Ben's updated adages

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One of the primary functions of parents is to pass on wisdom to their children. It is a particularly difficult chore if your family happens to be wisdom-free, like ours. That's when it's nice to have a copy of "Poor Richard's Almanack" on hand.

"Poor Richard's Almanack" was written in what my children refer to as the "pre-VCR era" – sometime around when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Many kids think the book was titled "Poor Richard's" because Richard was a poor speller (everyone knows that "almanac" doesn't end in K). What today's youths haven't learned is that people used to spell words differently – take, for instance, "Ye Olde Malt Shoppe," from the Archie comic book. Unfortunately, my kids have no idea who Archie is and think he must have lived with Poor Richard and the dinosaurs.

Fortunately for us, Ben Franklin's wisdom applies as much today as it did when he was tragically eaten by a T-Rex while trying to invent fire. Ben said, "A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar," which is a good thing to know if you need to catch flies. He even provided advice for those of us who aren't enamored with catching bugs. Think how intelligent you'll sound the next time the cashier asks, "Paper or plastic?" and you respond, "An empty bag cannot stand upright."

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I'm sure Ben wouldn't mind if I translated his proverbs so my children could understand them. For starters, we'd need a catchier title. Perhaps "Old, Pale, Flabby Dad's Almanac" or "Poor, Poor, Sad, and Pitiful Dad's Big Book of Advice." While those titles are technically accurate, they wouldn't catch my kids' attention. Better call it "101 Secrets for Beating Video Games," so the kids will actually read it.

"The early bird gets the worm" makes more sense as "The first one out of bed gets the last Pop Tart." "He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir" is much clearer as "He's a fool that lets his sister hold his ice-cream cone while he goes to the bathroom." "Little strokes, fell great oaks" is nice, but "Change little folks, when their diapers are soaked" is more practical advice.

Ben also said, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." What Ben forgot to mention was that once you are a parent, you will want to go to bed early but may be up all night with the baby and have to rise early whether you want to or not.

My wife is skeptical of my newfound knowledge, but I'm not discouraged. "The doors of wisdom are never shut," I say, quoting Ben.

"Neither is our back door," she quips, "and flies are coming in."

I'm afraid to suggest that she get rid of the honey.

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