It has been suggested to me that I may sometimes brag about my children, Surely not. However, it is not bragging, but merely a statement of fact that #2 son’s picture was in the paper yesterday. I can show it to you, because his hair entirely covers his face, so you could not possibly recognize him. We miss him so much. We get to bring him home on Saturday, when we will also be able to see the “primitive hut” they are building.

So we are missing #2 son, and #2 daughter and I are working an awful lot, and even #1 son had to bestir himself a little yesterday and mow the lawn. At work, we are having to deal with the consequences of the worldwide shortage of Mavalus Tape and the beginnings of Back-to-School hysteria.

None of this is very bad. Still, as the Poster Queen and I wrestled with chart tablets and pocket charts at the end of the day yesterday, we were in just the mood to enjoy The Empress’s stirring reading of the promotional material for this weird item:

Time Out Tot. Now, I have never seen this item in person, as it were. It consists of a DVD explaining what’s wrong with whining, biting, and temper tantrums, and a grotesque puppet squirrel that has a secret pocket which you can fill with “treats or coins.” The premise is that, instead of parenting your children, you can sit them down in front of the TV and abdicate responsibility to a puppet. This is not something that The Empress and the Poster Queen and I can get behind philisophically, so I doubt that I ever will see one of these.

But the letter extolling its virtues was priceless. It started with dire warnings about “the preschool expulsion rate,” quoted apparently from Yale scholars. Am I the only one who gets a mental image of pint-sized delinquents loitering in the parking lot with cigarettes and chains?

If you are not impressed by Yale, though, you will doubtless be impressed by the next reference — reality TV shows. These are, we all know, an excellent mirror of real life, and an authority on childrearing.

Then we hear about the idea of watching the DVD lessons, for both children and parents — but wait, that’s not the best part! The best part is the puppet. This squirrel is supposed to be your child’s companion during time-out. Then it can leave treats and coins for the kids when they do “right.” The word “right” is in quotation marks, as though there were some controversy over whether biting your playmates is actually wrong or not. Time-Out Tot (the weird squirrel’s weird name) is, the letter tells us, “just like the Tooth Fairy”, and “just like the Easter Bunny.” “Everyone wants to be good for Time-Out Tot,” they crow, “just like Santa!”

I can see this now. “Quit biting Madison, or Time-Out Tot won’t bring you any treats!” “Don’t have a tantrum — Time-Out Tot is watching you!” And then the squirrel goes with the child into the Naughty Corner, to watch him.

This creeps me out quite a bit. What’s more, it’s not going to work. I can tell you that for free. Bringing up your kids is not something you can delegate to a puppet on a DVD, even one that offers bribes.

It was excellent comic relief, however.

As was Dr. Drew’s distinction between Liberals and Patriots. “Football teams?” #2 daughter enquired. Dr. Drew said no, that he was talking about the two sides on the question of U.S. behavior in Iraq. It was at this point that #2 daughter came in, phone in hand, to tell me about the two sides. So I don’t know any more about the conversation, but I did get a good laugh.

I hope you have a good laugh today, too.