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HONEST RSVPs

When it comes to RSVPs, there are typically two choices:

I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend.

Unfortunately, those don’t account for the true range of likely responses, and could easily be expanded:

I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will attend under protest.
I/we ___ will attend but only for a few minutes before going to the party I/we really want to go to.
I/we ___ will attend but be too exhausted to socialize.
I/we ___ will attend if anyone else I/we like will attend.
I/we ___ will attend, but on the wrong night.
I/we ___ wasn’t invited, but will attend anyway.
I/we ___ will not attend.
I/we ___ will not attend unless the two other parties I/we want to go to that night get cancelled.
I/we ___ will not attend unless I/we run into the host at the store and he/she says “Did you get the invitation? So many people have backed out this year I’m really, really counting on you to attend,” in which case I/we will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend ever, so stop inviting us. I/we mean, seriously, WE NEVER ATTEND. Don’t you get the picture?
I/we ___ will not decide to attend or not attend until just after you’ve firmed up your guest list, nor will I/we be the least bit bothered by how much trouble this causes the host.

UH-OH HO HO

PARENT: What do you want for Christmas?
CHILD: I dunno. Maybe a bike.
PARENT: A bike? We just got you a bike last year.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: What do you mean? Of course we got you a bike.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: I know for a fact we got you a bike because I’m the one who went to three different stores and then spent two hours assembling it in our unheated garage after everyone went to bed.
CHILD: No… you didn’t get me a bike: Santa did.
PARENT: Oh… uh… I must have been thinking of… of… something else.

STOCKING STUFFERS

KID: Santa brings toys to all the good girls and boys, right?
PARENT: Right.
KID: What about bad kids?
PARENT They get coal.
KID: What about kids who are a bad, but not quite as bad as they could be?
PARENT They get clean coal.

AL GORE’S REVENGE: HOW TO PUT UP GREEN CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN 14 SIMPLE STEPS.

Step 1. Look for lights.
Step 2. Find lights in last place you’d ever think they’d be.
Step 3. Spend 45 minutes trying to untangle them.
Step 4. Briefly stop to consider how much energy lights waste each season, but then continue.
Step 5. Climb up on roof.
Step 6. Roll eyes and say “Geez, it’s not like I haven’t climbed a roof before” when spouse/significant other/neighbor says “Be careful!”
Step 7. Almost slip and fall.
Step 8. Hope spouse/significant other/neighbor didn’t notice.
Step 9. Put up lights and revel in sense of satisfaction at how easy it was.
Step 10. Climb down ladder.
Step 11. Plug in cord and check lights.
Step 12. Pour stiff drink.
Step 13. Spend balance of afternoon replacing bulbs, splicing wires, and doing everything you can think of to get the lights to come on before ultimately giving up and deciding to skip the stupid lights this year and go green.
Step 14. Curse Al Gore.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR SPOUSE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER IS UPSET?

How do you know when your spouse/significant other is upset?

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BAD WAYS TO SPEND THE EXTRA HOUR OF DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

