The circles of hell

Sep 28, 2007 at 9:29 p.m. ET

Dante had it all wrong. The circles of hell do not correspond with sin. They correspond with the stages of children and I know what the first three levels are like from experience.

Level one -- Your task is to dress and feed a child. This is your only task and you have all day to do it. The child is two-years old and absolutely refuses to wear anything. When you do succeed it looks very much like you were drunk when you did it. If you have nothing better to do for the day, you can afford the time to wrestle, plead, cajole, threaten and inevitably give in to the child and let him wear whatever he wants. If you need to leave in fifteen minutes, call up and cancel your appointment. It's not going to happen.

Feeding this little hellion will only amount to the child throwing the food on the floor and screaming that he hates it. Or, you'll finally create a dish he desires and he'll scream because the peas are touching the macaroni. Or, you'll have cut his sandwich in squares and he'll want triangles.

By the time you finish feeding him, you'll have to get him into a clean change of clothes. Simply repeat the episode from the morning. This will get him good and hungry for the next meal that he will refuse with great enthusiasm no matter how hungry he is.

Level two -- You will be assigned a three-year old to follow you everywhere. No place is sacred. From the kitchen to the bathroom this child will repeat everything you say in the form of a question.

"Please don't stand on the cat."

"Don't stand on the cat?"

"Stop picking your nose."

"Picking my nose?"

"Why is there jelly in my slipper?"

"Jelly in your slipper?"

Level three -- You are escorted by two kids, ages four and five. They are bright enough to think up their own questions. The four-year old asks why pumpkins rot, why crayons melt in the car and what makes Jell-o jiggle. Be prepared to be a walking encyclopedia because you will need to be an expert on everything.

The five-year old will just ask one question five MILLION times a day.

"We're going to the store."


"To buy groceries."


"To eat."


"Because we need food for energy."


"Because God made us that way."

Before the five-year old can say anything...along comes a smarmy seven-year old to ask. "Who's God?"

There are more than nine circles of hell and they continue right on through the teen years. I think Dante was just being kind. But he got one thing right. Raising kids IS a divine comedy.