A Grand River Quiz and Standard Disclaimers…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, July 17, 2010

One of the real treats of teenage children is having them list parenting techniques that they, as it turns out, really hated. For example, my kids never liked it when I locked them in the basement closet with all the spiders as punishment for refusing to steal cigarettes for me. Who knew they were so sensitive?… Um, right.

Actually the instances they tend to bring up are more on the subtle side. One technique that apparently was universally despised was my use of the term “standard disclaimer.” My kids were all both highly creative and somewhat dubious that I was capable of having good ideas. The net result being long, tedious delays before certain events. Sometimes Jane and I had time to indulge them; and sometimes (as all parents know) you just have to make things happen. Here’s how it worked:

Me: Okay, it’s time for bed. Let’s put these toys away.
Kid: But what if we want to play with them tomorrow.
Me: Then you can get them out tomorrow.
Kid: But what if I forget about the ones I want to play with.
Me: Put them on top.
Kid: But what if somebody moves them around and my favorite one falls to the bottom and gets crushed and turns to dust and floats —
Me: Standard disclaimer.

And with that the discussion was over. “Standard disclaimer” meant “all these scenarios, all the highly improbable eventualities you are spinning right now, they matter less than what we need to focus on. So we’re not going to discuss it further. Let’s go.”

Circling back around to this week’s comic: The Press is running a series of stories about the Grand River, the longest river in Michigan. Like many Midwestern waterways it was horribly polluted by the 1970s, but is in much better shape now. What happened? Well, as I hope you guessed, the correct answer was “C.” (You can’t just pick “B” because you’re a Charlton Heston fan — SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!) I’m old enough to remember that there were people who argued against the Clean Water Act and spun their highly improbable eventualities till somebody declared “standard disclaimer,” and it became law. It wasn’t a perfect law, certainly, but it was time to fix problems and make things happen.

Ugh. You know, sometimes I get to the end of these things and I think “what point was I trying to make?” Because I’m obviously torturing two ideas in a mighty attempt to get them to connect. Let’s go with this: If parents weren’t jerks sometimes then there wouldn’t be clean water.


  1. Ellie said,

    July 28, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

    Even reading the words makes me bitter.

  2. Tyler said,

    July 30, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    Thanks John. I think I’ll use that phrase when I have kids. Keep the cycle going.

    How about “Clean Water is People”?

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