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Dr. Seuss, Boxed Wine, And Lines In The Sand

Hi, Friend.

The first time I read Dr. Seuss’s books aloud, I thought I was having a stroke. Partially, because Dr. Seuss feels like the children’s book equivalent to “dance, monkey, dance!”, while pointing at words in the air. Partially, I am missing the cultural context and familiarity that comes with repeated exposure. Also, I generally hate reading kids’ books that make me produce various sounds. No one has ever read me children’s books in English. I don’t know how you are supposed to pronounce “kerplunk!”. I make my best guess, and feel like a fraud, and that makes my performance less than believable. And I hate bad acting. But I love books, and I want my children to love books, and so I make my way through “Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes” or whatever they pull off the shelf. Here are the three book rules that I have established (aka made up) that help me keep my sanity, while encouraging literacy in my household.

1. We do not throw books. That’s a no-no. Books are not to be thrown, kicked, or stood on.

2. I will always read when asked. (Almost) no exceptions. I will turn off the stove. I will step out of the shower. I will put away my own book or my phone. I have walked through the door from a trail run, dripping in sweat, shins covered in dust, and had a toddler plop themselves in my lap AT the entrance with a book. “Mommy, read this.” Worth it.

3. I will not read any book more than three times in a row. Self-explanatory AND crucial to my sanity-keeping. I can read the last page of Grumpy Monkey {Why are you so grumpy, Jim?}, and then turn right back to the first page, knowing that there are only two more passes left. Then I tap out.

You notice all of these “rules” are quite arbitrary, and specific to my household. There is nothing particularly magical or RIGHT about them. You might not give a shit’s rat about reading and books, and, while we will never be friends, that is still a-ok.

They are helpful to ME. Speaking of rules… children seem to elicit the need to make the unspoken rules explicit. Have you noticed that? You hear yourself speaking evident (to you) truths aloud. “Don’t lick your sister”. “Peanut butter is not for painting!” “We do not spit on the floor.” Then those truths are thoroughly challenged by someone still wearing a diaper. I’ve talked about “food rules” in a recent letter, and how those CAN be helpful (as well as hurtful). I have the “rule conversation” with clients often. Many of them come in with decades worth of unhelpful rules like… “anything above size 8 is unacceptable!”, and “bacon is not allowed!”. So, I ask: “What rules can they set for themselves that are HELPFUL?” For example, here are some alcohol-specific rules that I helped someone with recently, as they are re-examining their relationship with alcohol:

  • I don’t do shots.

  • I don’t mix drinks.

  • I don’t drink out of plastic cups.

  • I don’t drink wine out of a box.

Notice these rules are not designed to get this person to quit drinking (as that was not their goal), but rather re-shuffle the ROLE of alcohol in their life. Alcohol as more of a food, rather than an escape. More of a high-end elevated enjoyment, rather than a coping mechanism.

I think of rules we set for ourselves as lines in the sand. The lines are clearly visible, and yet… they are permeable. Changeable. The lines are there to help us visualize whether or not we are on the right side of the actions and behaviors and habits. They are not cages. At least, they do not have to be. They can be guardrails. Like the toddler gate at the top of the stairs. YOU draw the line in the sand. YOU can choose to ignore that line, or draw a new one.



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