“When I’m 10, Mom’s gonna teach me how to cook with the stove!” announced my oldest over a plate of toast and cantaloupe this morning. He wanted pancakes. He loves pancakes. He would eat them three meals a day if only his stickler mother would let him use the darn stove.

“Well, when I’m 10, Mom said I could babysit,” disclosed my daughter with raised eyebrows. She longs for the day when she can finally be in charge.

These conversations are not uncommon at our house. I can diffuse many a pickle by simply putting an age limit on the matter. It’s like the sign at the beginning of a carnival ride, “You must be at least this tall to ride.” Period.

It’s the final word.

The government does it all the time. “You have to be 16 to drive, 18 to vote, 65 to collect social security…”  So why can’t I? For example, my kids will tell you that you have to be at least 12 to bring food out onto the carpet. They think that’s the blanket rule, across the board, for all houses everywhere. Oh, and you have to be at least 10 for mom to teach you how to use the big cutting knives. (As my four year old observed, “those knives are dangerous. They can cut your face off!”)

And then there’s my personal favorite. I use this one every time I bring them to the store with me. Inevitably, they will select an item (okay, so it’s usually more than one,) and proceed to beg. “Mom, can we get these Cocoa Puffs, pleeeeaaase!! Can we buy this glow-in-the-dark light saber? Pretty pleeeaase!”

A war of wills used to ensue. But now I simply respond, “Sure! When it’s your birthday we will come right back here to the store and get it!” And just like that, they’re pacified.

Of course, this is a bit of a gamble. Usually their birthdays are months away, and 99.9% of the time, they’re satisfied and forget the matter completely. I’m banking by the time their long term memories are fully developed, they will have out grown the “begging for sugared cereal in public” phase of their lives. I just have to tread carefully and make sure I never use this tactic when talking about pets or anything over 20 bucks.

But on the off chance they do remember their burning birthday wish and accompanying cereal choice, well, this fairy doesn’t have to guess, she knows exactly what to bring.

But there are a few things around here with no age limits, no birthday cut-off dates, height requirements or provisos:

Sunday naps, pillow fights, and snuggling with mom. And most of the time those three things happen simultaneously.


Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, freelance writer and mother of four small children. Read more at  www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com