Letting Go Of Rules (Sometimes…)

Thom DickFeatured, Parenting2 Comments

I grew up just a mile or two from what used to be called the “Winnipeg Speedway.” The Winnipeg Speedway was an oval dirt track where you went to watch the car crashes and the occasional race. I have great memories of sitting with my dad, Uncle Ted when he was out from Germany, Opa and a smattering of the male cousins as the car screamed past and sent up fine dust which coated everything and everyone. Of the different types of cars, I seem to remember my dad liking the sprint cars the best. I liked them too, and my siblings and I had two RC spring cars that we raced on the concrete pad at home. We weren’t really a racing family, but they were fun and we usually went at least once in the summer. My favorite event was not just a demolition derby (crashing without the boring parts!) it was a combine crash-up – and it was utterly ridiculous to watch as three massive combines took runs at each other until two were knocked out of commission. What fun!

The races weren’t particularly expensive to attend (not that I necessarily remember accurately – I wasn’t the one paying!) but I know that at least on an occasion or two my brothers went out in the John Deere tractor with a friend or two parking on the field across from the speedway grandstands, and raised the bucket as high as possible to watch the races for free. They were likely breaking at least 3 laws all at once by my count because they were 1) obviously watching something they didn’t pay for 2) carrying passengers in the bucket (I have no idea if that’s actually illegal but probably) 3) and may or may not have had valid driver’s licenses at the time! While I think it would have been hilarious to bust their teenage back-sides, the guys over at the track had a good sense of humour about it and even gave them a shout-out from the announcer’s booth.

I’m not sure it would happen the same way today. People are just too uptight.

It’s a well-known fact (at least in my extensive social circles) that farmer’s have exemptions and are given all sorts of breaks when it comes to bending rules. For example, I don’t think a farmer needs to wear a helmet when they are driving ATV’s, as long as they are doing farm work and not quadding for pleasure. Also farmer’s don’t need their air brake distinction in order to drive grain trucks with air brakes. (And may I say I had a bit of a surprise when I drove our “new” grain truck for the first time… my dad not having explained to me that it was equipped with air brakes.) Then, although my dad never acted on it, he claims we could shoot deer any season of the year if they were destroying crops (a.k.a. grazing.) And it’s a well-known fact that farm kids learn to drive WAY earlier than city kids – and know the back roads that cops never frequent.

I’m sure some of these exemptions were urban farm myths but we used them to justify all sorts of things nonetheless! I remember my Opa asking me one spring (spring being an important detail of this anecdote) whether I had noticed that the Canada Geese weren’t on the pond anymore. Obviously he was asking me to ask him if he knew anything about it, so I asked. “No I hadn’t Opa, do you know where they are?” To which he replied, “Yup, they are in my freezer.” Incredulity was a common feeling in my life, but I shook it off and informed him that it was not exactly goose season, to which he replied, “Well they were on my property weren’t they?” Enough said, that conversation was over.

Undoubtedly some readers (city folk) might feel shocked and even a bit admit a bit of horror at the thought of the lawless life of the farm, but I suspect that upon closer consideration, there would be more than a smidge of jealousy as well. There is something amazing about the simple logic of living by the spirit of the law as opposed to the cold letter of the law. I know that among farmers there was a code of conduct. You take care of your neighbour when they need it. You trades eggs for milk. You can seal a deal with a handshake. Your word is all the commitment you need. What a wonderful notion!

Now I’m not saying that rules are meant to be broken, nor am I suggesting that we don’t need rules, not at all, but I do believe that in some (many?) ways we are ruled and regulated to death. I don’t think people actually like to live this way, unless, I suppose you are the one inventing the rules! But then I just have one question, if we truly feel that way, why do we impose the spate of household rules on our kids? Will the house stop functioning without rules? Maybe, but surely not because one or two goes unenforced! And then there are the inconsistencies. On one hand we tell the kids they can’t watch this or that, and then parents watch whatever movie they want to without any second thought to conscience. Or we make the kids make the bed and we don’t make ours. Or we are big-talkers and threat-makers but don’t follow through on what we say!

I’m going to throw a thought out; what if instead of living by rules, we ruled by living? In other words, instead of making a rule to govern everything that goes on in our homes, we modeled godly, righteous living; a life passionately and unequivocally one-minded towards Jesus. I’ll be if we modeled this kind of life, that was disciplined not because rules are needed but because we want to have the best relationship with Jesus possible in order to serve Him as best as we are able! Oh can you imagine if your kids did devotions because they want what their mom and dad have and not because their youth pastor told them they needed to have devotions to be a good Christian?

I’d like to give you two challenges. First I would challenge you to think of a rule that you don’t need. One that wrecks fun and is a nag and that isn’t necessary and take steps to eliminate that outmoded legality! Then I want you to become mindful of the spoken and unspoken rules that complicate your family’s life, consider whether they are about love or control. If that rule is about love, safety and a level of order in your home, then great! Keep it! But if it about your image as a parent or your issue with a bit of a mess or noise, then let it go. You’ll find freedom in this exercise! I promise!

2 Comments on “Letting Go Of Rules (Sometimes…)”

  1. I remember visiting the Speedway as a kid also! I loved going but spent the entire time plugging my ears. My arms would be stuck bent at the elbow afterwards and oh the pain of straightening my arms out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *