Tag Archives: parenting

Formula for Destruction

4 May

Whine: My grande iced latte (a rare treat) did not last very long at all. Darn all that pesky ice! I shoulda gotten the venti–and the extra shot of hazelnut.

Cheese: SHE WALKS!! SHE WALKS!! SHE WALKS!! Lil’ Sis has officially taken her first steps. She looks a little like Frankenstein’s monster, lurching forward, arms stretched out in front of her, but we are so very proud of her. She’d still rather crawl, but pretty soon she’ll figure out that her destruction potential will increase exponentially when she walks. And then my life will officially be over.


There comes a time in every mother’s day when she must count the cost of parenting. Not the physical cost of child birth, child rearing and carpooling. Not the monetary cost of diapers, wipes and all that whole milk. Not even the emotional cost of first steps, skinned knees and broken hearts. No, she must count the cost of the destruction that is sure to follow any attempts on her part to do anything.

I have noticed a pattern in my own life. If I could possibly monitor my children all day, every day, everything would turn out fine. On the other hand, if I were to ever need to use the bathroom, prepare a meal or heaven forbid, sneeze, I can pretty much be assured that in the nanosecond that I turn my back, my children will destroy anything and everything they can get their hands on. My children are sweet and lovely, mind you. They are fairly well-behaved in public and not completely defiant.  But they are also just very NORMAL.  Which means they like to discover things on their own, especially when I am not looking, and whether they work alone or in tandem, this often means trouble.

So, like most mothers, before I do anything, I tend to run a quick cost-benefit analysis. I use the formula below, designed after much research, to help me assess both the time and money it will cost me to both complete the task and to clean up the destruction that entails. 

DP=3T + $.25T

DP represents the destruction potential in time and money.

T represents the actual time required to complete the task.


Assume that the destruction done during T will require three times as long to clean up (i.e., 3T).

Also assume that the destruction will cost you approximately $.25/minute you are occupied.


I failed to use this formula the other day when accepting a phone call from a friend. We chatted pleasantly for about twenty mintues. I sat in the living room and the children were playing in the adjacent room when I heard a CRASH! Big Sis had climbed to the top of the trash can and knocked over a glass picture frame onto the ground where Lil’ Sis was patiently waiting to eat it or crawl on top of it with her bare knees.

I screamed, excused myself from the conversation, and ran to the kitchen.

I know what you’re thinking. Surely, a broken picture frame did not take you that long to clean up. Of course not. But I had to get the kids and their tender little hands and feet out of harms way, so I shut them into their bedroom while I cleaned up with the shop vac. You know where this is going, don’t you?

In the twenty mintues it took me to clean up, Big Sis (aided and abetted by Lil’, I’m sure) emptied the entire contents of two toy baskets and half of her closet onto the floor. When I came to release them from their confinement, I couldn’t even open the door, there was so much debris strewn about. It took me at least another twenty minutes to shove all the stuff somewhere (because, of course, company was coming over), and will take me another twenty (or sixty) minutes at a later date to reorganize the stuff that I indiscriminately shoved back into the closet.

If I had used my formula, I would have known in advance that a twenty minute conversation would cost me a minimum of sixty mintues in labor and $5 in replacement costs. I still would have taken the call (love ya’ ,MJPW!), but at least I would have known.

Feel free to use my formula and make adjustments based on the number of mobile children you have and their personal penchant for destruction. The formula also works for naughty pets, especially dogs. (I know a dog who would eat a whole loaf of bread if you left it on the counter. Ahem, Annie P.) Also, you can multiply by a higher number if the task you are contemplating is urgent, life-threatening or of a very personal nature (e.g., using the bathroom, applying makeup). I’m sure your children (and/or pets) are as lovely and delightful as mine, they just have a natural inclination to learn by breaking, and we adore them anyway.