To My Niece

Dear Shannon: I read your lament about your sons’ latest unfortunate round of injuries. (For those of you interested in Shannon’s story, go to You said that someone should tell them that its not a competiton. Well, sweetie, I have bad news for you. It is a competition, but not a “let’s see which of us can do the most physical damage to oneself” type of contest. No; rather it is a “let’s see who can make Mom age the fastest” competition. This tournament, rather like a track meet, has several categories, as follow:

A) Restaurant Misbehavior: this event usually occurs when you take the children to any restaurant nicer than McDonald’s. You’ll sit down and order, and while you wait eternally for your food, your children begin to get restless. Crayons and crackers can only entertain so far, and soon the kids are fidgeting in their seats, trying to look around and/or talk to the people seated next to them. For every time you scold and/or discipline them, the kids get one point. They get extra credit for tossed food that lands somewhere other than in your table zone. Similar behavior at the grocery store or Wal-Mart also merits points.

B) Public Flatulence: this event occurs any time you are out in public, or when you have company at your house. The child usually waits for a lull in the conversation before really ripping a loud belch or fart; then the child smiles serenely as everyone around chuckles with embarrassed laughter. Each gaseous emission is worth one point. Double points are given if the flatulence occurs in church, triple points if it happens during a particularly quiet time (like opening prayers or the Lord’s supper). No points are given if the flatulence occurs during a Special Music when the singer is really, really bad.

C) Embarrassing Comments: this event occurs when your child repeats something that you said within the privacy of your home that you never wanted to have repeated. Phrases like “Mommy said she’s tired of your cat pooping in our flowerbox” are worth one point. Extra credit is given if the phrase is uttered to someone you’ve been trying desperately to get along with. Points are deducted if the phrase is uttered to someone you can’t stand and should have been told that, anyway.

D) From The Mouths Of Babes: this event occurs when the child says something embarrassing that comes completely out of the blue, i.e. with no prompting from you (as in category C). Phrases like “Your breath is really stinky!” are worth one point when uttered to a complete stranger. Extra credit is given when the phrase is uttered to someone of importance, like a visiting pastor or the mall Santa Claus. No points are given to such phrases uttered to near relatives.

Points earned by the kids affect you in this way: ten points in one week ages you one day. Ten points within three days ages you two days. Ten points in one day ages you one week. Ten points within one hour ages you one month. Ten points scored in a single moment ages you three months. This is extra aging added on to the aging you’re already doing. And point accumulations don’t slow down as the children get older.Quite the contrary. Point accumulations grow because the number of categories grows. You and I both have yet to add the Automobile Driving, Dating and Hormonal Rages categories. Right now, as things stand, I think my girls have aged me an extra two years. That’s not bad, really. But Hannah is beginning to add categories, and I’m sure we’re both being aged by categories that I can’t remember this late at night. (It’s 10:40 p.m.) So suffice to say that your kids are in a battle royale to see who can get Mom to start sprouting grey hair the soonest. And you know what the worst thing is? Once they’re grown and gone, you’ll wish they were back, and that the competition would never end.

Right, Mom?

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