5:45 am

KID: Mom? MOM!
MOM: What are you doing out of bed?
KID: I woke up.
MOM: Then go back to sleep.
KID: I’m not tired.
MOM: I don’t care if you’re not tired, it’s the middle of the night.
KID: It doesn’t feel like the middle of the night.
MOM: What time does the clock on my nightstand say?
KID: 12:01.
MOM: 12:01?!?!?!
KID: I accidentally tripped over the cord when I was coming over, sorry.
MOM: What does the clock on your father’s nightstand say?
KID: I don’t know. Dad? DAD!
MOM: No! Don’t wake him!
DAD: Too late, I’m already up.
KID: Do you know what time it is?
DAD: I can’t see the clock without my glasses.
MOM: It says 5:45.
DAD: It can’t be 5:45, it’s too dark outside.
MOM: It’s dark because the days are getting shorter.
DAD: But we just went on Daylight Saving Time last night!
KID: What’s Daylight Saving Time?
MOM: It’s when you change the clocks so you get more light during the day.
DAD: Yeah – “Spring forward” and “Fall back,” which means it’s not 5:45, it’s 6:45.
MOM: You mean it’s not 5:45, it’s 4:45.
DAD: That’s what I said.
MOM: No, you said it was 6:45 not 5:45.
DAD: Well… that’s what I meant.
MOM: Except that I remembered to change the clock, so it’s actually 5:45.
KID: Do I still have to go back to bed then?
DAD: No, because I remembered to change the clock, too, so that means it’s…
KID: 3:45?!?!?
MOM: No, because your father always gets Daylight Saving Time backwards, so even though I changed the clock back an hour your father probably changed the clock forward, which means if it says 5:45, it’s actually 4:45.
KID: I’m really confused.
DAD: Me, too – and I didn’t get Daylight Saving Time backwards this time, I totally forgot about it.
MOM: Then why did you say you changed the clock?
DAD: Because you always make such a big deal over the fact that you remember and I forget.
MOM: So rather than come clean, you lied?
DAD: No.
MOM: You didn’t lie?
DAD: Like you said… I have such a bad memory, I just forgot the truth.
MOM: Don’t get sarcastic.
DAD: You’re the one who started it.
MOM: Me?
DAD: I was asleep.
MOM: So everything is my fault?
DAD: Not everything.
KID: Excuse me – before you continue, can somebody just tell me what time it really is?
BOTH: 5:45.
KID: Good.
MOM: Why is that good?
KID: Because I think you’re both gonna need the extra hour you have before you need to get up to figure out what you’re really fighting about.

EXPLAINING DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME TO A KID

KID: What’s Daylight Savings?
PARENT: It’s when we set our clocks back an hour.
KID: What does that mean?
PARENT: It means what used to be 10:00 is now 9:00, so there’s actually an extra hour in the day.
KID: Which day?
PARENT: Sunday.
KID: That’s a relief – I was afraid it was gonna be Monday when I’m in school.

BBQ Tips

  • Beef + flame = BBQ.
  • Beef + flame + lots of beer = 2nd degree burns and a clip for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
  • A grill is the second best way to cook asparagus. But a blast furnace is the best way because it completely incinerates those terrible little stalks.
  • Don’t wear a “Kiss the cook” apron while you BBQ unless you want a drunken friend or neighbor to try to.
  • If a cup of hot coffee has to carry a warning label, why doesn’t a grill? And since it doesn’t, how long before somebody files a class action lawsuit claiming they were burned because they didn’t realize grills get so hot?
  • Not everything can be grilled — like pasta, for example. And although this may seem obvious, to 4-year-olds and drunken neighbors it’s not.
  • If a dog is man’s best friend, a grill runs a close second.
  • There is a difference between well-done and burnt, but only to people who like their steaks well-done. To everyone else — especially lovers of blood and pink — they are both the same: a waste of a perfectly good cut of meat.
  • If you’re cooking with gas, it’s important to the light the grill immediately after turning on the gas instead of running inside to get another drink first.
  • It’s also important not to use lighter fluid.
  • Anyone who says “everything tastes better when it’s grilled” clearly hasn’t eaten at my neighbors.
  • Men like to BBQ for the same reason they like to see stuff blow up.
  • There should be a mathematical formula for calculating the increase in LDL given a steak’s price per pound so that anyone with high cholesterol can ignore their doctor’s advice in an informed manner.
  • George Stephen, creator of the Weber Grill, should be sainted.
  • If there is ever another Civil War, it will most likely have something to do with Texas, Alabama and Missouri claiming to have the best BBQ in the America, and all the other states either taking sides or taking offense, except for Wisconsin, which will remain neutral because they have fish boils instead of BBQ.

