As any lawyer mom knows, the bright line rule is a beautiful thing. Allow me to save you $100,000 in law school loans and explain:
A bright line rule saves time by making things absolutely clear, without exceptions. An example is the speed limit: It doesn’t matter if you’re an actual NASCAR champion cruising at a perfectly safe 25 mph in a ridiculously low 15 mph zone. There’s no “tell it to the judge” because the judge has exactly one question: Over 15? Pay up.
The bright line rule is the law’s version of “talk to the hand.” And for moms, the bright line rule comes in quite, quite handy. Here’s how it works at my house:
We wear pants below 50 degrees, coats below 40. Look at the thermometer. End of discussion. I am not going to entertain arguments about the gross unfairness of my limits on your rights to self-expression and self-determination before I’ve had my first cup of coffee, nor do I care what every other kid in the world (and thanks for listing each one by name, by the way) is or isn’t wearing. Zip it—literally—and get on the bus.
Go to school. If school is open and you’re not sick, you’re going. We don’t do mental health days or family vacation days or in-a-fight-with-your-bestie days. School is your job, even if it’s the last day of the marking period and you’re watching movies in every single class. You’re “allowed” to leave after fifth period? How nice. Where do the kids go who aren’t leaving? Go there.
One delivery per semester. I hate to see you learn the hard way, but choose wisely and keep track of your shizz. Even prisoners get one phone call, but if you forget your lunch, you’d better think long and hard about buying that nasty cafeteria chicken patty instead. You might forget something more important, like your saxophone or toothpick project some morning when you’re distracted because you can’t even believe you have to wear a coat.
Ratings are strictly enforced. Funny, I don’t recall throwing your 13th birthday party, so why are you asking to see a PG-13 movie? I do appreciate that there’s PG-13, and then there’s PG-13, but until the Academy starts sending me screeners, we’re going with the rating. And if you think I’m going to play Rated M murder games to figure out which ones don’t have drug deals and rape in them, you have lost your mind, child.
No parents, no go. You’re probably right; probably nothing will happen if you go over to your nerd friend’s house to play Risk before his parents get home from work. The thing is, Mama doesn’t have time to go over there and search for firearms and alcohol, then check YouTube for videos of this kid jumping off the second-story roof while shooting a basket into the hoop over the garage. I can barely keep up with all your friends’ Twitter accounts as it is. Nor do I have time to constantly debate why this kid’s house is OK and that kid’s house isn’t. Parents are there, or you’re not. End of story.
If I’m at the door, you are coming home. There is no “staying longer.” I kept my end of the bargain and showed up to get you at the appointed time. Now you keep your end, and get in the damn car. If you enlist your friend and his parents to beg me to come back to get you after dinner or a sleepover, I will sweetly and apologetically decline with a smile on my face—until you get in the car.
The bright line rule can be a beautiful thing, yes? Establishing whatever limits seem sensible to you can save your family a good deal of grief and maybe eventually teach your child a little responsibility and good decision-making. Let me know if you need a gavel, judge mamas. You can borrow mine.
This article was originally published on