In her irreverent guide to child-rearing, author Christie Mellor makes the case that children should never have become the center of the adult universe and are, frankly, only as good as their last martini.
To buttress her point in "The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting" (Chronicle Books, $12.95), she includes a recipe any youngster should be able to master.
"All young children should know how to make this delightful yet deceptively simple cocktail for their parents and other thirsty grown-ups who drop by around 5 o'clock," writes the first-time author and veteran parent.
She suggests that your preschooler also be taught to ask "Olive or twist?" and to say "Cheers!"
For parents, this book is the ticket off the child-centric hamster wheel. It is a laugh-a-page guide to benign neglect, and it wittily makes the case that children were put on this Earth to wait on their parents and not the other way around.
In her chapter "Child labor: not just for the Third World!" Mellor talks about chores and gives this advice:
"Compliment your child's work and encourage thoroughness, reminding him that if he lived in Pakistan or Turkey he would be hunkered over a loom for nine hours a day, or busy hand-knotting rugs in a very stuffy room."
"I had been stewing about this for a long time," said Mellor, mother of 12-year-old Edison and 7-year-old Atticus.
"I got so tired of all the precious mommies and daddies who were centering everything around their children and not enjoying their own lives.
"And the result was children who were brats."
Mellor lives with her husband, Richard Goldman, and their children in the heart of Los Angeles, where she works as an actress and a screenwriter.
But to her surprise, she's gotten letters and e-mails from the American heartland suggesting that this little prince and little princess child-rearing approach is not just more California goofiness.
"Sadly, this seems to be pervasive."
As is the humor and good sense in this book, delightfully illustrated with paper dolls from the author's collection, to which the odd cocktail shaker has been added.
"We have become ineffectual lapdogs to our children," she writes, "with all the power and authority of retired security guards. We are bigger than they are. We are supposed to be running things."
Plus, "letting children choose their own bedtimes is, simply put, insane. Why would one do such a thing?"
And, "if you would like to include your children, albeit briefly, at the start of whatever festivities you have planned, you might consider teaching them to pass a plate of hors d'oeuvres or distribute cocktail napkins."
Mellor's book is heavy on advice for getting children out of the way so the grown-ups can drink.
In today's self-conscious world, where only teenagers seem to be able to drink without guilt, it is a brave approach.
"I have been criticized for talking about heavy drinking in the context of children," she said, "but that is like the people who sit down at a dinner party and start talking about all the carbs they can't have. It is so off-putting.
"I am trying to make the point that the grown-ups should step back and take a look at what they are doing. It is their life and they should live it.
"I hope it is good advice, couched in over-the-top humor to make it palatable."
Mellor suggests, among other things, that parents not cave in to their children's demands for white noodles and butter for every dinner and instead starve them for three to five days so they will cheerfully consume mommy's Coq au Poivre or her cauliflower torte.
She also suggests that parents not buy their children toys, but instead take them to visit friends with lots of toys, particularly the children of bitterly divorced parents whose homes are filled with "staggering examples of one-upmanship."
The "Three-Martini Playdate" is fresh and funny, and it has been read and approved of by Mellor's oldest boy.
"He is proud of his mom, but it isn't like any of this came as a surprise to either one of them.
"Both of my kids are pretty used to it."