Until it's staring you in the face, you don't realize how crucial is this one choice you have, the one the books don't tell you about: the choice to either have a sense of humor about small disasters, or not. For example, to quickly extricate by tickling the three year old who jumps across into the driver's seat and, while you're parked on a hill, takes the car out of gear. Because I guess everyone assumes you're either blessed with a humor muscle all toned up and ready to go from birth, or you're born with a weak little humor muscle, all withered and useless, and no way to flex it but with several grams of mushrooms and a leisurely afternoon in which to contemplate your fingerprints. Parenting books go on and on about giving children choices (in our house it's usually just Corona or Amstel, and kids quickly develop their own preferences). But you have a choice, too. You can choose to cheer up a cranky preschooler by insisting that Monkey Boogers come out of his butt, or by pretending to vomit up a tennis ball, or by wearing a t-shirt from the local skate shop with the picture of Raggedy Ann brandishing a smoking gun.

On the flip side, it's a rare children's book or movie that rewards parents who are actually paying attention. There are many children's entertainments that you don't have to watch with your child and explain all the way through. Clifford the Big Red Dog, for example; you know nothing unpleasant's going to happen in a Clifford cartoon, except for that time the voice of Clifford, the late John Ritter, spent nine hours screwing a whore in Hollywood and got outed in You'll Never Make Love In This Town Again.

But if you do choose to pay attention, children's books and movies sometimes bless you with a genuine brief inward secret Wiley Coyote smile. Like that scene in Shrek 2 when Donkey walks into a bar and the bartender says: "Why the long face?"

Or that "Pinky and the Brain" cartoon you find yourself listening to a little more closely because it sounds like the voice actors are doing Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

Or this page from Walter the Farting Dog:

It's the little things that help me get through my days.