The other day I was shopping and I saw a mother struggling to separate her three young children, who were engaged in a hearty brawl. Employing the parental technique of instantaneously developing a second set of arms, she was able to pry the imps apart and put some distance between their flailing appendages.

As soon as calm was restored, each child began to justify his particular actions and document his perceived slights.

“I don’t want to hear it,” the mother hissed. “I just don’t want to hear it.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell this poor woman, but if she thinks she doesn’t want to hear them in the throes of battle, wait until the kids start getting along.

I can remember when my own three sons were about the ages of her children and they began to take breaks from the sibling rivalry that had them trying to manually remove each other’s spleens without the aid of anesthesia.

Often around this time, I’d be in another room listening carefully for the crack of bones, and I would hear other tidbits of communication between them that didn’t involve screaming, whining, or death threats.

The problem was that many times when I ended up hearing parts of their conversations I would immediately realize I didn’t want to hear any more; either because I would get too upset by their activity, or because I might be asked a difficult follow-up question. Whenever this happened I would quietly get up, go outside, and take a very long walk. Examples of the types of statements which might make the hair on the back of my neck stand up and prompt my quick exit are as follows:

1) Where does the shoe go after you flush it down the toilet, anyway?

2) Are you sure Dad will let us use his saw in the living room?

3) If you were stuck on an island and you didn’t have any food, couldn’t you just eat boogers?

4) See, you really can make Jello in the tub.

5) Wow, that’s a lot of blood!

6) Today for sharing I told the class about the noises Dad makes in the morning…

7) At least the window didn’t break, it only cracked.

8) I never thought we could melt it with just a light bulb!

9) Now we can shave the dog.

10) I’m going to go ask Dad if this snake is poisonous.

11) Cut my hair like you cut yours.

12) This time really bounce hard and see if you can hit the ceiling fan.

13) Once the honey dries, I’m sure the keyboard will work again.

14) Dad won’t mind. It’s only a small dent.

15) Quick! Wipe it up with this!

16) Don’t worry, swallowing a battery won’t kill you.

17) Watch what happens when you put a Matchbox car in the microwave.

18) I’ve been keeping my dead bug collection in the salt shaker so Dad won’t find it.

19) Okay, the rocket is finished. Now we need to get some gasoline and matches.

20) Great, it’s stuck. I told you not to put it up your nose.

21) That’s not a chipmunk, that’s a squirrel. I wonder how it got under the sofa?

22) You’re right the bills with the fives on them burn better than the bills with the ones on them.

23) Look, I spelled my name in the carpet using these scissors.

24) Those aren’t stickers you put on the wall. Those are Dad’s stamps.

25) I told you you can bend a fork with pliers.

26) Just don’t touch this metal wire with your tongue.

27) The frog is missing. I knew it would get out if you didn’t close the drawer all the way.

28) Now carve your name in the table where you sit.

29) Dad will be so surprised we painted his new car!

30) I wonder if he will be able to walk if you pull off another leg.

31) It’s OK. That was one of your baby teeth.

And finally, the all-time winner for an overheard statement that would guarantee my stealthy exit from the house ...

32) A kid in school told me a weird story about where babies come from. Let’s go ask Dad if it’s true.

Mark Albury is a regular contributor to The Times Argus. He lives in Northfield Falls.

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