My kids are adorable. They are ‘Rudy’ from the Cosby Show cute. They could make the Olsen twins, in their Full House days, look like post-op Mickey Rourke. While I might not be the most objective person to rank my children’s adorability, let me at least qualify them as indeed being cute children as has been told to me by others (besides their Grandparents, aunts, and uncles I mean). Yet, despite for all of their heart melting cuteness, around 9:00pm, those children who’s batting eyes can add another $30 worth of junk food to my grocery bill begin to be not so cute. I call it the rule of 9.
Put the pitchforks, torches, and child services phone call down. Let me explain.
I devote everyday of my life to my family. I get up in the morning and go to work for them (or at least to pay the bills for them). When I come home I or my wife prepare no less than 4 different entrees for them so we can eat without sounds of gagging. I play hide and go seek, Wii, soccer, and baseball with them. We watch what they want on TV. I do everything with and for them and I am happy to do so. I really do enjoy it. But by the end of the day, I need a little ‘me’ time.
All parents need their time, time without tugs on our pant legs, tattle telling, and whining about brushing teeth. Since I don’t have the money or fame to have a nanny to raise my children so I can sit courtside at Madison Square Garden or attend another awards show my time comes at night (unless I use the dog as a nanny…hmmm). Night time I unwind. I can have a conversation with my wife that doesn’t include either of us saying “You better talk to your daughter…”. I can usurp control over the television or I can just sit on the sofa like Robert DeNiro in Awakenings if I want. The point is, I can do all things I am unable to do if my children were still sitting on the couch late at night.
One of the rules in our house has always been bedtime. Kids need to be in bed asleep so they can grow up big and strong. Parents need their kids in bed so they don’t have to leave them at an orphanage to grow up. That bedtime is 9pm in our house (if bedtime comes earlier than 9, it only cements my belief in an existence of a god). The Rule of 9.
Of course there are times when the kids cross over past 9pm. Sports practices, after school activities, church functions, all push back the schedule back and push us past the Rule of 9. But it is only broken by those circumstances or by my wife or I. All the whining, flailing, puppy dog eyes, and cute little faces from our kids won’t change the rule of 9. Plus, I’m bigger than they are…I can take them if need be.
Because like a full moon transforms the Wolfman, so too are my kids transformed after 9pm (and my patience for these tiny lycanthropes gets thinner than Tori Spelling during a weekend of fasting). I think about how not cute watching iCarly and picking up cracker crumbs off the floor is. I think how cute has nothing to do with them getting their 2nd wind as they start free running off the living room furniture. It occurs to me just how not cute it is when they fight over sharing a blanket. Then I feel guilty. These are my kids. My flesh and blood. How could I possibly say they aren’t cute? I must be a terrible father. Then someone’s water spills on the remote or an argument breaks out over what to watch or one of them is tight rope walking along the back of the sofa or trying to saddle the dog up to ride around the kitchen and then I remember why it is we have the Rule of 9.