On Sunday, when Helen was at work, Lulu, Sorrel, and I were hanging about the house. I was reading in a desultory manner and they were playing one of those elaborate games that kids play that seem to consist more of them explaining the scenario and rules to each other than actual play. Often these games break down when a dispute arises over who's going to be which imaginary character or whether there's a baby in the game or not.
On this occasion, however, they just segued into being silly. Sorrel has a nice line in surreal humour and a gift for the ridiculous bon mot. Lulu's humour is more character based. She does accents and impressions. On this occasion she was Prince Charles trying to sell some plaice to Sorrel's imaginary friend Scravvels (who's a ladybird). You had to be there. We all ended up - well I did - with tears streaming down our faces from laughing so much.
When we'd calmed down there was a brief rare moment of stillness when we were all sat together on the sofa.
"Listen," I said, "I want you to remember this. And I want you to remember what I'm about to say because it's important."
They looked at me with big serious eyes. One pair palest of pale blue, the other golden-green.
"Never forget how to be silly," I said, "It's a rule I want you to try and stick to."
I don't know if they'll remember or, indeed, if they took me seriously at all. But it set me thinking about the rules for living that I'd like them to abide by.
I've been mulling them over but they weren't hard to to write down. So, here they are, in no particular order, 20 rules for living. The sum total of my accumulated wisdom.
1. Be kind
2. Violence is to be abhorred. If you are forced to use it by circumstances beyond your control make sure you win.
3. Boys are NOT more important or better than girls in anything. The boys who don't know this are not worth bothering with.
4. Never forget how to be silly. It doesn't do to take yourself too seriously.
5. You're lovely. Make sure you believe it and understand why. It's a lot easier to like others if you like yourself.
6. Try to remember for later what it was like to be you, now.
7. Always carry a handkerchief and a penknife.
8. Try to see yourself from the point of view of others. If you find you act like an arse make adjustments.
9. Don't be cynical. It's lazy.
10. Like everyone but be careful who you trust.
11. Don't bother hating people. Why expend the energy on them?
12. Don't lie. There's less to remember if you stick to the truth.
13. Don't waste time moaning about stuff you can't affect. Do something about the stuff you can change. There's more of the latter than you think.
14. Forgive. But don't necessarily forget.
15. Be brave. Be loyal. Be fair.
16. Never stop learning.
17. Never stop playing.
18. Treat everyone with respect. Earn it back.
19. Most things are more important than money. Nothing is more important than love.
20. Don't be disappointed by people. You're an arsehole too sometimes.