MOTHER’S DAY

KID: Mother’s Day is coming up.
MOM: I know.
KID: Do you want us to get you anything?
MOM: Only if you want to.
KID: Or course we want to, we just don’t know what you want.
MOM: Surprise me.
KID: With what?
MOM: With something I’d like.
KID: A present?
MOM: Sure.
KID: But what kind of present?
MOM: How can you spend so much time with me and not know a single thing I like? Just think about what I do every day.
KID: Okay.
MOM: Does that give you any ideas?
KID: It does — we could get you some plastic bags.
MOM: Plastic Bags?
KID: For making our lunches.
MOM: No.
KID: Okay, what about some dish towels?
MOM: No.
KID: Pencils you could use to help us with homework?
MOM: No.
KID: A mop?
MOM: No.
KID: You already have an SUV you like to drive us around in. How about one of those cool toilet bowl cleaners I saw on TV?
MOM: No.
KID: New laundry basket?
MOM: Do you think I do all those things because I like to?
KID: Why else would you do them?
MOM: Because I’m a mom and that’s what mom’s do: stuff they don’t like doing, but needs to be done.
KID: Oh.
MOM: Yeah, “Oh.”
KID: If that’s the case, then I know exactly what you’d like for Mother’s Day.
MOM: What’s that?
KID: To be like Dad: ‘cause there’s lots of stuff he needs to do, but usually he just watches ESPN instead.

Editor’s Note: While not entirely true, there’s no doubt the sentiment expressed above often feels true.

EARTH DAY GUILT

For a lot of parents, Earth Day is a time to feel guilt and shame for driving an SUV and having too many flat-screen TVs. For kids, it’s a time to learn that the psychological problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and treat them are nothing compared to the environmental problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and dad treat the planet.

(Assuming, of course, life is still around later.)

KID: Thanks for ruining the earth.
PARENT: It’s not my fault. Blame grandma and grandpa, too — they started it.

The good news is that thanks to most Americans grudging acceptance of climate change, a renewed government-focus on conserving natural resources and developing alternate energy sources, and the fact that it’s cool to drive a Prius, there’s hope for the future.

The bad news is that kids are still kids, which means they can turn just about anything to their advantage, especially environmental tips they come home and claim to have been taught in school:

PARENT: How was school today?
KID: We learned how to help the planet for Earth Day.
PARENT: Great.
KID: They said we should all conserve water and turn off lights when we don’t need them so we don’t waste electricity.
PARENT: That’s right.
KID: Which means I shouldn’t take a bath tonight, or probably even this week.
PARENT: Huh?
KID: And you know how you always bug me about reading in the dark?
PARENT: Yes.
KID: That’s actually good because reading in the dark doesn’t waste electricity.
PARENT: Uh…
KID: We’re supposed to recycle everything, too, so wearing the same shirt, pants and underwear all week isn’t gross, it’s green.
PARENT: I think you’re taking these tips the wrong way.
KID: How could I take them the wrong way?
PARENT: I don’t know but I guess we’ll find out: what else did you learn?
KID: Eat local.
PARENT: And?
KID: Just that: eat local.
PARENT: That seems pretty straight forward.
KID: It is — and since that McDonald’s is just down the street, I was thinking we should go there as much as possible.
PARENT: Are you serious?
KID: We don’t even have to drive. We could walk!
PARENT: I don’t even know how to respond.
KID: I know eating local like that isn’t always practical, so we learned that when we can’t eat local, we should at least eat less.
PARENT: Let me guess: starting with vegetables?
KID: Especially carrots.
PARENT: Right.
KID: We should also try to use less.
PARENT: Which means?
KID: No more boring, stupid trips to Target! Hurray!
PARENT: Anything else?
KID: Americans waste 5.8 billion gallons of water each year flushing their toilets.
PARENT: No.
KID: But you don’t even know what the tip is.
PARENT: I can guess. And I don’t care how good it is for the planet, you have to flush.
KID: Wow. You know, when they said some people didn’t want to help the environment, I never thought they meant you.

Happy Earth Day.

INVITATION DECISION-MAKING TREE

Do you need to go? NO decline
YES
Do you want to go? NO decline
YES
Can you think of anything bad that will happen if you don’t go? NO decline
YES
If you lie and say you can’t go because you already have plans, will anybody find out? NO decline
YES
Will you really care if that happens? NO decline
YES
Will there be an open bar? NO decline
YES
Can you leave early if you are having a terrible time? NO decline
YES
accept

YOU CAN'T SPELL SHIH TZU WITHOUT S- H- I- AND T

HOUSEGUEST: Mind if I bring my dog?
HOMEOWNER: To our house?
HOUSEGUEST: He’s not any trouble. You won’t even know he’s there.
HOMEOWNER: Is he housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: Of course.

