Let me just start out by saying that I have several children. Only several isn’t the right word for it. To be honest with you I could sit down and name them all bar one or three but when people ask me how many kids I have from the front of my mouth I just make up a number. Somewhere between 15 and 25. I’ve been married a few times and I keep accumulating stepkids along with the continuing crop I’ve been sowing and reaping for the last 35 years. The youngest one is a few months old and my oldest is 35 as I just mentioned, and he’s got his own kids now—3 of them —the first time I noticed it was somewhat disconcerting, but I feel a closer connection to my grandkids than towards my own children. I have five of them, two with my oldest daughter, and those kids bring me much more joy than the five children of mine that are the same age. This revelation almost led to a reevaluation but I decided to just bottle it instead. For some reason I just can’t stop having children; there was never a plan to keep on having kids, or to have kids at all really, I just kept on having sex, and women have a funny way of getting pregnant before they’re menopausal, or at least that’s what my first wife always told me.
It all started when my first three kids were growing up, and they would drive me crazy with their tattling, ‘John did such-and-such,’ ‘Rachel broke this-or-that,’ ‘Brian spilled his juice on me,’ ‘Rachel is on my side.’ On and on and on with the tattling, I thought I would have to be admitted if it continued. At this point the youngest kid, my 4th was barely walking and he didn’t have much to say, and my first wife was pregnant again, so I knew it was only a matter of time before a few more mouths joined in to claw their way into the highest ranks of my favor. Who would have thought that a guy like me would be so admired and adored in a way that I somehow signaled to these kids that being in trouble got you downgraded, and getting someone else in trouble was your ticket to the top. The point is, enough was just about getting to enough, and I just started giving a whooping to the first kid I ran into, saving me some time and effort, and hoping that the randomness would discourage future tattling (of course it didn’t happen this way, that would be the result of decision making from rational minds) but eventually I developed our Household Justice System statute by statute until it was ready it be put in place.
I got the idea from some cop show we were watching on TV after dinner one night. The maverick detective type obtained some evidence without a warrant and the ADA chewed him out because it would be inadmissible. Genius. The first piece of the Justice System had propagated into our home from the broadcast tower 14 miles northwest of our house, and the gears were turning as I planned out the unveiling of the System. I briefed my kids on the Household Justice System one time, from then on the older kids would be responsible to teach the younger kids how it works, because I would answer no questions after I satisfied my oldest three – I even made them take notes. When some of my kids come over for Thanksgiving or Christmas I will overhear them schooling the youngsters on the finer points of the System, and it makes me swell with joy. Of all the things I have sired, the one that brings me the most pride is the one that only took a week to gestate. I tell myself it’s because my pride, joy, love, happiness, interest, enthusiasm, is split up equally between my two dozen or so children (that’s why I love my grandchildren so much too I guess) I have no idea if this is true or reasonable but being someone that wouldn’t have to rationalize something like this is not who I aspire to be. At this point, I would say about 50% of the System is addendum created by the kids as it passed on through generation, but the crux and the purpose remain. The crux of the System arrived courtesy of the broadcast tower, and other than the rule about my answering questions, which is the main reason the System has changed so much over the years, the crux of the System is what kept all these damn kids from getting me a vasectomy, which is as follows, quoted from the notebook my oldest son who recently found and showed me last Thanksgiving:
§1.1 Any evidence of wrongdoing, misbehaving, acting up, misconduct, rough-housing, mischief, indecorum, misconduct &c. is made null and void by any tattling, snitching, ratting out, squealing, blabbing &c. and is inadmissible as evidence of said wrongdoing, misbehaving, acting up, misconduct, rough-housing, mischief, indecorum, misconduct &c.
§1.2 Perpetrator being defined as someone who is guilty of wrongdoing, misbehaving, acting up, misconduct, rough-housing, mischief, indecorum, misconduct &c. Tattler being defined as someone who is guilty of tattling, snitching, ratting out, squealing, blabbing &c. Residing Judicial Authority being defined as Dad.
§1.3 Any perpetrator who is brought to the attention of the residing judicial authority by a tattler is ineligible to be sentenced to punishment for those acts the perpetrator committed. Any tattler who brings evidence of a perpetrator to the residing judicial authority will be sentenced to equal punishment as deserving of the acts committed by the perpetrator. Any perpetrator who is discovered by the residing judicial authority will be sentenced to equal punishment as deserving of the acts committed by the perpetrator. Any perpetrator who brings him/herself to the residing judicial authority will be sentenced to equal or lesser punishment as deserving of the acts committed by the perpetrator.
