Line One
Marriage in the Long Run
Mommy rules

When you were a child, your mom probably told you to put on a sweater when she was feeling a bit chilled. You couldn't understand why you needed the extra warmth just because she didn't adapt to the temperature. This is one of those unwritten things we learn in life called "mommy rules."

We all have our own version of these mandates, but you can probably identify with many of your friend's mommy rules. Although I am not an avid baker, I know that the three bananas left on the countertop (because they are turning black) means that I must bring out the flour and sugar and make banana bread. Very few of us can just toss the perfectly good, over-ripe fruit out when we know that it will make a wonderful treat for snacking. My daughter asked me why I sighed when I looked at the darkening fruit. I told her that I knew that I had to use the bananas to make bread. She didn't understand why I didn't just throw away the bananas until I told her that it was one of those mommy rules.

Our mommy rules are intended to be in our children's best interest. Safety concerns include buckling seat belts and locking car doors, "so they won't fall out." Okay, so we may be pushing it when we threaten them with John Denver songs at full volume to drown out their arguing. (That's one of my personal favorites). How can anyone bicker when Mom is belting out "Grandma's Feather Bed" while traveling 60 mph?

When our children are younger, the mommy-rules list is long. It can include bed times, snacks and bathroom etiquette. "Always wash your hands and hang the towel back up on the rack, don't take any cookies before it's time to eat and no, you cannot stay up after 9:00 p.m. just because your friends do." These are standard instructions in most households. However, some families have some less typical policies.

My friends, who were raised on a farm, had rules about playing around cows, washing manure off their shoes and things related to their life. My neighbor's mom owned a beauty salon, so she was required to wash combs and brushes and clean the barber chairs. My dad owned a funeral home, so my siblings and I were expected to dust the caskets and wash the hearse for him.

We often resort to using mommy rules to get our children to adapt their behavior to the way we prefer

As parents, we often resort to using mommy rules to get our children to adapt their behavior to the way we prefer. Although my children understood that I wouldn't really tie them to the roof of the van if they didn't settle down, it sure worked for the neighbor kids. They also knew when rules couldn't be violated, such as screaming, "Help me!" just to see if someone would come running when they're playing outside. An infraction of this rule meant punishment would follow.

Some rules are established more for our convenience. An example of this is the "no one had better leave ONE pickle/carrot/cheese or whatever in the serving dish when they're done eating." It's not worth the extra effort in returning it to its proper container and my hips certainly don't need the extra calories!

Even though we call them mommy rules, they often extend to our spouses, too. Leaving clothes on the floor, toothpaste in the sink, shoes in the way and beds unmade are rules that pertain to everyone in the house. Don't go in someone's room when the door is closed, don't listen in on phone conversations and don't leave the light on in the kitchen are pretty common for everyone.

Of course, families of professional drivers have their own rules, which should be kept. Don't wake up dad when he's sleeping, don't scribble on his logbooks and never comment on his driving are rules we live by in our house. We also know that our rules include sending his family birthday cards, making his appointments with the dentist and buying his favorite snacks for the truck.

The list of mommy rules is endless, and your family may have its own set of agreed upon guidelines. Send in your rules and we'll share the list in a future column. Who knows, we may even find some we might want to adopt for our own families.

Write to Ellen Voie, Land Line Magazine, P.O. Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO, 64029 or via e-mail at