Mother, May I? is the fifth episode and Season 3 of The Cosby Show, also the 54th overall in the series. The episode was directed by Jay Sandrich and written by Susan Fales, who would go on to become a producer for The Cosby Show's spinoff series A Different World, eventually rising to the position of executive producer of the series during its final season. The episode Mother, May I? originally aired in the United States on NBC on October 23, 1986.


After Clair specifically forbids Vanessa from wearing make-up till she turns 15, she does it anyway behind her mother's back. Clair then talks to Vanessa and reminds her she has to wait until she is 15 years old. Theo is taking a fire safety class at school and quizzes his parents on procedures.

Plot summaryEdit

Cliff and Clair have their hands full with Vanessa, after the rebellious teenager ignores their order not to wear make-up - and comes home from school with the evidence all over her face. Also, after learning about fire safety in school, Theo urges his father to examine the smoke alarms in their home and arranges for a family fire drill.


The title is based on the childhood game based on asking permission to move.

Scene quotesEdit

  • Cliff: [coming into the kitchen to find Clair counting backwards] Uh-oh, she's counting down. Who's in trouble?
  • Clair: 29, 28, Vanessa, 27, 26.
  • Cliff: What's she in trouble for?
  • Clair: 25, 24, 23, 22, after we had our long discussion she had the nerve to come in this house with make-up on.
  • Cliff: Yeah, they want to grow up really fast, don't they?

Note: Sabrina Le Beauf and Lisa Bonet both do not appear in this episode.