Wednesday, January 5, 2011


See that guy in the green shorts?
I could totally beat him to the potty.
If I ever write a parenting book, I'd call it Get Ready, Get Set, Manipulate! How To Exploit Little Kids' Willingness to Believe Absolutely Anything. I calculate that we have "raced" Stella to the potty at least a thousand times, and darned if she hasn't won EVERY SINGLE TIME. She doesn't seem to think it's strange that my winning percentage is less than 0.1%. An adult would understand that even if you raced someone very fast, like Michael Vick, to the potty, at least 1 out of 1,000 times he'd have forgotten to take his steroids or need to go feed his dog or something, and you could edge him out. Stella, on the other hand, is going to think she is eligible to participate in the Olympic trials any day now, and ask officials if they could put a potty at the end of the track.

The other way we trick Stella into doing what we want is by making a big show out of mock-telling her NOT to do something, which is her cue to scurry to "disobey" us as fast as possible. This approach works great for now but I'm hoping that she wises up before adulthood. I can just see her standing in front of the judge, saying "But I thought that when the law said 'No Breaking and Entering,' that meant you wanted me to do that."

It also helps Stella complete certain tasks if I "forget" how to do something, like putting on my pants, then ask Stella to show me how. Of course, it also ensures that she thinks Mama's a buffoon who can't put on pants without daily coaching, but for now I'm willing to take one for the team.

On an aside, it used to take Stella eons to get dressed in the morning, which was the source of much conflict between us. Then the radiator in her room stopped working properly, making her room the coldest one in the house -- and in our house, that is really saying something. I haven't looked into fixing the radiator, because now she positively flings her clothes on and races out of her room to get to a warmer location. This reminds me of scientific experiments with earthworms that involve giving small electric shocks to direct the worms in certain directions, not that I am comparing Stella to an earthworm, although it would be nice to set up some sort of power field around Baby W so that she completed a circuit and got a mild bbbzzzzt! every time she bopped him on the head.

I also find it helpful to engage in what I refer to as Strategic Package Management, and before anyone starts making Beavis and Butthead laughs and saying "you said 'package management,'" let me explain what this means. Actually, first let me marvel that my spell-checker does not recognize the word "butthead." Butthead is most definitely a word, and if my spell-checker does not agree then that's going to be a problem, since I anticipate heavy personal usage of that word in the upcoming year given the results of the recent election.

Anyway, Strategic Package Management means that I squirreled away a Christmas present or two, to be brought out either at moments of international diplomatic crisis especially involving two nuclear nations such as India and Pakistan OR a temper tantrum, and in our household it does tend to be the latter. "Discovering" a new package cheers Stella right up, and maybe it would work for the leaders of India and Pakistan, who if my memory banks are accurate, are Gandhi and some guy named Tony. Strategic Package Management is a little bit like tithing, only instead of giving to the church, you contribute assets to appease the gods that govern a five-year-old's psyche.

The bottom line is that it takes a lot of effort to get little kids to do what you want while still maintaining peace in the household. All that cajoling and wheedling is a lot of work, especially for me -- I can't even put my pants on without help.

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