[This is something I wrote ten years ago and never published.]
I'm sitting at my computer in the office upstairs trying to compose some listings for eBay. My 13-year-old son Thomas is downstairs looking after my three-year-old son William, while my seven-month-old son Daniel sleeps in the bedroom adjacent to my office. All is right with the world.
Until William starts crying. "What are you crying about?" I call down to him.
"Tommy say no raisin totes," comes the reply. Being a father, I understand this.
"Thomas," I call down, "I said he could have raisin toast." This would settle the matter, except that William is already headed up the stairs to explain to me again that his brother wouldn't let him have any raisin toast. His vociferous objections wake the baby, for the fifth time this morning, and Daniel begins screaming.
I send William downstairs, with loud instructions to Thomas to give him raisin toast, and I go in to calm the baby. When I finally get back to my computer after this all-too-familiar interruption, a strange notion occurs to me: I wonder if anybody on eBay would like to bid for my kids.
It's not such a wild thought, is it? After all, in a recent listing, a gentleman put his soul up for auction. Of course, it didn't sell, but what would you do with it? On the other hand, one young lady auctioned her services as a mourner at the winning bidder's funeral. She got $1,500. What could I get for three healthy boys?
So I start to compose a listing: "You are bidding on a 13-year-old male in excellent health. Doesn't run. Doesn't even walk very fast. Will work if nagged incessantly. Talents include taunting three-year-old boys (see my other auctions). Has braces, which are not paid for. Eats without end." Hmm. Okay, one point for truth in advertising, but minus ten for effectiveness.
I try again: "You are bidding on a healthy 13-year-old male. Superb artistic ability. Intelligent and sensitive. Terrific big brother (see my other auctions)." Ah, much better. Heck, even I might bid on a teenager like that.
Now to the three-year-old. "You are bidding on a healthy three-year-old boy with beautiful dark brown eyes and a sparkling personality. Loves to cuddle. Still learning to talk. Potty trained. Unbelievably cute." I think I'm getting the hang of this.
One more to go: "You are bidding on a healthy seven-month-old baby boy. Piercing blue eyes. Charming crooked smile. No excessive crying. Eating solids. Not yet crawling." Not bad at all.
Now to the matter of price. How much is each of my boys worth? A million? A billion? Priceless? I delete the listings and disconnect from the Internet. [This was ten years ago; I had dial-up.] I go into the boys' room and kiss Daniel as he sleeps. I head downstairs to give William his lunch before nap time. And I hug Thomas and tell him that, yes, he can play his Game Cube after he does his reading.
Once William is down for his nap, I return to my computer where, before I resume work, I add one item to my list of daily reminders, right under "Take Your Vioxx."
It reads: "Don't Sell the Kids."