Children are a joy in and of themselves. This is true but they also serve important functions in a family unit and have many “passive uses” as mediator, interpreter, and disseminator of a wide range of truths from the nearly factual to the un. They are good for all that. While many parents naturally use their children in ways I’m about to describe, being consciously aware of these uses will only maximize your state of Zen and parenting skills. For example, text and email make it easier for us to avoid phone calls and having to actually speak to someone. This is where children come in. Instead conveying your lack of enthusiasm about something to your significant other, your child could be your messaging service: “Hey! Go tell mommy I don’t want to cook tonight.” See? Message sent. What makes us so competitive and successful as a dominant species is our ability to convey thoughts and ideas then spread them across wider populations. We begin to learn about these powers of communication and dissemination even before we learn to speak. As parents, we’ve seen our children take new ideas, given to them by parent A, to parent B: “Mommy says this package is for making little pizzas!” “That’s a Luncheable,” parent B says, adding new information to the mix. Returning to parent A, the child declares, “Mommy! You forgot that this is a Luncheable!” That little shit. I told her that. How dare she quote me without credit! Sure the kid co-opted the new information as her own, but that’s how they learn. They beg, borrow, steal, and plagiarize – it’s the law of nature. Darwin’s law, I’m told. On a deeper level, they’re using both parents to shape their understanding of reality. Sometimes, though, in their zealotry to explain the information they’ve co-opted, they can embarrass you on an escalator to the subway: “Daddy it’s raining hard! That means God is peeing on us, right?” Of course, children don’t know that some information shouldn’t be spread, but one hopes they’ll learn. Children can often be used as unofficial mediators, and we’ve learned to use the child to communicate our positions on hard decisions without debate, or even actual words. For example: “Daddy! I want ice cream!” The request is a potential problem, and a tantrum could be imminent. Personally, I default against sweets and will doggedly hold that line (except on Fridays), but I don’t always want to sacrifice my peace of mind to stick to my guns. Besides, four-year-olds are capricious and anger pops up like freak storms in the Midwest. “Go ask your mother. If she says yes, then fuck it. You can have some.” Here, the child is used to effectively communicate one parent’s laziness and ambivalence to the other parent without actually speaking to them. Basically saying, “You deal with it.” This tactic eliminates tantrums and foists parental responsibilities on the other parent without verbally putting anyone on the spot. Parent A retains his peace of mind, Parent B gets to be the good guy, and the child’s inner hulk remains dormant. The trick is learning how to maximize your child’s potential as a mediator, facilitator, spreader of a wide range of truths, and email service, to maintain a peaceful home life.