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Oregon Family Magazine

Dad's Little Rule Book

02/26/2010 ● By Anonymous
“Wendy!” I said, “What happened to your dress?” It was a cute little green-velvet number that my wife Betsy had bought for our 7-year-old to wear in the school concert. Up near the nape of her neck, there was a ragged hole big enough for a butterfly to sail through.

Wendy reddened, tears welled in her eyes, and she said, “I was cutting the label out of it...” I understand that to a child’s sensitive skin, a tag inside a garment feels like a double-edged razor blade. And over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at removing them. But this $48 dress looked as though Wendy had draped it over a tree stump and thrown tomahawks at it.

I sat down on a chair so I’d be the same height as the culprit and said, “Look, you’ve cut up a brand-new dress and that makes me very mad. But if you promise you will Never Ever Again cut a tag out of your clothes, I won’t yell at you or punish you.” She nodded in earnest agreement.

I picked up her new sweater figuring it would hide the hole, but it too had undergone the tomahawk treatment. I looked at Wendy and she shrugged; the damage had been done back when chopping holes in new clothes had still been perfectly OK.

With three kids, ranging from age 7 up to 14, I’ve made the Never Ever Again speech many, many times.

As a service to the readers of this fine publication, I’ve boiled down 14 years of Never Ever Again speeches into a few plainly worded ordinances. You’ll want to read these rules publicly a few times a year, and keep them posted in a prominent place.


  • Do not cut your own hair.
  • Do not cut your sibling’s hair.
  • Do not paint your lips with markers.


  • Do not take garbage out of the compost heap and use it as doll food.
  • Dead animals are not toys.
  • Do not use yogurt as paint.
  • Do not make ink out of crepe paper. (This should only be done in a tile-lined lab by trained technicians in disposable clothing.)


  • Do not draw or write on the walls.
  • Or doors.
  • Or window sills.
  • Do not hang on cabinet doors.
  • Never put chalk in the toilet.
  • Or soap.
  • Do not fill a sink with water, blow a bubble-gum bubble, float it in the water and pretend that it’s a whale and that a large needle with thread attached is a harpoon. (Sounds harmless, but everything in the room gets soaked somehow.)


  • Do not put buttered bread into the toaster. (Yes, the toast it produces is unparalleled, but butter will drip down inside the toaster and just when someone is poking a fork in there, the toaster will burst into flames.)
  • Do not use the dryer to defrost meat – especially hamburger. (Whoever didn’t tell me about this rule caused big trouble in my boyhood home.)


  • Do not tease dogs or cats. But when you do, protect your face.
  • Do not run with scissors. (This rule is not important, because by the time you realize your kids are old enough to run, they will have run off with all your scissors and lost them.)
  • Do not lose the scissors. (You’ll want this law on the books just in case you are the first parent ever to catch someone in the act of losing your scissors.)


  • Do not play with matches.
  • Do not light candles in your room.
  • Do not set off any kind of fireworks in the house. (And that includes, but is not limited to, taking a small plastic dog, fashioning balsa-wood water-skis for him, floating him in the bathtub, tearing open one end of a firecracker, attaching it to his back like a jet-pack and lighting it.)
  • Do not put lighted candles on the Christmas tree. I don’t know anyone who has ever done this. It’s an admonition that I read long ago and it intrigued me that someone might be wild enough to try it. It was my favorite rule until I went to a Scandinavian Saint Lucia festival and saw something that inspires an even-better rule:   Do not wear lighted candles on your head.
So, there it is – a body of law accumulated at great expense all ready for implementation at your house. If it seems kind of grim and repressive, don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of discussions like this:

DAD (with feeling): “Sally, don’t throw pillows at the lamp!” SALLY (quizzically): “DON’T throw pillows at the lamp?” DAD: “Right!” SALLY: “Which lamp?”

Rick can be reached at [email protected].