Input/output isn't just an economic theory

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As a parent, it's your responsibility to directly monitor the input into your children's lives so you don't have to pay a therapist to analyze the output.

For example, during our rough-and-tumble activity time, wrestling plays a little part. The result is that every morning -- already 10 minutes behind schedule -- I have to fight Nikki into her clothes. She thinks it's a great game. I would, too, if the clock wasn't ticking. When I finally wrestle one leg in her pants, she manages to get it out while I'm focused on the other one.

Another form of input that must be monitored closely is food. What goes in must come out, and there are so many forms it can come out in.

The one most suitable for print is the overload of candy both my girls gobbled down on Valentine's Day.

Not only did they get their own little pieces of chocolate, they managed to stack chairs against the kitchen counter to get a sizeable portion of mine, too. Did I say sizable? I meant all of it.

Add that to the M&Ms and the Cheetos a friend (theirs, not mine) shared with them, and the equation equals two very wired and not at all cooperative children. It took hours to calm them down enough to get them to sleep and that was amid their begging for more sweets.

Television is a major input factor in children's lives. It doesn't matter how much TV they watch, every little bit has an impact.

Katie, through her experience watching "The Simpsons" has developed a real affinity for the characters. The result has been two-fold. We can't seem to keep her out of her brothers' room, where a variety of "Simpsons"-based games are stacked. Her favorite is Clue because it comes with a tiny metal donut and small figurines. So, the second result is that she carries around one of the little people, which, because it's about three-quarters of an inch high, is hard to keep track of. The histrionics when it comes up missing aren't worth bearing.

Constant vigilance.

But sometimes you just let it slide. I was flipping through channels one night when we came across a network television showing of Jurassic Park III. I was quick to change to a more child-appropriate program, but not quick enough.

One glance at those dinosaurs was enough to have my two small ones hooked.

They cried when I tried to change the channel. Nikki grabbed the remote control and actually pushed buttons in search of the show (she managed to turn the volume up, but that's about all). Katie was a little less emotional, but no less insistent.

"Find Dinosaurs mommy. Find dinosaurs."

We watched the rest of the movie together -- they were enthralled, while I was envisioning sleeping pressed between two 98-degree bodies every night for the next two weeks.

Fortunately the movie I saw was nothing like the one that registered in their little minds.

They saw mommy and daddy and baby dinosaurs romping around with their human friends.

Katie even said "nice dinosaur" several times.

I guess perspective is a key factor in my input/output model.

They went to sleep easily (their own beds) and have managed to not register the original intent of the movie in any form.

I'm pretty happy with that. More rested, too.

I took a calculated risk and managed, by luck and God's grace, to have it turn out in my favor, but being the educated and aware parent I am, I'm well-informed of what the potential consequences were.

We'll stick to "The Land Before Time" for the time being.

I can handle the consequences of that decision -- Katie's repetitive "yup, yup, yup" and "nope, nope, nope."

I figure that's not bad in the face of the alternatives -- nightmares and sleepless nights.

Yup, yup, yup, that's OK with me.

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