Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rules ... And The Bending Thereof

In our house these days, there are a lot of discussions about rules. "Discussions" may not be the right word. How about protests, fights, altercations, melees, battles royal?

You see, there are different perspectives about rules. Not just in our family, but in the world at large. T.S. Eliot advised (soundly advised, if you ask me) ...

"It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them."

My daughter, I am sorry to report, is a little weak in the observing them department. She sees my authority as unfair. She is persecuted for her beliefs. She is taxed without representation. (She has taken way too much American history.)

By virtually any accounting, I am a lenient, liberal parent. In my daughter's mind, however, I am running the all-girl equivalent of the Yorkshire school in Nicholas Nickleby. It's amazing that she gets anything to eat other than gruel!

To add insult to injury, my daughter knows in her heart with a certainty and a self-righteousness reserved for the very young that she is the only fourteen-year old girl at her middle school (probably the only one on the entire planet, WTF!) who has to follow so many rules. According to her, no one else has limits on their computer time. No one else has to make their bed. No one else has to text their mother when they're hanging out after school. No one else has to surrender their cell phone when they retire for the evening. No one else has to finish their homework before they can watch The Lying Game.

In addition to our drastically different opinions on the necessity of rules (we could agree to disagree, except she would never agree), my daughter has mind-boggling fortitude. You would think that after she has been caught bending the rules, oh say, a thousand times, she would stop bothering. Not my daughter! She will continue to push because she knows something crucial to her cause. She knows that she has the strength of ten grinches (plus two), while yours truly is walking around in a fog of fatigue more often than not.

There have been a number of times when her persistence has almost paid off. Almost. Just the other day, she was on her iPhone (texting or looking at pictures or playing with her favorite app) when she was supposed to be eating breakfast and getting ready for school. For a moment, I considered simply ignoring it. But, I knew my momentary apathy (brought on by my perpetual exhaustion) would set a precedent. I had to be vigilant. I had to persevere. I had to uphold order. After all, without rules, wouldn't our very civilization crumble? I heard myself say, as I have said so many times before ...

"Um ... honey, ... are you supposed to be on your phone?"

Busted. She groaned but shut it down. Beneath her eyes though, I could see that spark of defiance. A revolution waiting for another day.

Someday, my daughter will be on her own. Her loving mother will no longer be there with gentle (sometimes, not so gentle) reminders. She'll have to write her own rules and eventually she will play benevolent dictator to some smaller being. When that inevitable future state arrives, I, as doting grandmother, will most likely become my daughter's daughter's accomplice. I look forward to it.

For now, if T.S. Eliot were here, my daughter would accord him the same respectful response she always gives me: she would roll her eyes. She could much better relate to Thomas Edison's position:

"Hell, there are no rules here — we're trying to accomplish something."

1 comment:

  1. I recognise all this in my 12 year old boy-cum-man. I am stupid, old and entirely irrelevant it seems. What the heck do I know about what's right? I've only lived for 45 years!