Tag Archives: motheringfrights

Womb with a View: Second extract

This is the second extract from Womb with a View, my forthcoming book that will be published mid-November. You can find out more about it, about me (well, someone might want to) and pre-order the book at www.jodienewman.co.uk. There is a limited first edition being printed as we speak, and the book is a perfect size to slip into someone’s Christmas stocking, so hurry on over there. Go on, the washing up can wait a bit longer.

Maternity Clothes

If ever an object provoked a reluctance to purchase, it is the maternity garment. You buy in the full knowledge that in six months, or sometimes in four, you will have no more use for it. Now I am aware of women who buy clothes seasonally, who keep up with the latest trends and use terms such as ‘capsule wardrobe’ but I have never actually met any in the flesh. Or in the rococo-print pin-tuck shift dress with matching gladiator flats. Personally, I tend to weep if I have to discard an item of clothing before I celebrate its tenth birthday, so to buy something with its life cycle already down to less than a year is a little hard.

It would be easier if I could don the aforementioned item and be transformed into a glowing, elegant vision of a pregnant woman. Unfortunately, it is more likely to make me look like a large whale that happened to swim through a capsized container of charity clothes. It is difficult to feel sexy when your trouser waistband is mainly constructed of heavy-duty ribbed elastic panels and your top seems to have been cut from a leftover hot air balloon.

The last will and testament

We are trundling along the road when E stops.

“Look at that car, mummy,” he says excitedly.

Boys and their cars: there seems to be some irrefutable genetic imperative at work here. This boy thing – to look at cars, to turn a bent twig into a gun (“It shoots a hundred, mummy,” he informs me, just in case I was not aware that he was in possession of quite such an impressive killing stick), to jump around roaring with his fist in the air like some kind of Simba / Superman hybrid – is a fairly recent development. It was not that long ago that he stated pink was his favourite colour and was as likely to want to play with his friend’s toy pushchair than a car. Now, he crinkles his nose and contemptuously proclaims “ugh, that’s a girl’s toy,” when he sees an advert for a doll. His criteria for a toy these days is roughly how much damage it can inflict, how many cars it can contain or how fast he can make it go.

“Look,” he repeats. I follow the line of the stick… sorry, gun, and see a red convertible sitting in someone’s drive.

“Lovely,” I reply.

“What’s that funny roof?” I got up at 5am this morning due to my younger son not wishing to remain lying down for a moment longer whilst there was poo in his nappy, and I can barely summon the energy to zip up my boots, let alone answer Why questions, but I take a deep breath. The trick is to give just enough information to satisfy him, but not so much that it provokes another question. Here goes.

“It’s a special type of roof that folds back, so that when the sun comes out you can drive without a roof.” Hmmm, I don’t think I shall come out of this unscathed.

“Why?” Damn. “Errr…” Yes, come to think of it, why did someone think that having no roof on a car was a good idea? They don’t think it would be a good idea on a house, for fuck’s sake. Or a train. There’d be a newspaper tornado and that double mocha latte wouldn’t last the distance.

“… because it’s fun.” My explanation hangs lamely in the air as we start to walk again, and for one glorious moment I think that the conversation has ended. Then E stops again. Buggar.

“Mummy, when the person who owns that car dies, can we have it?”

Shit. This, I was not expecting. Double shit. How did we get here for Christ’s sake? We were quite happily having an utterly pointless conversation about a convertible and somehow we have managed to stumble into the terrifying territory of having to try and explain the concept of bequeathing your possessions to your loved ones when you die. Who the fuck mentioned death to him? Oh yes, that was me, Parent of the Year 2012.

I clear my throat. “Who told you that people give other people their things when they die?” I try to be casual and dismissive, to make out that this is definitely not a Big Thing, or a Naughty Thing, whilst I ascertain quite what he knows about it. Obviously, I need to work a lot harder at parental nonchalance – he gives me a sideways glance and then just shrugs. A shrug that says quite clearly I can ban television for a month, withhold all chocolate treats, or push Play Mobil firemen up his nostrils, but he is not going to answer that question.

So I plough on. “You’re right, poppet. When someone dies, they will leave a list of who they want to have all their things, because they don’t need them any…” Hang on, back up, back up, this is veering toward the conversation about where people go when they die, and that is one explanation I am not about to attempt. The greatest minds in science and religion have spent millennia pondering this knotty conundrum, I am not about to start attempting to explain it to a four year old twenty minutes before Tesco shuts.

