Monday, February 7, 2011

Nine O'Clock Rule

It was 9:15. The boys were still foaming at the mouth.

“You should be in bed, guys,” Lonny said. “Brush well. But brush fast.”

There was a frantic frenzy of minty toothpaste. Brushing and spitting and rinsing and more. Then the nightly march to bed. Prayers and kisses. Kisses and prayers. All good things, but as we made our way down the old, curved stairwell, the clock struck 9:45.

“I have an early morning meeting ,” Lonny said. “I have to get to bed.”

“I’m tired, too,” I said. “Maybe we can share some time tomorrow.”

But the next day was the same. Busy –jam-packed-full. Not much for our marriage at the end of it all.

“We have to make some changes,” Lonny said. “We need to share some time - every day.”

I agreed.

“Let’s make a Nine O’clock Rule. We’ll tuck the kids in early, and at 9:00 our bedroom door shuts. We can read. Or talk. But the door is closed.”

Sounded good to me. Wise. Possible. But that first night, at 9:01, there was a knock at the door.

“I can’t sleep. My legs are moving. They won’t stop.” Samuel.

“Well walk them right up the stairs,” Lonny said. “We love you. Goodnight.”

9:05 brought another visitor. A hearty tap on the heavy old door. “Dad, can you help me with math?” Grant.

“ In the morning. Mark the problem. Keep working,” Lonny said.

By 9:15 it was evident that this was going to be tough. Re-directing children. Mathematical formulas whispered through the keyhole.

“This is a lot of work,” I said.

“It’ll be worth it in the end,” Lonny said.

We somehow got through that first night. And the next. I can’t say that it worked perfectly. But it did get better.

As a form of encouragement, I stuck a piece of construction paper to the back of our bedroom door. Two adages adhered with 3M tape. Handwritten in wide, black Sharpie.

Good things come to those who wait.


Some things are worth fighting for.

Then I added a third sentence. More of a quote, really.

“God Bless the Nine O’clock Rule. “

Rock On.


Dear Lord: Thank you for the blessing of marriage. Help us to have a Christ-centered home, not a child-centered one. Help us to place our relationship in its proper place, to benefit our marriage, set an example for our children, and to bring you glory.

Dear Friends: Accountability is good. Ask how we’re doing.


  1. You are so wise, making time for your marriage benefits the whole family. Wow, I can't imagine 9pm! We go to bed at midnight-1am (of course, no little kids in the house!).

  2. WooHoo! We still live by the 9:00 rule and our girls are adults! :)

  3. You are right on target, Shawnelle! When I was pregnant with our first son, a wise older woman gave me some counsel that I've never forgotten. My friend Flo and her husband had just attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend. At the seminar, the leader encouraged all the couples there to remember to put their relationship with their spouse ahead of their relationship with their children. The reasoning behind that was that our children grow up and move on from our lives. Couples who focus all their energy on their children during the "growing up years," often find that they are strangers to one another when the last child leaves the nest. I've always remembered that. That was over 30 years ago. Mike and I took that message to heart and have always made time for each other. Now that the kids are grown and gone, we're not strangers...we're best friends!

  4. Hi Friends...just want to say THANKS. Thank you for the support, encouragement, wisdom, and for being such great examples of thriving marriages! I learn from you. (TOUGH WEEK for the 9:00 Rule) Prayers would be good!