Admittedly, I'm older than most parents of 15, 19, 21 and 24 year olds. When my children suddenly ask me why I'm so much older than the other mothers (this difference seems to hit them around second grade), I simply say that I didn't meet their father until I was 30, so it just took us longer.

However, I never really sit them down and let them know how much I've aged because of them. Sometimes, I honestly believe I'd be about 40 if I hadn't survived these four, instead of my decidedly older 57.

If there are any children out there seeking advice on how to keep their parents young, I have some suggestions. Save them from moments like:

? "Mrs. Murry, this is the principal and your child is here in my office..."

? "Hey Mom, do you know that when you use a hair spray and a lighter, you can melt He-Man figures?"

? "Mom, I fired the baby-sitter because she wants to watch soap operas instead of play with me. Can you come home?"

? "Mom, you didn't answer your phone. I've gone to Portland with Justin."

All of these things have been said to me. Other things that made me older include the sound of a pained gasp followed by a loud pop, and ending in darkness. That's what happens when a curious child and a fork get acquainted with an electrical outlet.

And then, there are the boy-specific aging statements. For example, when "The Ghostbusters" was the movie of the year:

"Let's cross the streams," they would yell during a visit to the bathroom.

The interesting thing about all the premature aging my children have done with my mind is that it's only part of the child-rearing puzzle. One day, I realized that, because of my children, I sleep soundly each night. Exhaustion, it seems, can also be healthy.

In addition, while they've done their part in aging me, they also keep me young. How else would I know that Christopher Walken danced in a rap video, and free skiing doesn't mean you don't pay, but rather that you do very dangerous tricks.

So, when push comes to shove, the premature aging is the price we have to pay - but the gifts that spring from it are much bigger.

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"Home Front" by EO Community Editor Terry Murry is published every Tuesday.

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