“…so they give them to their friends and family.”

We walk a bit further in silence. I shoot him a quick look to see his reaction to what I have just said. Does he look sad? Bloody hell, is he thinking about us dying? I am going to have to work hard to allay his fears, I do not want him burdened by such thoughts. We walk a few more paces, as I mentally berate myself for my utter idiocy in ever mentioning the D word. I look at E again and he is frowning intently. Shit. He has obviously taken it to heart and is struggling to come to terms with it all.

“So,” he says finally. “When that person dies, can we have that red car then?”

Don’t hold your breath…

It is E’s bedtime. We have got through the entire process, from turning the television off to reading books without a hitch, a tantrum or a whine. In fact, as I was running the bath, E came up the stairs, informed me that he had turned the television off and was ready to get in the bath. I nearly fell down the toilet with amazement and briefly pondered the likelihood that during Jungle Junction,  E had been abducted by aliens who had left his much better-behaved clone behind. Fingers crossed.

So I am tucking him in, and lay my head on the pillow next to his. I am feeling more than a tad smug about my suddenly impeccable parenting skills (obviously his good behaviour has nothing to do with E himself, it is simply a by-product of my super-parenting).

“Don’t do this,” he says sternly, theatrically inhaling an exhaling several times.

“What, don’t breathe?” I ask.

“Yes, don’t breathe mummy.”

And then I say something so spectacularly stupid, so utterly wrong, that even as the words are falling from my mouth I am recoiling in horror at my own idiocy: “But if I don’t breathe, I’ll die.”

The words linger in the small space between my face and his. Now I am bloody well holding my breath, sending a hurried prayer to the god of deafness that he did not hear what I had just said. What sort of a dim-witted parent mentions death three minutes before sleep? Oh yes, that’ll be me then. Fucking well done me. A huge great bombshell of a thought, exploding across the duvet. Go to the bottom of the parenting class. In fact, don’t. Stand outside the classroom with a sodding great hat on my head marked with a D and await further punishment.

There is a long pause. I start to hum, as if some tuneless rendition of Bob the Builder will distract him from the question that is forming in his head. I am so desperate to avoid the inevitable, that I nearly offer him some chocolate buttons.

“Why will you die if you don’t breathe?” he finally asks.

“Well…” Give me bloody strength. Pass that can of worms please, I don’t think it’s open enough yet. “Because your body needs the air that you breathe to live.” Every sodding thing I say seems to be an invitation to ask thirty more questions. I glance at the clock.

“Why?” Oh, the joy to be had when a toddler utters that word. A few weeks ago, I counted fifteen ‘whys’ in a row before I ran out of lies and had to lock him in the shed.

“Your lungs need air to make your body work…” Yes, that is exactly what is called for. A biology lesson. The perfect accompaniment to the autumn-term  module Musings on Death.

“So if I hold my breath…will I die?”

Damn you and the irrefutable logic of a four year old.

“No darling. You can hold your breath for a long, long time before you die.” Am I ever going to bloody stop mentioning death to my son?  “You can hold your breath underwater when you swim and not die.” There’s that word again. I really must stop it.

“So can I swim to Africa holding my breath?”

I feel the inexorable trickle of life force leaving my body through a unspecified orifice.

Err… probably not, no.”

“Can I swim to Australia holding my breath?”

Fucking hell, this could go on for some time.

“You can hold your breath for as long as you want, you will not die.” Oh, I seem to have mentioned dying for the fourth time in one minute.

He looks at me for a while, then pulls the duvet up under his chin.

“Night night, mummy.”

“Night night.”

I leave the room, wondering just how long it will be before my son wakes up sweating and screaming, clawing at his throat for air, screaming ‘I’m going to die! Help me!”.

Parenting skills? I fear I may be excluded and sent to the woodwork class instead. Ah well. Anyone need a tree mug?

Is it wine ‘o’ clock yet?

Having started my day at 5.30am, rescuing B from being stranded on his tummy, wedged sideways in his cot (prompting the thought that it is about bloody time he learned to roll back again, for crying out loud, it’s not as if he’s too busy), the day already threatened to be painful. However, at that point, with my bed hair and half-closed eyes, I  just didn’t know how painful, how quickly.