When it comes to pets, there seem to be two kinds of people: those who believe being housebroken is an either/or proposition — either a dog goes outside when he needs to do his business, or he’s not housebroken — and those who favor a more Zen-like interpretation, where “housebroken” is more journey than destination, a path to potty enlightenment that every dog must travel at its own speed, peeing and pooping along the way as the need arises.

As you would expect, the latter position is most often adopted by those who think of their dogs as their children, and they are usually as unapologetic when their “baby” has “an accident” as a real parent is when the same thing happens to their child.

The problem is that when a child poops or pees, it’s in his pants; when a dog poops or pees, it’s on the bedspread in the bedroom.

HOUSEGUEST: Sorry.
HOMEOWNER: I thought you said he was housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: He is.
HOMEOWNER: Then why didn’t he go outside?
HOUSEGUEST: Everybody has accidents. He probably just got excited.

How do you react to this kind of situation?

There seem to be two kinds of people in this case, too: those who understand that “shit happens,” and when it does the only thing you can do is grab some paper towels and clean it up, and those who want to know who’s gonna pay for the new mattress.

(And, unfortunately, you won’t know which camp you fall into until it happens to you.)

A NOTE FROM THE IRS

To: All Taxpayers

From: IRS

RE: Replacement for IRS Form 1040 EZ for taxpayers experiencing economic hardship

In light of economic conditions facing the country, we are temporarily replacing IRS Form 1040 EZ with a new form that more directly addresses taxpayers financial difficulties. Anyone who has been recently (or not-so-recently) unemployed, who has lost their entire savings in the Madoff scandal or because they invested on Wall Street, who works for a Detroit auto maker, or who finds themself in a position where they owe more on their house than it’s worth, should now request IRS Form 1040 F.U. — because no matter how bad your situation is, you are still required to pay your taxes, and you will be penalized if you don’t.

TIME DOESN'T FLY WHEN YOU'RE FLYING WITH KIDS

How can a two hour and 20 minute flight take five hours?

Electronic check in:

17 17 minutes

Manual check-in after electronic check-in can’t find everyone’s name:

34 34 minutes

Airport security:

37 37 minutes

Pat down, additional questioning after dad was randomly flagged as a potential terrorist (which the kids thought was funny, but the parents couldn’t believe):

11 11 minutes

Flight Delay (cause unknown, but “kid in control tower” incident suspected):

40 40 minutes

Actual flight:

140 2 hours 20 minutes

Wait on tarmac (after pilot announces “We’ll be taxing to the gate in just a few minutes”):

17 17 minutes

Wait at gate:

7 7 minutes

Wait at baggage claim:

34 34 minutes

Wait at baggage claim “lost luggage” department:

19 19 minutes

Time-out for deep, calming breaths:

6 6 minutes

Finding car in long-term parking after losing slip of paper with level and section number:

22 22 minutes

Explaining why there won’t be any more family trips until the memory of this last one has faded away completely:

Forever Weeks

WHO'S THE FOOL NOW?

KID: Dad! Dad! You gotta come quick!
DAD: Why? What is it?
KID: Just come with me.
DAD: Wait… is this an April Fools’ prank?
KID: A what?
DAD: An April Fools’ prank — you know, where you play a practical joke on somebody and then when they realized it, you yell “April Fools!”
KID: I’ve never heard of that. Is it new?
DAD: No, April Fools’ Day has been around forever. In fact, it used to be one of my favorite holidays. One time when I was a kid, your uncle and I put black food coloring in the milk, and then when your grandpa poured it on his cereal he screamed. Another time we let the air out of one of his tires and told him he had a flat. And then there was this time we switched the morning newspaper and tricked him into thinking it was still yesterday, so he got dressed and went into work.
KID: Didn’t you get in trouble?
DAD: No way. That’s what’s so great about April Fools’ Day: it’s the one time of year you get to play practical joke on people and not get in trouble.
KID: Not even a little bit?
DAD: Anybody who gets mad at you for an April Fools’ prank is a bad sport.
KID: Cool.
DAD: Hey… where are you going?
KID: To the garage: I need to get a bucket, some duct tape and the hose.
DAD: Why?
KID: If I told you it wouldn’t be an April Fools’ Day prank, would it?

