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Man of the House by Chris Erskine

Time for reading, writing and respect

September 04, 2003|Chris Erskine


TO: The children

FROM: Mom and Dad

RE: The new school year

As we begin another school year, we thought now would be a good time to review several family policies, both new and old, in hopes of making life around here easier and more fulfilling than ever.

First of all, beginning today, there should be no more addressing your mother as "dude." As in "Dude, what time's dinner?" Or "Dude, where are my stupid soccer shoes?"

Although we know this term of endearment has crossed gender lines and hence can be used for either boys and girls, it does not apply to the woman who brought you into this world while enduring the sort of pain and suffering the likes of which you can't even imagine; who keeps you clothed and fed; who loves you more than God and Godiva chocolate. Yes, both.

So from here on out, you may refer to one another as "dude," or even to the president of the United States as "dude." But you may not refer to your own dear mother as "dude."

Item 2: Our family is now moving to a "fee-for-service" economic system. This means that you will receive spending money only when you have performed some function your mother or father deems worthy of payment.

For example, when you want to go to the movies, do not approach an adult and whine, "Can I have money for the movies? My friend Matt gets money for the movies. Why can't I get money for the movies?"

Instead, approach the parental unit and say, "Hey, Dad, if I wash the dog and take out the trash, can I have 10 bucks for a show?"

Such a system will teach you to appreciate the value of a dollar, as well as all the things your parents must do to accumulate lots of dollars, which is what it takes to pay for the things you never think of, like oil changes and toothpaste.

Item 3: From now on, all children will be restricted to three bowls of cereal a day. That's three. A day.

Though this may seem severe to some of you, I will point out that what we spend on cereal each year would pay for an entire new power grid for the Eastern United States, with enough money left over to paint every fire hydrant in Massachusetts.

What this means is that you may not have two bowls of cereal for breakfast, then three more when you return home from school and another for dessert. Sugar is not a vitamin. Cocoa Puffs are not a vegetable.

On another matter, several of you have complained that you do not have enough new school clothes.

To that, we say, "Look in your closet!"

You are all bright and reasonable individuals, each as special as a rainbow and unique as a snowflake. Do not define yourselves by the choices other children make. Think creatively. Be an individual. Wear last year's stuff.

And, one personal request: Please, don't walk around with half your underwear sticking out. It's underwear, remember? Once upon a time, it was a source of embarrassment for someone else to see your underwear. You kept it hidden. You showed it only to those you loved, and even then reluctantly. That is as it should be.

On a related issue, any body piercings will require the approval of both parents and a psychiatrist. If God wanted you to have any more holes, he would've given them to you when you were born. They'd perform some important physiological function. They'd leak when you were sick.

Finally, as we begin another school year, there are certain things that will now be required on a daily basis. A bath is one of them, as is eating dinner at home with the family, which in this instance refers to "our family," not just any family.

The world is not your family. We're your family, the only one you have. And though it may expand and change due to marriage, adoption, divorce and pregnancy, it is the best and only family you'll ever have. Please treat it appropriately.

Sincerely, Mom and Dad


Chris Erskine can be reached at

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