I cajole E into the car to take him to nursery, having already had to threaten him with no television to get his shoes on – not an auspicious start it has to be said – and I try to ignore a sense of unease that today is already not going to plan. There is only one plan in the mornings: get E to nursery without whinging, refusing to comply or crying. It sounds so simple; a plan so straightforward it barely constitutes a plan. But I am a parent. So I know that this plan can be the most ambitious, crazy idea ever to have been formulated, a plan so fiendishly difficult to pull off, only fools and mothers ever attempt it. To be fair to E, we have had a long, long stretch of mornings that have gone without a hitch. He has been weirdly compliant, chirpy and so utterly well behaved that I started to think that the petulance was a phase that he had grown out of. It would have been nice to think that along with his too-short trousers and too-tight tee shirts, we have packed his petulance and stroppiness in a box and popped it in the loft, for his little brother to try on in a couple of year’s time. Alas no.

I park up in the nursery and go round to open his door. I am tired and a bit pissed off from the early morning cajoling that I have been required to undertake to get us this far, but I smile and give him a breezy ‘let’s go,’ whilst holding my breath to see what happens. Shit happens, is what in fact then transpires. He turns away and refuses to get out.  I take a deep breath and ask again nicely, a request which is roundly ignored, so I take the toy that he is holding and toss it onto the seat next to him. This, in my son’s book, is the gauntlet being thrown well and truly down. Or a Play Mobil spaceman, to be precise. He starts to howl. I straighten up and quite fancy a howl myself, but at that moment one of E’s classmates and his mother walks by.  I smile as if to say: a screaming child? What screaming child?

I half expect to see E frothing at the mouth when next look into the car, such is the ferocity of the crying.  He is showing no sign of abatement and I ponder my options. Leave him in the car and walk home appeals, but is not really practical: it’s a bloody long walk. I sort of know what feels like the sensible option. Somewhere in my fatigue-ridden brain is the notion that I should sit in the car, wait patiently for the histrionics to pass – as they inevitably will – and then calmly walk to the building. But this thought, the least stressful strategy and by far the least embarrassing as it keeps my atrociously behaved child out of the gaze of other morally superior parents who have offspring who are not in the throes of a large case of the screaming ab-dabs –  is buried beneath a large mountain of barely-contained fury and the insistent and repetitive thought of: get this fucking child into nursery NOW.

So I manhandle him out of the car, hissing threats of losing his new bike through a rictus grin in case anyone is watching. I have an urge to drag him by the ear, but instead torso-lock him and manage to get half way to the door before exhaustion kicks in and I have to stop. He starts walking back to the car. I start to really, really wish I was somewhere else. Anywhere else. We stare at each other for a while. I swear, if there had been more room, we would have circled each other. It’s a sodding stand off at the OK Corral.

Now what? I am too furious to think straight but decide abandonment is the next tactic, so head off to reception. “No!” he wails, “don’t leave meeeeee.” His volume is ear splitting, which is nice, as I think someone nineteen streets away had not been aware of the ruckus until now. Finally, we are in the foyer, but there’s still one more door to negotiate. The girl on reception, who would have seen the whole charade on the car park CCTV, asks him if he wants to hear a story about the fish. God bless her for trying. If I was sitting where she was, I would just be pissing myself laughing at such gross parental ineptitude.

Somehow I finally manage to get him up the stairs. This makes it sound just a tad easier than it actually is.  E sits down on every step and wails, heaving his body in slow motion up to the next step with seemingly Herculean effort. His attractive half-cry, half-moan bounces off the cavernous stair well to warn everyone that there is an incompetent mother in the building being bested by her offspring.  By now, several people have witnessed our little performance. There is something quite special about having your son’s tantrum and your own ineffectual parenting style exposed to the world. It’s like a little bit of your soul shrivels up and dies. My dignity would also be severely dented, but I have had two children: the last shred of my dignity was mopped up from the hospital floor years ago.

Eventually, about three years after we left the house, we are in pre-school and are calm. Well, E is calm. I am pretending.

Knackered and utterly pissed off, I go back downstairs, passing reception. “Is it time for a glass of wine?” I ask the girl who is still sitting there, probably replaying those CCTV tapes and wetting herself with uncontained mirth.

She laughs, then looks me firmly in the eye, just to make sure I wasn’t being serious.

As I head to the car, I stop momentarily and think. Just to make sure I wasn’t being serious.