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN ST. PATRICK'S DAY TO A KID?

KID: Why’s Dad throwing up in the bathroom?
MOM: Um… he’s not feeling well.
KID: Is it because of St. Patrick’s Day?
MOM: What do you mean?
KID: Well, when I walked into the kitchen last night, I saw him putting green food coloring in his beer and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
MOM: Um… uh… that’s right – sometimes adults drink green beer to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
KID: And wear green clothes.
MOM: Yes, and they wear green clothes. When I was a little girl, we used to drink green milk, too.
KID: Yuck. You’re kidding right?
MOM: No. Why?
KID: Duh – because obviously green food coloring makes you sick. Why else would Dad be throwing up?

WHAT DOES DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ACTUALLY SAVE?

GET UP! GET UP! WE OVERSLEPT!

For most families, Daylight Saving Time turns what’s typically a frantic, time-crunched mess of morning activity into a domestic version of roller derby, with everyone throwing elbows and accusations as they scramble to get dressed and get out the door:

RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: You said you were gonna change the clock.
IDIOT: I did.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Then why does it still say 7:40 when it’s really 8:40?
IDIOT: I guess I forgot.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Right — you forgot, so I’m late.
IDIOT: You could have changed it, too.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I changed all the other clocks!
IDIOT: That’s my point: why didn’t you remind me to change this one while you were changing all the others?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I did!
IDIOT: Well… I guess I didn’t hear you.

According to wikipedia, Daylight Saving Time, which was standardized across most of the United States in 1967, was primarily intended to reduce energy consumption — the “extra” hour of daylight in the afternoon was supposed to mean fewer lights would have to be on at offices, retailers, restaurants etc.

But when you consider how most people react when the Daylight Saving Time-bomb goes off, it’s more likely that any energy savings will be more than off-set by the increased consumption caused by all the stupid things people do when their sleeping patterns get disrupted.

What’s the net-effect of having to make two extra trips to the grocery store — the first because you accidentally left your list at home, and the second because you accidentally left your kid there?

Or what about having to replace a freezer full of food because just after you opened the door to sneak some ice cream for breakfast, you realized the soccer game you thought was next weekend, wasn’t, but that if you left RIGHT NOW! you might still make it?

Or what about having to run an electric air pump off and on all night because otherwise the slightly-leaky inflatable mattress in the den you’ve been banished to because you said one-too-many mean things to your spouse will deflate?

IDIOT: If you reminded me to change the clock, then why didn’t I change it?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Because you’re an idiot!
IDIOT: Me? If anyone’s an idiot, you are — and not just because of the clock.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Oh, really?
IDIOT: Yes, really. Do you have any idea how many stupid things you do around here on a daily basis?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: No, but why don’t you tell me.

Net energy savings: probably zero

And what happens when you factor in the cost of dealing with all that stress, ill-will and negativity? Therapists — whether for marriage or anger-management — don’t make house calls (and if they do, they don’t make them on bikes).

There are bars for sulking/hiding/venting, of course, but they generally don’t have windows, meaning light (but not illumination) comes only from energy-sucking neon signs.

The gym? Maybe in the old days when free weights and stationary bikes were the norm, but now it seems like every piece of exercise equipment has to be plugged in or it won’t work.

Net energy savings: definitely zero

All of which raises the question: if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything, what’s the point?

Perhaps the one good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that between all the extra caffeine it takes to get through the day and the fact that no matter how late the clock says it is, it’s impossible to sleep, everyone affected by it can spend half the night staring at the ceiling trying to figure that out.

