I’m so glad you like the new poster in your room. I drew a bunch of big letters on a long piece of white paper, taped it next to your mirror, and I’ve been reading it to you everyday. It says “Drew’s Rules,” but the S is a cartoon dragon named Trogdor that I draw for you sometimes. Trogdor is the most memorable part, but the rules are what’s important. Here they are:
- Obey Mommy and Dady
- Gentle Hands and Feet: No hitting or kicking
- Toys are for playing with, not hurting others
- Say please, thank you, yes ma’am, yes sir
- Always remember, Mommy and Daddy love you.
So our daily ritual has been me reading these things to you, while you interrupt after each number to say “and Trogdor.” So I’ve been calling them “Drew and Trogdor’s rules”. You’re getting more out of them than Trogdor, who is the Burninator and makes no bones about burninating the countryside and the peasants, but I drew it without thinking and now I guess we’re stuck.
There’s a reason for the codifying of our expectations at this hour of your life—it’s because we realized it was time for us to hold you to that standard. You’re old enough to know not to hit—you’re nearly three, and it’s time to talk about rules. Bad behaviors are no longer one-time things…it’s come to my attention that you DEFINITELY know better.
You’re not a bad boy, and don’t let anybody tell you that you are. But you have to follow the rules, and I’m here to get you acclimated to that fact.
So here’s the big thing—I need you to do me a favor. I need you to trust me.
It would be easy to give in to your tantrums—to let you watch Bob Ross until you fell asleep instead of insisting on bedtime, or to always let you pick what you had for dinner, or to let you play with whatever thing you wanted. But I can’t do that. Because you lack a little thing called perspective and the things you want may not be GOOD for you.
I know, for instance, that if you watch Mr. Bob and his paintings until it’s late, you’ll be grouchy tomorrow and you might start to feel sick. I also know that if you picked your own dinner we’d basically become an IHOP (which I would be cool with, if we’re just talking about taste), but you’ve gotta eat fruits and vegetables and whole wheat and some meats that aren’t accompanied by fries. And if I let you play with the cord, a bunch of terrible things might happen that frankly give Mommy nightmares, so let’s not talk about it. I just need you to trust me.
So because you may someday read this at a moment of crisis or when you’re mad at me, let’s break each thing down:
1: You have to obey Mommy and Daddy because you have to submit to authority, according to the Bible, and although we might not be all that impressive, we are basically in charge of your life right now. If there’s a disaster, we have to get you out of it. So I need you to listen—it won’t be the last time you have to submit to authority, it’s the first. It’s the most basic level of respect that you, as a human being in society, need to have. If you don’t respect us, you won’t respect anyone. I read that somewhere and it was either the late Billy Graham or the alive James Dobson, both names that mean nothing to you.
Daddy and I have to try and be worthy of that respect, and that’s a zillion times harder—also, the responsibility of a young boy’s life is a very hard burden, so don’t get jealous. Someday when you’re a dad we’ll talk about it…which brings me to the next thing…
2: You can’t hit or kick when you don’t get what you want because you need to learn self-control. At this point in your life, that’s just, “if I hit Mom, she’ll make me sit until I stop, or I’ll have to go to my crib instead of play, and that’s no fun so never mind, not worth it.” The Bible says that young men have to have self-control. As far as what happens if you don’t? That’s another thing that gives Mommy nightmares…about you doing something awful. I don’t want to talk about it or think about it, but we have to teach it. You HAVE to control your anger.
3: Toys are for playing, not hurting others…everything has its proper use. But also, see above.
4: Say please, thank you, yes ma’am, yes sir; this goes along with respect. There’s a vocabulary of manners that everyone has to learn if they want people to view them the right way…to see them as someone who considers other people and is grateful. Be grateful—say thank you. Be respectful—say please.
5: Always remember, Mommy and Daddy love you. We do. And we’ll always love you, even when you’re a grown man with a job and a wife and kids and a place to live. And I want you to have all these things, although it’s cool if you stay single forever or you and your wife decide to remain childless and travel the world. I’ll nag you about it, but that’s my prerogative.
If you have no respect, people won’t want to be around you, and I want you to have friends.
If you don’t control yourself, people get out of your path.
If you don’t treat things the way they’re intended, you won’t have anything.
If you aren’t kind and grateful, you’ll never be happy.
And if you don’t know that I love you, this won’t make any sense to you.
The Bible says that discipline isn’t fun at the time, and I know you aren’t enjoying the repetition of the rules or the insistence on “yes ma’am” and “please” or the timeouts. But I CAN’T let bad behavior go.
You make your own choices, son, and sometimes that’s a hard thought for me. You’re gonna make mistakes and I have to let you make some of them. But at least trust me when I say that this is to make your life better, not worse. You won’t remember life before “yes ma’am” and bedtime and timeout, but believe me…I’ll remember all of it. And no matter what you do later on, the beginning depends on me.
I really do love you so much…sometimes you break my heart already. And sometimes you fill my heart so much I think I’ll burst. I think I’ve become less selfish since you came along…I’ve definitely become more grown-up.
And honestly, you’re never gonna be perfect…you may come to me in your thirties having made a total hash of your life, and I’ll do everything I can to help you. But in my mind you will always be a toddler with the world’s most beautiful eyes, and I’m always gonna feel responsible for you, even when I’m not anymore. So do me a favor and trust me, mostly for your sake, but also for mine.
I don’t own the rights to Trogdor…he was created by Strongbad who was created by the Brothers Chaps, and if they want to get upset about my use of the Burninator in this post…I would frankly be honored.