Party like you just don’t care (and now I don’t)

E has turned four, and to mark the occasion we rashly decided that we should arrange a party for him. I think we may have been drunk at the time. The utter horror of having twenty marauding children in our home means that we fork out for a party in a soft play area to spare our aging sofa. It might be cheap to have a party in the house, but I really do not fancy spending the next four months wiping half-masticated chocolate fingers from the book shelf or catching a whiff of pee where a little girl got a tad too excited about playing musical chairs and pissed on the carpet.

The one redeeming feature of this particular soft play centre is that the party area is upstairs, and the play area is not. So all the kids sod off to roll around on over-sized vinyl cubes, leave trails of snot across the slide and terrorise the babies in the under-three area, whilst the adults stay upstairs and chat, coffee in hand. Now that’s my kind of party (which is a sad indictment of my social life, but hey, I have been a parent for four years, and it kind of goes with the territory).

Every so often a child will clamber up the stairs, sweat springing from strands of hair plastered to their red little face, and we will pour a glass of juice down their neck and send them on their way. But the calm is short-lived. Initially due to the staff – two girls who look at you with utter contempt because you had the temerity to ask them a question whilst they were sending a text, or checking Facebook. Actually, I doubt they were checking Facebook. I am on Facebook, which means they probably wouldn’t seen dead on it. It’s probably now the equivalent of an evening at the local village hall: just for oldies who smell a bit.

After much requesting that they get off their arses and do what they are paid for (or slightly politer words to that effect), texter-dum and texter-dee manage to scrape their faces from their mobiles and bring the food. I have had the misfortune to witness a number of party teas now, and the sight of twenty three and four years old eating does not get any less unpleasant. Harassed parents bend over their offspring, optimistically loading up the plate with carrot sticks and sandwiches, whilst the kid just points insistently at the bowl of crisps, making unintelligible grunting noises. There is an undercurrent of parental pressure to demonstrate that little Freddy will eat the vegetables, sandwiches and cucumber and not just stuff his face with a medley of sausage roll, jammy dodger and a Pom Bear crisp. I, and several other parents, were within ear shot of a dad who made the fundamental error of issuing an ultimatum to his child to eat what was on her plate, otherwise there would be no cake. Holy shit, this man was either very brave or very, very, stupid. Never make threats to your child in front of other parents. It is the best entertainment going at a four year old’s party. We all watch him, whilst pretending not to watch. Who is going to back down? What magical tactics will he deploy to get his recalcitrant daughter to comply, thus demonstrating his superior parenting powers? Will she really eat what is on her plate? Of course she fucking doesn’t. She ending up eating the cake anyway, and he eats a large slice of parenting humiliation. We are all a little bit pleased that he has not got some parenting super power that we have not, and then we sigh, because there by the grace of a slice of cucumber and a ham sandwich go the sorry lot of us.

The noise level is rising as the sugar rushes kick in and I decide to bring out the cake and get this whole sitting-at-the-table thing done with. I ask the girls to bring up the cupcakes that will accompany the birthday cake, and they surprisingly comply before nightfall. But with two few cakes to go round. Brilliant. So now I am cutting each cake in half whilst everyone looks on thinking I am the tightest tight arse in tight arse land. I light the candles and plonk the Toy Story themed cake in front of E. This particular creation took me two bloody hours the previous night. I was reluctantly introduced to Royal Icing (why is it called that? Because only the Queen can fucking roll it out without it sticking to everything it comes within three inches of. It’s her icy cold hands, you see) and butter cream. I have lived without knowledge of these two items for many decades, and quite frankly, it was not a pleasant first date getting to know them. The surface of my iced cake looked less like the smooth, perfect cake on the packet and more like the surface of the moon, but a liberal use of Smarties, god bless ’em, and a two inch Buzz and Woody, distracted the eye sufficiently. Or so I thought. After E had blown the candles out, he looked up at me and said: “Can I have a cupcake?”

I was tempted to find out if Buzz would fit up his nostril, but I smiled as I was in public and whisked the cake away for cutting. Which is where I spent the next fifteen minutes, with the help of mother and sister, laboriously cutting, wrapping and bagging up cake, All I can do is keep glancing at my watch to calculate just how long it is until I can have a glass of wine. Ten minutes left.

I feel a tug on my jeans. “Mummy, I need a poo.” I sigh and we head toward the loo. I don’t know what it is about toilets in soft play centres, but they are all utterly disgusting. Actually, I do know. It’s kids. They are the common denominator when it comes to puddles of piss, soggy toilet roll draped across the toilet seat, skid marks and a smell that makes you want to gag. But this is not helped by a general policy to clean them once a week.