RULES FOR FUTURE HOUSEGUESTS

  1. Don’t make yourself at home.
  2. If you stay longer than invited, you will not be asked to come back.
  3. Ever.
  4. There is no maid.
  5. Seriously — NO MAID, which means whichever host you are related to, or knew first, will end up cleaning up after you (though probably not until after a long, ugly argument).
  6. If you bring a pet, make sure your pet is housebroken.
  7. On second thought, no pets.
  8. When we say “if you need anything, just ask,” we don’t expect you to take us up on it.
  9. But if you really do need something, we’d prefer if you would let us find it for you rather than snooping looking for it in our drawers, closets, cabinets, etc. yourself.
  10. Pottery Barn rules apply: you break it, you buy it.
  11. This rule applies to kids, too.
  12. If you forget your toothbrush, razor, underwear or prescription anti-depressants, please don’t borrow ours.
  13. Just because you walk around naked at home doesn’t mean you should do that here, if for no other reason than seeing you naked will forever change our impression of you, and probably not for the better.
  14. Please refrain from discussing politics, religion or anything else unless you are certain your views are in line with ours, or that we like to argue.
  15. You know that ugly piece of art we have on the wall in the living room? We don’t think it’s ugly.
  16. On a related note, you know the voice you use when you don’t want anyone to hear you? We can still hear you.
  17. Please keep in mind that we invited you, not members of your extended family.
  18. Flush.
  19. And knock.
  20. If you don’t think you can abide by these rules, stay home.
  21. Unless you are family.
  22. And then only come during the holidays, when we are more likely to be forgiving.
  23. And which only come once a year.

REALISTIC NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

  • To go to the gym three days a week for two weeks, then once a week for the next three to five weeks, then three time a week for a week or two, then twice a week for one week before stopping entirely and resolving to resolve to go to the gym more next year.
  • To go on a diet until something happens to necessitate a massive intake of comfort food that will lead to the slow, steady return of the bad eating habits that become entrenched in 2009.
  • To talk about going on vacation someplace new and different, but then go to the same place as last year and the year before and the year before that because it’s easy and cheap and who needs the stress and uncertainty of a big trip anyway?
  • To buy a lot of books about getting organized, but never have time to read them, let alone utilize any of their tips and suggestions.
  • To spend more quality time with the kids, but only when its convenient and/or they’re not being needy, loud, destructive, insolent or pouty, which is probably never.
  • To be greener, but only in ways that don’t involve hardship, self-sacrifice or extra work because, let’s face it, the environment is important but there’s just too much going on right now.
  • To try to cope with the stress of modern life in a productive way, but eventually give up and just over-eat, drink an extra glass of wine or two each night, and take a variety of prescription medications.
  • To save more and spend less, unless there’s a really great sale.
  • To be anxious about the economy, health and well-being, work, family, marriage, saving for college and the future, but hopefully not all at once unless there’s a bottle of wine handy.
  • To come home after a difficult day at work and yell at the kids for no apparent reason, but then feel more guilty about it than normal.
  • To tell the kids again and again to “be careful” and then not be completely surprised when they aren’t and must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches and/or a cast.
  • To worry less about what other people think, unless those other people are the neighbors, selected co-workers or somebody we want to impress.
  • To find meaning and purpose in life, but then forget what it is thanks to chronic sleep deprivation, the never-ending demands of work and our household’s perpetual state of chaos.
  • To maintain a positive mental state, even though it still looks like we’re all screwed.

CRAPPY NEW YEAR!

“10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… Hey! No Fair!” — only kids could fight over who gets to do the New Year’s Eve countdown first. Happy New Year.

POLL: SANTA CLAUS

What’s the best thing about having kids who still believe in Santa Claus?

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A NOTE TO NON-PARENTS ABOUT SELECTING AGE-APPROPRIATE GIFTS

While it may seem helpful that every toy in the toy store is labeled with a “recommended for ages X to Y” or “suitable for ages X and up,” it’s not.

In fact, in many ways it makes gift-giving much more complicated.

Let’s start with infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers: there isn’t a 21st Century parent who doesn’t believe the one running around his or her house isn’t clearly more developmentally advanced than most others.

Not convinced?

Just think about any conversation you’ve had with the parents since they became parents: doesn’t it always include at least one funny/touching anecdote about how their little angel accomplished something a merely “average” child wouldn’t be expected to do until he or she was much, much older?

Given this, it would seem logical to assume the child’s functional age would be much greater than the child’s actual age, to the point where, for example, a toy designed to help pre-schoolers improve small muscle control would be well-suited for their little toddler.

But no.

