When our four sons were young, we had to implement all sorts of rules to keep some semblance of order.
There was “If you open it, close it,” “Hang up your doggone hat,” and, my personal favorite, “Do not smack your brother in the check out line at the grocery store!”
Although I don’t have to firmly plant my fist on my hip and point, I still have to remind them of these things when they return to the home front for a visit.
They don’t mind. In fact I’m quite certain they will enforce these guidelines when they have children of their own.
Now, my dearly beloved spouse, Pat, is a true law-abiding citizen. He doesn’t break the laws of the road, returns his shopping cart to the bay and would never double park just so someone doesn’t ding his doors.
It is the rules of the house that he loathes — especially when these orders come from me.
Don’t get me wrong, he is as polite as can be, cleans up after himself and is kind and considerate when it comes to the daily chores that not only keep things nice, but separate us from the animals.
Yet, he is quite independent; he has been self-employed for most of his life and doesn’t like to be told what to do.
Pat works tirelessly and has provided for us well. Therefore I usually don’t complain when he takes off his sand-ridden jeans and hangs them, creating a beach for us on the laundry room floor.
I simply take them outside to give them a shake before throwing them in the washer. Although I call him “Pig Pen” when he forgets something and wears his clod-stompers back into the house and thereby leaves a muddy print with darn near every step, I tell him I got it and get out the stadium mop post-haste.
But there are some places where a girl has got to draw the line and lay some rules down. Take, for instance, our precious dog Sadie. Now Pat likes to get up at zero-dark-thirty and use the bathroom. Naturally, Sadie hears the commotion and decides that it is the perfect time to use the outdoor facilities.
So she ambles into our bedroom with her darling sleepy eyes, stands at the patio door and looks to Pat.
Naturally, Pat walks to the patio door, lovingly asks, “Do you need to go outside, Doggie?” and lets her out. Then he crawls back into bed.
Now, personally I feel this rule should not even have to be stated, much less enforced. But if you let the dog out, I feel you should have to let her back in.
But Pat knows that my over-protective mom side will not allow her to stay outside longer than need be under the cloak of nightfall. Lord knows what lurks out there.
Therefore, he lets her out with nary a worry and ignoring my implementation of the rule, Pat goes back to bed.
Although I’ve done my best to enforce the rule, there’s no changing it.
Several years ago, I sat at the head of the kitchen table with Pat and all four sons and made this announcement: “From now on I will not be unrolling dirty socks. If you want your socks clean, then unroll them before shooting a three-pointer into the laundry hamper. If you shoot a dirty ball sock into the hopper, a dirty ball sock shall return to your drawer with a nice coating of fabric softener.”
Most of my new rules never took, but that one really seemed to have some grip to it. Turns out crunchy socks made our charges cranky.
Of course they’re all long gone and living at their own homes, working their big boy jobs. But Pat still gets to live with me and as I pulled a load of whites out of the dryer last week, I noticed that several of the socks looked as if someone had blasted an M80 out of the toe.
“All right mister,” I said as I walked into his home office, “New rule.”
“No, no,” Pat said without so much as looking up.
“Listen,” I said as I stood in front of him. “I appreciate how much we all hate a hole in the toe, but if you get one, just shoot it into the trashcan.”
“Well,” he replied, “I thought maybe if you washed it, we could use it for a rag.”
“That’s a great idea,” I responded. “I’ll use it to clean up the sandy beach that you left in the laundry room last week.”