There was more to it of course, but the crux of the System has almost been around for 30 years, and I have had no problems with it yet. At the start there was a liminal period where the kids were transitioning over to this new concept. It took them a while to figure out that I was no longer on their individual sides anymore, that it was them united against me. Every new kid has a probationary period ending about six months after they’re 4 years old, but other than that, I have been living in a tattle free household for much longer than a tattle full household and it’s beautiful.
The question I always get when I tell people about my system is what about the serious stuff? To that I always reply, what about it? I worked hard to make my system a fair and universal catchall, I know a lot of parents whose rule is ‘no tattling unless you are asked to,’ but I find that unnecessarily oppressive. As a grown adult I already have a huge advantage over these kids, so I figure I might as well play by the rules as well and give them a fighting chance. Honestly, the System makes the serious stuff much easier to deal with, because my kids are used to coming to me with stuff they did wrong, and we can discuss it in a much better setting than if they got ratted out by their siblings or if I discovered it on my own. I want to make it clear that this System was not entirely enacted for my own convenience; it was enacted to teach my kids to own their mistakes, and to leave other people’s mistakes alone. Notice in §1.3 that if the perpetrator brings their crime to me before I find out, they have the chance for equal or lesser punishment, and they always got lesser punishment. For the majority of the time, they got no punishment at all, but if I found out they did something wrong, and in 24 hours they hadn’t come to me and admitted it, I struck down on them hard and fast. I don’t relish the chance to punish my children, but I take it seriously, and I get creative with it. Letting others alone was the other big purpose of my System but that is something that has slowly morphed over the years.
When I envisioned it in my head, the secondary purpose of the System would play out by having the other kids all but ignore their sibling’s mistakes—other than what they did to torment each other—but nowadays the kids put a huge amount of pressure on each other to turn themselves in. I rarely use group punishment either, so the fact that the others are so committed to the system surprised me at first, but I slowly realized that what they were doing accomplished the same objective as tattling to me: they don’t want someone else to avoid punishment when they were unable to do so. It’s such a childish way to respond but I’ve found that adults act this way much more than is appropriate, which I have come to realize is not a learned behavior but something innate within us that needs to be crushed, and I think my kids are in the best position to do so.
Ever since John showed me the original 26 year old notes he took from my first and only briefing of the System last Thanksgiving, I got a big old blackboard from the city college downtown and had the kids that live with me write down that first section of the System on it. At Christmas I had all the kids work together and pool their total knowledge of the system onto the blackboard. I was amazed to see all of the extra detail that had been created over the years, but I wasn’t all that surprised by it. By this point I have a few go-to punishments for the younger kids, but if I don’t waive punishment for an older kid, I have them tell me what my options are depending on what they did. I have almost become redundant in within the System that I created, but more shocking than that, I discovered that it didn’t bother me at all—in fact, I was proud of my children for learning to be so self-sufficient.
John had a talk with me a few years ago, Rachel too a little later on, about how he wasn’t going to use the Household Justice System in his house. He came to me like he was a perpetrator, and I waived his punishment, same thing with Rachel. I was taken back by this because my parents didn’t do anything much like I did, and I never expected my kids to think they had to do things like I do. I guess it’s different because I have some kids that are younger than my grandchildren, but I was still a little flattered that my System made such an impact on them, that they felt the need to discuss their parenting style with me. I tried to tell my current wife about this but she just went on and on about how John was crazy not to use the System and it worked so well and all this, but first of all she didn’t grow up in the first 10 years of the System, it took me weeks to try and explain it to her before I just gave up and had the kids do it, and I think she may actually be a little younger than John is. Now that I think about it I’m really not sure, I was really young when I had John—I don’t know his birthday but I do know the year. As for my current wife I could guess right in five tries, so that puts her right on either side of my son. Either way, the point in fact being that her opinion on the matter isn’t super important to me. Well the grandkids would tattle on the kids for a while, John didn’t know what to do about it and I sure as hell didn’t either. Rachel’s weren’t quite old enough for this problem at the time, but it was in the back of my mind while we were dealing with the problem, and wouldn’t you know it, it made me do something that I hadn’t done in 25 years, I amended the System.