I’m not stupid, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. I’ve always known that if I were to become a parent, I’d have to lay down some rules. You know the sort of thing – Eat with your mouth closed; don’t run into the road; say please and thank you; say no to drugs; don’t play with knives; don’t draw on the walls, etc.
However, I never expected to be constantly inventing rules that I would have to keep enforcing over and over again. Parenting is largely improvised, after all.
This is a genuine – I promise! – list of rules that Sarah and I have found ourselves telling our daughter over the last six years (#37 is from this very morning):
1. Please don’t jump off the sofa.
2. Don’t climb the CD shelves.
3. Please put your clothes back on, we have guests.
4. Please don’t torment that cat/dog. It doesn’t want to be stroked right now.
5. Don’t squeeze that guinea pig, it’ll burst.
6. Stop scratching your bottom.
7. Elbows! Jesus Christ, your elbows are like knives on my stomach/thigh/testicle!! PLEASE be more careful where you put them.
8. Please don’t be too clever to other people.
9. Stop singing for just 5 minutes, PLEASE!
10. Please can you read at least ONE book today.
11. Please stop doing handstands on the furniture. You are kicking the paintings off the wall.
12. Stop eating your hair.
13. Don’t lick the television.
14. Don’t lick the sofa.
15. Don’t lick that dog.
16. Don’t lick me.
17. Please can you stop sniffing like that?
18. Go and get a tissue, or at least hold it in your hand. Please don’t walk around with two strings of snot dangling from your nose.
19. Please can you not fling porridge oats around like that.
20. You don’t have to announce that you’ve farted. We heard it the first time.
21. Please stop trying to enter the bathroom while I’m on the toilet.
22. Please look before putting your hands into a kitchen drawer. If you can’t see what’s in there, don’t reach inside.
23. Please stop inviting the random people you meet in shops to our house for a party.
24. Unless they’re in school with you, or unless you are asked, please don’t tell everyone about what class you’re in and who your teacher is. Nobody cares.
25. Please don’t give out our address to strangers.
26. Please stop saying that every new boy you meet is your “boyfriend”. You need to check with them first before saying that they are your boyfriend. It’s only polite.
27. Please stop greeting boys, especially ones you don’t know in the supermarket, with a lascivious “Hell-OOO!”. Where did you get that from anyway? You’re far too young to know who Leslie Phillips is…
28. Please accept that your school uniform is your school uniform, and that’s what you should be wearing to school. If the school wants you to wear anything else on a special occasion, I assure you they will let me know. You cannot just go to school dressed in your witch costume just because you’ve decided you’re going to Hogwarts now.
29. You can’t wear pyjamas to the swimming pool.
30. You can’t wear pyjamas to the shops.
31. Please stop asking me for dinner when I’m clearly already cooking it. It’ll be ready when it is ready.
32. Don’t just watch half a film, watch the whole film.
33. You can’t watch the same TV programme three times in the same day.
34. I love that you’re confident, but can you please stop telling people how awesome you are?
35. No, we can’t let that homeless person sleep in our house tonight. Because he scares me, that’s why.
36. Yes, I know my father – your grandfather – died before you were born. It isn’t very nice if you tease me about it. It’s not funny. I’m actually quite sad about it. No, don’t laugh…
37. Please could you not shout “LIFE IS BRILLIANT! I LOVE LIIIIIIIFE!” as you’re scooting down our street at 8:30am? Not only is it noisy, but it also rubs it in the faces of all the people who aren’t as cheerful as you are right now.
38. Please stop asking me to let you have a tattoo.
39. Please stop threatening to kill me.
40. No, I am not going to change your name to ‘Yoghurt’.
41. Please don’t try to walk downstairs backwards with your eyes closed.
42. Don’t put your foot in the video recorder.
43. No you can’t have Gillette Razors just because you like the advert.
44. No, I will not change our mortgage to Lloyds Bank just because you like the advert.
45. No, I will not have an accident at work just because you like the advert.
46. Stop washing your hands.
47. Stop washing the walls.
48. Stop washing me.
49. Please don’t put Lego up my nose. No, don’t put it up your nose either.
50. Don’t play with balloons in the car, it’s distracting me from driving.
51. No you can’t get the paints out and paint my portrait 10 minutes before we need to leave for school.
52. Please don’t open the door of a public toilet while I am using it.
53. No you can’t cook dinner.
54. No you can’t add apple juice to your baked beans. Well, because it won’t taste nice. No, I haven’t tried it.
55. No you cannot have Ice Pops for breakfast.
56. No you cannot have Calpol for breakfast.
57. No you can’t have a go on the cash machine.
58. No we can’t go to Spain today.
59. No, I am not going to play Twister just before leaving for school.
60. Please stop asking me if we can move to a “better” house.
61. Please stop asking me to give you an older brother. There are complicated reasons why this is not possible, involving time travel.
62. No you can’t watch The Wire/Game of Thrones/Aliens. Yes, I know you like aliens as a concept when they’re in other movies, but that particular film is scary. It’s scarier than Doctor Who. Much scarier.
63. I am sure that is a very ingenious thing you’ve just made out of the crap on the back seat of the car, but I can’t turn around and look at it right now. I’m driving in heavy traffic, and we’re on a roundabout.
64. No, I can’t help you make it. I’m driving in heavy traffic.
65. Well, I could if I pulled over and parked the car, but then we’d never get home. Could you please stop all engineering projects whilst we’re in the car. Just for the next month, OK?
66. DON’T PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH!! The only things that should ever go in your mouth are food and drink.
67. No you can’ t draw on my university degree certificates.
68. No we can’t get Thomas an actual, proper-size car for his birthday. I know he loves cars. Just get him a toy one. I think he would prefer it to a big one. His parents certainly will.
69. Stop asking ‘Why?’. Stop asking ‘Why?’ long enough for me to answer the last ‘Why?’ question properly.
70. Could you please try to be consistent? You liked that cereal/fruit/vegetable/meal/television programme/computer game/song yesterday. What changed?? How can I predict anything you will like now??!