The rule growing up with me was very straightforward: make me laugh, and you can get away with anything. I well remember fighting the giggles when the kids were little and had misbehaved. I'd assign a ridiculous punishment like cleaning out all the lego from behind the couch (ridiculous because impossible: Hercules couldn't do it: the stuff bred back there). We'd collect a basketful of mismatched pieces and build a monster. So the other day Thea was going to tidy her room, and didn't. I mentioned this to her, and she said, Gosh I've been busy -- I'll do it tomorrow. Only she didn't, and her week got busier, and the room tidying kept getting put off. Finally she said, Dad, you are right. This is taking too long. And I've got to go out right now, so I can't tidy. You know, I think I'm going to have to do it yesterday. Yesterday, I said. She nodded solemnly. It's the only free time I have. Now, I don't know what I'd have done if the task involved was truly important -- say, getting the garbage out to the curb -- but Thea is a big girl and it's her room, and keeping other people's places tidy has never been a vital part of my life. Anyway, her line was so surprising and apt that I burst out laughing. She nodded, mission accomplished, and left the house. Her room remains untidied. Her line has stuck around as the perfect answer to time-related difficulty. The other day a friend and I were trying to arrange a meeting, but simply could not match schedules. How about yesterday? I said finally. Are you free then? Silence down the phone line. All day, she said. Perfect, I said. Let's do lunch.
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