Here at Honeywine Hollow, we have a very strict trio of house rules that we follow, and which we have been passing down on to the kids as they mature. Anyone who spends more than 6 hours total at our home is considered a member of our household and is also encouraged to obey the house rules, or risk being lectured by the matriarch. Which is me.
These three, rather simple rules encompass much more than meets the eye, and can be applied to nearly all aspects of social and physical life.
Rule One: “If you don’t want it, you can’t have any.”
Rule Two: “Get shit done.”
Rule Three: “Don’t stick your dick in crazy.”
Now, let’s break these down and figure out exactly what they mean, starting with the first rule…
“If you don’t want it, you can’t have any.”
This rule boils down to us insisting on one thing: Enthusiastic Consent.
Let’s say that Susan hates paprika, and she’s coming over for dinner. I’ve made deviled eggs as a side dish, complete with paprika sprinkled lovingly on top. Should Susan take an egg and suck it up? After all, if she doesn’t, it may hurt my delicate feelings, right? Hell, no! If she doesn’t like it, then I insist that she not eat it. If my feelings are hurt, honestly, that’s my problem, not hers. And, really, my feelings would be just fine; I have learned not to take it personally if someone would prefer not to take something that I am offering. More eggs for me!
Another scenario: The family is packing up to go on a picnic to a local park, but Alex feels like it’s too humid for him to have any fun. Should his family force him to go, anyway? No, they really shouldn’t. He should stay where he’s happy and comfortable. A simple “No, thanks!” is all that we’re asking. Otherwise, we’re all forced into the rather uncomfortable situation of either listening to him complain about the weather, or feeling like something is off but we can’t place our fingers on what it is, while he silently suffers.
We word this rule in a negative way because we want people to understand that it is very important that they not eat, do, or suffer through something that they are simply not enjoying. If we worded it differently, such as “If you don’t want it, then you don’t have to take it,” the feeling is too vague and suggests that maybe we would still like for them to participate, even if they are having to sacrifice comfort. Instead, it’s a commandment… NONE FOR YOU.
Of course, this rule applies outside of the house, too. I hope that the kids hold this one close to their heart when they’re out in the world, especially when it comes to intimate encounters, terrible jobs, illicit substances under peer pressure, etc.
“Get Shit Done”
This rule comes in three, succinct, monosyllabic words that can be used as a trigger in stressful situations to get the ball rolling. This “rule” is more like a reminder that we are a family of do-ers; we are aggressive when it comes to problem-solving and logistics. If we need to fix the chicken coop because a tree fell on it, we don’t sit around and bitch about the tree first. We grab the toolbox and get to work (bitching may commence while hammering is happening). If Bob is having some problems with his car, we grab the internet and investigate the issue. If the solution is out of our wheelhouse, we grab our AAA cards. Either way, we’ll be getting Bob back on the road in no time, and with minimal fretting and hand-wringing.
We also work with psychological problems, on a limited basis, since most of us have had mental health experiences of one sort or another. If we don’t know what to do with an emotional or psychological issue, we seek professional outside help. We all support getting broken bits fixed, especially if they are internal, and we highly encourage seeking assistance when the work of a layperson just isn’t doing the trick. After all, if one of us isn’t firing on all four cylinders, it’s going to affect the whole machine.
“Don’t Stick Your Dick in Crazy”
Rule three deals almost exclusively with interpersonal relationships. What’s important to note here is that you don’t have to actually own a dick in order to have this rule apply to you: The idea is that you don’t become emotionally tangled with someone who has great potential to damage you, your life, or those close to you. If you find yourself attracted to a person who is charismatic, handsome, enigmatic, but is also is a bat-shit crazy narcisiscist with violent tendacies, then you do your best to push him away from you and your social circle. Whatever you do, don’t try to “fix” him. Leave that to the professionals.
Now don’t get me wrong… we are all kind of crazy in our own ways. The kind that I’m talking about is the “I will ruin you, and your family will never be the same after me” kind of crazy. The gleefully chaotic kind. If it feels dangerous, then let it go, and choose a saner kind of friend or partner instead. There are plenty of them out there, and they can also be attractive and fun. And they are less likely to eat your still-beating heart while your closest friends and family watch in horror.
We’re also not talking about temporary or non-abusive mental health situations – a terrible day, controlled bi-polar, a little mental break, a personality disorder, an emotional loss, a depressive episode, or a panic attack. These are things that we help our loved ones through, not abandon them. In this case, it’s “No Crazy Left Behind.”
Our first two rules have been taught to the kids since they could understand words. They heard them nearly everyday (though we changed the wording in rule two to “get stuff done,” because their teachers wouldn’t have appreciated the original being repeated in a classroom.) Our third rule has also since been introduced, but we started the explanations in a more child-friendly manner.
For example, there were occasions where Viktor would come home from elementary school to let us know that their friend had been verbally bullying them, as well as smacking and pinching them. We let them know, without mincing words, that a friend would never emotionally or physically hurt them on purpose. We encouraged them to kindly ask the culprit to stop hurting them and seek other people to play with. We talked about how sometimes strange things like that happen with people we thought were friends, and that humans are just weird and complicated beings.
Now that the kids are teens, this rule is going to become more important than ever. They’re starting to experiment with more serious relationships, and they’re at the age where they’ll need to be on the look out for potentially abusive partners. We can only hope that our third rule, and the rather frank way that we discuss how people operate, helps them to disengage themselves from a bad situation before it becomes a truly dangerous one.
Our house rules help us stay united through all kinds of weather. They are gentle reminders of what our values and goals are: to stay committed to one another, to keep it real, to communicate, and to not hurt one another. This keeps our household largely drama-free and running smoothly. And the matriarch gets to eat more deviled eggs, so everyone is happy.