House Rules:Play Along or You Are Screwed

Rules, spoken or unspoken are created to maintain order.  We had those in our house hold. Some we hated and some, part of us liked and part didn’t. They came about in a democratic way most of the times. The rest of the times it was autocratic. I was amazed when I read the comic strip ‘The Middlest child’ a web-comic written and illustrated by Nicole Belanger Smeltzer. It is based on memories of growing up with four sisters. What was unique about this entry is that it brought back memories of the rules that I observed growing up. Being the 3rd child of six, I am not exactly in the middle but if you take the average I am not far off. My favourite growing up rules and those that I have learnt to apply to my niece and nephews:

The front seat argument

Picture source: The Middlest Child

I don’t know if its common in every household. At our home there was always a fight about who got to seat at the front. Seating at the front made you feel important. You got a panoramic view of the scenery, you always had the window seat and most important of all you were closer to mum/dad. When we were younger the spoken rule was simple; first come first served. My younger brother would always wait outside the car a few hours earlier every time that the rest of us hardly ever got a chance. In protest we  started vetoing going out altogether. That rule was later nullified. The successor became; eldest child gets to seat at the front. This new rule was one that I loved with all my heart. My elder sister was not at home and the next eldest was not a going out person so being next inline  this rule was perfect for me (atleast I had a bigger probability of getting the seat). I had no objections. My youngest siblings protested. There was screaming and calls for a fair treatment. Fade up with all the noise; the parents decided that it was time for autocracy. My parents would now nominate the person they felt deserved to seat at the front. The nominated person was one that was deemed to have been good that day/week/month. Being nominated to the front seat felt like the greatest honour for the day. It symbolised the recognition of your hard work to become a goody two shoes. However by the time the last rule came into effect we were already growing up. The idea of seating at the front was becoming less attractive; it meant that you missed the chance to chat with the rest of the crew, you were on constant surveillance and had to turn back all the time you heard giggles from the back. Being nominated to the front became something to avoid and felt more like a prosecution. That was around the time we got to high school.

 The battle for the royal seat at meal times

If we had a round table like King Arthur then may be this problem would have been unheard of. We had an oval table. Mum sat on one end and dad on the other. We called those end seats the royal chairs. The one that sat there had a better view of every one else and being the parents’ seats they symbolised authority. When one of the parents was away, we kids fought for the glory. The rule was; the nominated person got to seat. It later evolved to ‘no one was permitted to seat’. When the parents were away, us the eldest children appointed ourselves to the seats. Unlike the car situation we still haven’t grown out of this one. Everytime we go back to the family home we feel like bickering kids again minus  the shoving and pushing.

The remote control ownership

The one with the remote held the world at the finger tips. It was an unspoken rule; if you had the remote then you controlled the TV viewing. Having only one house TV the fight over what programme to watch was a never-ending one. To win, one required the remote control. When the parents were around they dictated the viewing when they departed the one with the quickest reflexes was in control. Strangely no one ever protested against this hard set rule. Occasionally there was the odd argument over the unfairness of it all; at times like those the parents would switch the TV off .

Rules have been there and will always be there. House rules, school rules and work rules. Spoken and  unspoken. Formal and informal. An important lesson I got from the house rules; don’t fix what is not broken. Complaining about an unfavourable situation may lead to a worse outcome.

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