Having pre-adolescent children has made me realize that they are very much like 2-year-old children in temperament, only bigger and more verbal. I have three of them and I swear that they operate by some rule book to which I am not privy. But, after careful observation I think I have cracked at least some of these rules. And I present them here.
1. If your mother mistakenly puts an item of clothing in your drawer that belongs to someone else, you may wear it with impunity, stating, "It was in my drawer therefore it is mine." This same rule applies to anything you might find anywhere in the house ranging from spare change to small toys. Also if your parent decides to try and teach you a lesson by walking into your bedroom and picking up some random item off of the floor and shouting, "It's mine! I found it!" do not under any circumstances buy into this reverse psychology. Commence screaming, "That's not fair!" or "You are SO mean!" Eventually the parental figure will feel guilty and quietly sulk away.
2. If you see someone else wearing an item of your clothing you are in no way required to ask for the item of clothing back. Knocking the person to the ground while attempting to yank the item off of them is warning enough. Same with spare change, small toys, or any other object you think you might like to have but are not sure they will give to you. The element of surprise is always good to have on your side.
3. If you are at the grocery store and want anything from the check-out aisle it is fair game, as long as you can toss it up on the conveyor belt without your mother noticing.
4. If one of your parents tells you to do something just pretend you are deaf and get out of the area as quickly as possible.
5. If you do something heinous, just say, "I didn't mean to." If your exasperated parents ask, "What exactly did you mean to happen when you threw a rock at the car window?" just keep repeating "I didn't mean to." Eventually the parents will give up questioning you or die of old age.
6.Whenever the parent calls out "Who does this belong to?" First ask what it is to determine whether or not it is something you want. Whether or not it actually belongs to you is unimportant. If it is something that needs to be cleaned up or brought to the trash deny it is yours, even if it has your name on it.
7. If you break something blame it on the youngest member of the household, preferably one that cannot yet speak to defend himself. Proclaim your innocence loudly and often. Feign ignorance if at all possible. "No, I don't know what happened to my closet door." "No, I don't know why it is laying on the floor now." "I didn't do it." "I didn't even know I had a closet in my room" are all good examples of how to proceed on this one.
8. If there isn't any toilet paper in the bathroom use the hand towel, why else would it be within easy reach? You should never call anyone to bring you toilet paper because there is a slight chance they might see you sitting on the toilet, and that is unacceptable. And by all means do NOT replace the toilet paper after you leave the bathroom. When the next person goes into the bathroom, refer to rule #4 above.
9. Always, ALWAYS leave a tiny little bit of juice, soda, milk, or what have you, in the container. This way you never have to replace it in the refrigerator and can say without lying, "But I didn't finish it all."
10. Never like a particular food item for more than two weeks in a row. The first time something is served proclaim your undying love for it. Do the same thing the second time. After your mother has stocked up on the food item at the grocery store and cooks it again, declare it to be the most offending thing you have ever tasted. Deny you ever even liked this particular food.
Those are the rules that I have been able to figure out thus far. I would say that by the time my youngest is this age I should have it all figured out, but if my tenure as a parent has taught me anything it is that as soon as I think I have it figured out they go ahead and revise their operating system.
Chris is a writer, artist, wife and the mother of seven children. She lives in an historic old house in New England that is perpetually under renovations.