Today I came face to face with the truth about my own maturity level. In some 30 years of being an adult, the only thing I’ve grown out of is my jeans.

This morning, my sister Keltie called. Our conversation went something like this:

Keltie: I’ve been thinking about the big family occasion coming up and ...

Me: Me! Me! I’ll do everything! I’ll cook! I’ll clean! I’ll get the gift and the card and the cake and my kids will hand-sew a banner and write a commemorative poem and ...
Keltie: What can I do to help?

Me: You can remind me what we’re celebrating.

Keltie: Anne, are you sure you want to do all this?

Me: Would I offer if I didn’t want to?

This is a ridiculous question. Of course I would. The fact is, though, there is one thing hosting this gathering that will bring me what I can’t get anywhere else. Not quality time with my family. I’m talking about brownie points.

Loosely defined, in any group of siblings brownie points means, “Mom always liked me best but just to make sure, look, I’ve bought her a car.” To acquire brownie points you simply need to one-up your brothers and sisters in any small way. A sample scale is as follows:

Calling Mom even when you don’t need her to babysit=four points.

Helping Dad organize the basement=six points (Add an additional two points for not saying, “Do you really need to keep your bowling score cards from 1948?” more than three times.)
Acting straight in front of great aunt Elsie=1,200 points.

Producing grandchildren=200 million billion points.

Years ago, I read a book entitled, Siblings Without Rivalry. Frankly, they might as well have called it Living Without Breathing. In most families, vying for parental approval seems to be the norm. I asked a family psychology expert why this is.

Learned doctor: In the early history of humankind, a child’s need to establish their superior status in the affections of parents stemmed from his/her instinct to secure protection from predators.

Me: And in modern times?

Learned doctor: Now we’re just brats.

I myself do not approve of petty competition between brothers and sisters. Unless, of course, I’m winning. But there’s a bigger problem with brownie points. At the end of the day I have a sneaking suspicion Mom loves us all the same.