If you ever feel that your life isn't crazy enough, try hanging around with a preschooler for a while.
It's been a while since my kids have been that age - they're 11 and 13 - but I've been around my nieces and nephews, and my friends' young children lately. Trust me, reality as you've come to know it will suddenly take a drastic turn for the lunatic fringe.
Sure, it may sound like a gross exaggeration. We all know that preschoolers do a lot of normal things like, say, dress in adorable costumes and laugh at stupid knock-knock jokes. That's part of their charm. However don't let this act fool you. Most preschoolers have quirks that even Howard Hughes would think are strange.
For example, take my friend Cheryl. Lately she can't get anywhere on time because she has to stand in the driveway waiting for her 4-year-old Maddie, an only child, to buckle all of her imaginary friends into the minivan.
"We are now up to six," she said one day over coffee. "There are the two imaginary baby-sitters, Gia and Jenny; two imaginary friends, Rayanne and Taylor; the imaginary siblings, Sally (age 1 1Ú2) and Merky (age 7); and one imaginary rabbit, Munchie."
She leaned over and clutched my arm nervously. "If she adds one more imaginary thing, I'll have to get a bigger car."
If you think that's bad, there are my friends Lisa and Carol. The first has a 4-year-old daughter who has a grudge against any type of clothing with buttons and will only eat rainbow frosting and french fries. The latter has a 5-year-old who isn't picky about her wardrobe or what kind of food she eats as long as it's served with a frayed fuchsia plastic spoon with a smiling parrot on the handle, ironically referred to as "The Happy Spoon."
OK, so this may not sound like such a crisis to you, but it's the only piece left out of the original baby jungle-themed dinner set, thus guaranteeing no replacement if ever lost or destroyed. Which, most parents know, is only a matter of time. And to suggest using another spoon is simply a laughable idea.
Really, it's amazing that with all these self-imposed rules and regulations preschoolers make any progress at all.
And it's no use reasoning with them. Sure, you can trying launching into your 10-part lecture series on, "You Can't Just Go Around Avoiding Buttons and Living On Rainbow Frosting Forever, You Know," but they will only stare at you with the same sort of look reserved for major losers and Mr. Rogers reruns. It's then you realize that you have now entered into a battle of wits in which you have no weapon.
And then there's my friend Nadine. She's resigned herself to sitting propped up in the hall outside her 8-year-old triplets' room until they fall asleep. "The worst part is that they've just come to expect it. It used to be that if I tried to sneak off, one of them would look out the door and yell, 'I'm scared!' Now they just look out say 'Hey, where'd you go?'"
I admit, hearing stuff like this suddenly makes my own children seem more normal. I mean, let's face it, what's carving three dozen sandwiches into the shape of a kitten compared to THAT?
Oh sure, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that only spineless fools let their children get away with this kind of stuff. And you're right. But I always preferred to think of it more as choosing my own battles.
And that's exactly why I once helped my son pick out all of the orange Froot Loops from the cereal box so he could carry them around the house in an old tennis shoe.
Me, I've been saving my strength for the teenage years. And sooner rather than later, I'm going to get to see if my strategy paid off.
• Debbie Farmer is a humorist, mother, and the author of "Don't Put Lipstick on the Cat." She can be reached at www.familydaze.com, or by writing email@example.com.