that should make them easy to follow.
With the first rule, there’s a whole number of reasons. If anyone needs to find one of the kids, they’ll know exactly where to look. If there’s an emergency no one needs to waste time tracking them down. I can simply drop in and let them know if I’ll be at the neighbors’ house so no one will be at the house, and they now know where to find me. My kids panic if they come by the house and I’m not there, even if I’m just outside the back door or walked over to the mailbox. I figured if they expect me to tell them where I’ll be, they’d understand why I want them to do the same. Even Oz always tells me where he’s going whenever he leaves, sends me a message when plans change, and gives me an estimated time he’ll be gone or when he expects to be back. It’s just common courtesy.
The second rule I kind of hate. It all started because 9pm is the city-wide curfew. All kids must be on their home property by 9pm and in the home by 10pm. When we fist got here it was dark around the time the kids had to be on our property. It gets dark a good deal earlier now, so I’d started letting the kids stay out just a little bit later. Then we started to notice that a handful of people speed through the neighborhood, burn rubber tearing out of here, or drive drunk. There was an incident where a drunk driver took off someone’s porch. It’s one thing to be out during the day when visibility is pretty good, but once it’s dark those kids get hard to see. It would be all too easy for someone to get hit by a car because the driver didn’t see them. I don’t want to take that risk with my kids. I don’t mind them being at a friend’s house, but I have to know they’ll be indoors or supervised by an adult. Adult supervision won’t stop a kid from being hit by a drunk driver, but one can at least hope that the adult would have the awareness to see it coming and get the kids out of the way in time. It’s good to have someone paying attention to the surroundings because it’s easy for kids to get lost in their play. Who can blame them? I would too!
Unfortunately, we’ve learned that Corde has a complete disregard for the rules. We’d just given her freedom about being outside unsupervised back and she barely got use of it before we had to take it away again. The first time she was at Maddy’s house and no one knew where she was. Everyone thought she and Maddy were outside in the yard until I poked my head out and saw the girls had vanished. I knew exactly where the boys were. My neighbor’s two and my three were all in the house playing together for the most part. Even Luca got some attention from the big boys. My neighbor was watching Maddy and her sister and had Corde over there. The girls said they were going outside and no one thought anything of it because they’re almost always in the tree, but Maddy and Corde had disappeared. Oz tracked them down without much incident, but he wasn’t pleased. Corde knows better than to just take off. I kind of figured Maddy had something to do with it and cut her some slack. To Maddy it wouldn’t seem like a good idea because she was just going home, just like Corde wouldn’t have had to tell anyone if she was going home. I don’t think Maddy would have thought twice about it, but Corde should have known better.
The second time a neighbor I didn’t know came knocking on my door to tell me he’d almost backed into Beekee with his car. He seemed more concerned that Beekee was okay than anything else. He asked the kids to move so he could back out and Beekee must not have heard him because he didn’t move until he saw the car move. The other kids just sat there and stared at him apparently. Corde tried to convince him to move, but no one else did anything. Corde and Beekee came back to the house with the neighbor. The neighbor and I talked to Beekee about being safe and how he could have gotten hurt, then decided he’d stay in for the rest of the afternoon because he didn’t seem like he could pay enough attention to be responsible outside. He agreed and promptly fell asleep.
When I turned to talk to Corde and ask her where she was she had already taken off. I had no idea where she’d gone, but I’d figured she’d gone back to Maddy’s house, since that was where she was supposed to be. I wanted to talk to her about what happened and ask why she was outside behind someone’s car when she was supposed to be at Maddy’s house. Sure enough, she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. She was riding someone else’s bike down the street. I had to call her four different times to get her to get off the bike because it was way too small and she could walk faster than she was peddling that thing. All three of the boys were asleep, but Sander and Luca had been out for a while, so I had a limited window to sneak out before one of them woke up and started crying, which has been the trend for the past few days. I didn’t want to waste time by having her take the bike at the slowest pace ever.
I asked Corde why she wasn’t at Maddy’s house and she said, “Maddy was bored and didn’t want to play anymore.” I asked why she didn’t tell me she wasn’t going to be at Maddy’s house anymore and she said she didn’t think it mattered. I had to point out that we’re working on this trust thing, and because of her earlier situation of running off I didn’t want her just running around the neighborhood like crazy. She was allowed to be at a friend’s house or had to stay in the yard and she knew it. She knows the little two have been super cranky and it wouldn’t be fair to drag them around the neighborhood looking for her. That’s why she gets to just tell me where she’s going and shoot out the door, because I can trust her to be where she says she’ll be.
At the end of this I told her she was “grounded”. I use quotes because I hate that term and I’m not sure what that really means. She’s not allowed outside unsupervised until further notice. I need to know I can trust her to be where she says she’s going to be, and Oz and I will be talking about the duration of this limitation when he gets home.
Then a conversation happened that went a little something like this…
Corde: So I pretty much can’t go outside because you’re always inside with the baby. It’s always too hot or too wet and cold for him.
Me: Pretty much, unless you can come up with a better solution.
Corde: But that’s not fair to Beekee!
Me: How is it not fair to Beekee?
Corde: Because Beekee has to stay inside and be punished because of me.
Me: I never said Beekee had to stay in. He’s always where he says he’ll be and he’s always in by dark, unless you convince him to do something different.
Corde, looking outraged: But that’s not fair!
Me: How is that not fair? Beekee follows the rules, you don’t. He can be trusted. When you’re ready to be trusted again, we’ll let you do it too.
Corde sighed: I guess that’s fair. I guess that makes sense. I hate that Beekee listens better than I do. He always makes me look bad!
I couldn’t help but laugh at this and remind her that it’s not that he makes her look bad but sometimes he’s ready for things she isn’t. He’s starting to learn how to read at 5 and Corde didn’t really make much effort until she was 8. At the same time Corde’s been doing multiplication and division since she was 4 and Beekee isn’t even started on basic math. She can’t really compare herself to Beekee. They’re too different. There’s nothing wrong at earning rights and responsibilities at different rates. It’s just further proof that they’re two very different kids.
However, it’s made it challenging for me. Corde has gone a long way to damage all the trust we build almost as soon as we build it. I had a long talk with her about this. I told her how much I want to trust her and how frustrated it makes me that I can’t just let her have free reign in the neighborhood so long as she tells me where she’ll be. I have a hard time not letting her go to her friends’ houses because I can’t be sure she’ll be there, or that she’ll be home by dark and I’ll have to go hunting her down. I hate that I can’t let her go out and play without having to worry that she’ll just take off without remembering to tell me where she’s going. I don’t want to restrict her from these things, but I have to know she’s willing to do what it takes to make that possible.
This whole trust issue is really dragging us down. I want to trust her. I want her to have freedom. I want her to be happy. More frustrating, it’s hard to explain to other people why Beekee has more freedoms than Corde. They seem to think that’s backwards because she’s older. They don’t seem to get that it has to do with trust and responsibility, not age.
I can’t wait until we get past this. Life will be so much easier when trust starts to come back into our lives. I know this too will pass and Corde will realize she gets so much more by treating me with respect by telling me where she’s going and actually being there. She’ll learn she has so much more freedom and I’m much more fun to be around when she and I can get along with less conflict. I just hope that it doesn’t take years!