We pick our way across the floor, trying to keep to the dry bits. E is only in his socks, and there is only one way his socks are going to end up: pee sodden. I ask if he wants the training seat, and he says he does, so I lift it down from the shelf and a dribble of brown liquid falls to the floor. Oh god, I really might be sick.

Toilet duty over, we return upstairs and hand out the party bags, another evening’s worth of toil surrounded by plastic tat. As the last guest leaves, I ask E if he has had a good time. “Really, really, good,” he replies.

Which is just as well. Because as I stand there, cake stains on my top, my ears ringing with the sound of screaming children, my bank balance and my will to live sorely depleted, I promise myself one thing: next year, it’s a trip to the cinema and a bucket of bloody pop corn.


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Dante’s Car Park

I am in the hospital car park, having had B weighed at the clinic and discussed the best way to un-bung a five month old who has started weaning but forgotten how to poo. I swear quietly but profusely at a 4×4 which has parked in the space next to me far too close to allow me to open the door fully. Sodding idiot, I think, as I stop the pram behind the car. Whoever had designed the car park had seen fit to only include three Parent and Child bays – after all, it’s only a busy hospital, there is bound to be no more than three kids at any one time. And just to add to the joy, they seemed to have cleverly shaved a foot off the width of each bay. Which was fine fifteen years ago, until everyone decided that a hulking great vehicle with tyres that come up to your waist and off-road capabilities was absolutely necessary in case they had to drive through a inordinately muddy puddle on the way to the post box.

In case it is not apparent at this juncture, I hate car parks. Particularly hospital car parks, as there is never a bloody space to park in. They must have severely underestimated the number of ill people, as there seems to be at least three cars for every space, and it took me a good ten minutes to find mine.

There are a few strategies when it comes to trying to find a space. There is the tried and tested Aimless Circles, whereby you simply do circuits of the car park over and over and over again until you either run out of petrol or go slightly insane. Then there is the Sit and Pounce, where you park up, engine idling, checking front, sides and rear view to see if you have stumbled upon the vicinity from which the next punter will depart. Personally, this involves  too little action and far too much being stationary for my liking. And finally, the stalker, where you loiter near the pedestrians departing the hospital buildings and slowly follow them to their car. This one strikes me as a little creepy and intimidating, particularly if the person you are following has just had their leg set in plaster and is still getting to grips with their crutches. Oh, there is another, which is to simply park illegally, but I have enough things to worry about in my life without wondering if I will return to a parking ticket, or to no car at all.

So today, I adopted the Aimless Circles approach. Round and round I went. I spied a lady opening her car. I slowed down even more, only to see her put a bag in her boot and leave again. There really should be a rule in car parks: if you return to your car, that’s it, game over: you must leave. None of this smug ‘oh, I am just dropping off my shopping, and now I am leaving the car in the space that I have and that you DON’T’ nonsense.  I continued to circle, navigating through what increasingly seems like Dante’s Inferno;  I passed through the first circle (limbo), some interminable time later, I pop out the other side of the fifth circle (wrath and sullenness) then cruise at three miles per hour through the seventh (violence).  Which mainly comprised me repeatedly banging my head against the steering wheel.

I was tootling up one of the lanes and another car, also executing the Aimless Circles manoeuvre, approached from the other direction. Almost perfectly in between us, a car reversed out of its space. it felt like I have entered a Western. I squinted my eyes, the other space seeker narrowed theirs. Fingers twitched. Who will be first on the indicator? Time slowed down, the car park fell silent, a small weed tumbled across the tarmac in the breeze. We both indicated: too close to call. I wondered if I should do the right thing and let them take the space? We both edged forward and I considered my options. Nice or nasty? Giver or grabber? And whilst I was deliberating thus, the other car sailed in and takes the space from under my nose. 

Then I was properly grumpy. I threw a few expletives around whilst checking my watch. There was now a back log of Aimless Circlers behind me, so I moved off, passing a Sit and Pounce who looked equally as glum.

I rounded the corner and there, like an automotive mirage bathed in shimmering sunlight, was a car pulling out of a space. There was no car approaching from the other direction and I was blocking the poor saps behind me. The man pulled out of his space and I raced in, heart pounding, sweat glistening on my brow. I have a space, I have a space. Victory was mine. I thanked the god of car park spaces and blessed that man: may the golden light of fortune forever shine on his perfect little Peugeot with the dented back wing.