Because even if the kid is advanced, there’s no way he or she is that advanced, which means not only won’t the kid be able to use the toy (not for its intended purpose, anyway), the resulting failure, frustration and over-stimulation will lead to a massive meltdown the child’s parents will blame on you and the idiotic gift you bought that traumatized their offspring.

You might as well have given the child a dunce cap and the parents a t-shirt that read “We’re the proud parents of a moron.”

It doesn’t get any easier buying gifts for older kids, either.

Let’s say you have an 11-year-old nephew who loves to play video games. Having spent some time with him, you realize his favorite games are ultra-violent first-person shooters and elaborate, adult-oriented fantasy role-playing games.

So you buy him one.

And then come Christmas Day, when you call over to the house to say “Season’s Greetings,” you’re shocked when nobody will speak to you.

What happened?

The game you got was rated “M for Mature,” just like the dozen other “M for Mature” games he has in his room and plays regularly.

Except his parents didn’t realize this (either because they never set foot in his room because it’s too messy, or because they’re parents and they’re so overwhelmed with everyday demands they filter out everything that isn’t homework or a fight).

PARENTS: What did Uncle Scott get you?
KID: A video game, see?
PARENTS: I don’t think that’s appropriate – it says on the box it’s rated “M for Mature.”
KID: No, it’s fine – I have tons of other “M for Mature” games.
PARENTS: You do?

The result is your nephew hates you because you got all his games taken away and his parents hate you because you’re probably the one who corrupted him in the first place.

As if that’s not enough of an argument against age-appropriate guidelines, there’s also this problem: where do they come from?

Obviously not from parents, because if they did there would be some kind of board or council or non-profit organization responsible for determining them that would have splintered years ago into Liberal, Conservative and Centrist factions that parents would be pressured to support or denounce.

Guidelines clearly aren’t determined by toy manufacturers, either, as they would never open themselves up to such and easy-to-win lawsuit:

ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Did you or did you not state that this toy was appropriate for children ages 8 and up?
CEO: We did.
ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: And where did you state that?
CEO: On the label.
ATTORNEY REPRESENTING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: But the four-year-olds I’m representing can’t read, can they?
CEO: No, they can’t. Which is why we agree to pay whatever settlement you want.

So who is responsible?

Unfortunately, the only group that’s left is the same group of child development experts who make up all the other guidelines for children — which might seem fine, except that for every parent who agrees with their advice (and quotes it freely, and condemns anyone who doesn’t believe it) there’s another parent who thinks everything they say is just stupid.

So unless you know exactly where the parents of the child you’re buying a gift for stand, you’re better off avoiding toys and their age-appropriate guidelines completely and doing what generations of non-parents have been doing for decades: giving U.S. Savings Bonds.

ADDENDUM TO A BRIEF NOTE TO NON-PARENTS ABOUT SELECTING AGE-APPROPRIATE GIFTS

Don’t give clothes, either, unless you’re absolutely certain the parents will like them, otherwise they end up in a giant box in the back of the closet that’s not just a pain to get out whenever you come over, but becomes an enduring reminder of your bad taste and/or cluelessness when it comes to what kinds of clothes real kids wear.

THE OTHER 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
The worst cold I ever did have.

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the fifth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the sixth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the seventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Eight off-color comments
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Nine disagreements
Eight off-color comments
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the tenth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Ten accusations
Nine disagreements
Eight off-color comments
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My true love gave to me Eleven silent curses
Ten accusations
Nine disagreements
Eight off-color comments
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep And the worst cold I ever did have.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve nasty looks
Eleven silent curses
Ten accusations
Nine disagreements
Eight off-color comments
Seven cups of egg nog
Six pleas to grandma
Five no-show sitters
Four wound-up kids
Three last-minute invites
Two hours of sleep
And the worst cold I ever did have.

(Which is probably why we’re not talking to each other right now.)

WHEN KIDS DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY’RE TOLD

PARENT: What are you doing?
4-YEAR-OLD: Mom said I should write a letter to Santa Claus.
PARENT: Can I see?
4-YEAR-OLD: Sure. Here.
PARENT: It says “A.”
4-YEAR-OLD: Yeah, I was gonna write a “G” but I couldn’t remember which way the opening went.