I heave B out of the pram and somewhat unceremoniously plop him into the car seat. As the combined weight of B and the car seat is unliftable without the aid of a crane, I save ripping my arm muscles in two by leaving the car seat in situ at all times. But just the exertion of manhandling a baby whose thighs seem to be filled with concrete means that I am already building up quite an attractive sheen of sweat. The usual battle then begins as I try to extricate the straps from underneath B and retrieve the centre belt from deep under his bum. He seems remarkably calm as I root around his crotch and find the required elements to fasten him in. I grimace from bending over at an awkward angle, squashed against the door, whilst the sun fries my back through my black tee shirt. In principle, the seat clasp is a doddle: clip two straps together, push into centre clasp – job done. In reality, the effort required to actually get those sodding clips to click is almost Hurculean. I do appreciate that you cannot compromise on the safety of your beloved offspring, but really. I broke a fucking nail. I swear through gritted teeth as B looks on. It is marvellous having a baby around rather than a toddler, as swearing is right back on the agenda and this morning I am definitely making the most of it.

As I wipe my sweaty brow and take a few deep breaths, a voice calls out from behind me: “I presume this is your pram?” I look round to see an old lady pushing my pram toward me. “It rolled across the car park, dear.”

Oops. That’ll be the brake that I forgot to apply, then. I smile at her. How lovely of her, to bring the pram back. That’s the thing with retirees, they have lots of time on their hands to be nice. She sniffs. “It’s just as well your baby wasn’t in it.” Well, the supercilious old trout. That’s what happens when you spend your day watching re-runs of Miss Marple and Cash in the Attic, you turn into a miserable old bitch who likes nothing more than to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and criticise already harassed mothers. I open my mouth to say this. Unfortunately, what comes out is: “Yes, isn’t it.” Damn that polite gene.

The Negotiator

Things are getting fractious between myself and E. Last night I had the audacity to ask a question so outrageous in its presumptuousness that E has had to put his foot down. My exact words were: “Please come upstairs, your bath is ready.”

The request was met with a silence that spoke a thousand words, most of them ‘no’. I asked again. He laid down on the sofa, just  in case simply sitting was taken as a sign that he may well do as he was told any minute.

We are now entering negotiation territory. Actually, to call it a negotiation is somewhat inaccurate. The definition of negotiation is something along the lines of ‘discussion aimed at reaching an agreement’. What is actually happening here is from my side, a discussion aimed at total submission, and from E’s side a discussion aimed at making me chew off my own fingers  in utter frustration.

I take a deep breath and try to channel Super Nanny, but inadvertently seem to have channelled Freddie from Elm Street.

“Get upstairs now,” I say, trying hard to remain calm and not shout. This endeavour, it turns out, is a complete and utter waste of time and as E replies with a defiant  ‘no’, calm, quiet and their bedfellow effective parenting all leave the room in a huff.

Despite overwhelming evidence that shouting does not work, I decide to give it one last go in case since I last shouted,  it has undergone an effectiveness make over and is now the parenting style du jour.  Alas, no. One shout later and E is lying on his stomach, just in case lying on his back was taken as a sign that he may weaken at any minute.

So I bring out the big guns, used by professional negotiators everywhere when swift resolution is required.

“If you don’t get upstairs now, you will lose television for a week.” Hah, stick that, stroppy boy.

“I don’t want television anyway,” E replies. Now, despite knowing that this is a lie of an impressive magnitude, it immediately neuters my threat and I cast around for Plan B.

“Fine. I will take away your pirate ship.”

“I don’t want my pirate ship.”

“Your scooter.”  Plan C isn’t up to much, admittedly.

“Don’t want it.”

Goddamn him. How are we supposed to negotiate if he doesn’t stick to the rules?  Rule one: on threat of treat removal, capitulate immediately. Rule two: never pretend that the treats or toys are indispensable. Rule three: don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve. (Okay, that is not a negotiation rule. But given the state of his sleeves, it’s worth a try at any juncture).

So I move to Rule four: when rules one and two are ignored, abort negotiation.

I pick him up, kicking and screaming, and haul him up the stairs. Well, I think negotiation is overrated… particularly when I am losing.