On Bribery and Bargaining

We’ve all been there.

A frustrating meal time with a lovingly prepared plate being turned down to the tune of angry cries and unnecessary screams of apparent torture.

A public showdown with an angry toddler in a supermarket who won’t move from the inside of a chest freezer.

Two exhausted parents battling to get a child into bed for longer than forty five seconds at a time.

And we’ve all done it, reached for the biscuit tin, or the chocolate buttons. It’s so easy to manage the situation that way, without raised voices or threats or wasting hours of your time. Aside from that, it’s such a relief to finally have an old enough child that can be reasoned with enough to make a compromise. Eat five more bites of lunch and u can have a chocolate button. If you stay in your bed, I’ll go get you a biscuit. What a pleasure to not have a baby, to not have to reiterate your expectation seventeen different ways, speaking slower and louder as if your child is a Japanese tourist, with large expansive gestures. and at the end of the exchange you’re no better off, with the same comprehension success rate as you would have with the tourist. It’s just so tempting to save yourself the hassle, especially considering the extent of your compromise. It’s one piece of choc. It’s one animal biscuit, it’s a tiny bit of juice. What’s the harm really?

(I would add at this point its not just food, it’s also DVDs, iPad games, etc. basically any ‘treats’ which the kid doesn’t have on tap. In our house unsurprisingly, unhealthy food holds the most allure.)

But at what point does making your life easier simply become spoiling your child?

Lately, I’m beginning to think its much less about how large the treat is, and more about the power play.

To emphasise, let me share a story from this week. R and I were sitting at his table, enjoying a (delicious, not that it matters) lunch of pasta and sauce. I’m aware my son likes his pasta exactly the way I did until I was 16-entirely plain and not touching any other foods. And it makes me want to scream. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony, and yes, I should probably apologise to my own mum.) but I’m trying really hard to break R’s habit at a younger age to my own. After fifteen mins of unsuccessful yum yum noises and many coaxing attempts at telling him what a big boy he is, reading stories and the like, I was ready to scream into a pillow. I turned to him and reached for my hidden Ace. “R? If you eat your pasta, you can have TWO choc buttons. Wowww” I stressed, emphasising the excitement of doubling the usual bribe.
My son sat down in his seat, and picked up his spoon with one hand. Pausing before he began eating, he turned to face me. Using all his new mathematical skills, he spread his other hand in my face, fingers outstretched.

“No.” He smiled through his tearstained face. “Five.”

As momentarily shocked as I was at my two year old playing hardball, I managed to remember my policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and he went to bed without any lunch at all.

But the episode has stayed with me. If I’d given him the five choc buttons, he would have happily munched down the entire plate of food, and it would still have been less choc than I would offer as a special treat in other circumstances. We brush his teeth regularly, he eats healthily and has sugar in moderation, it wouldn’t have done him any damage physically. But what’s stopping him asking for ten next time? Or a snickers bar for that matter? And how can I say no when I’m the one who has given him the expectation that eating his meals = chocolate. Or staying in bed = biscuits? And even more so, that its up to him to set the boundaries?

For me it’s a hard one. I don’t want to give up the ability to fix a problem 123, and sometimes when the food is new or the sleep is urgent I really don’t mind the normal rules dropping by the wayside. But I suppose I’ve noticed how easy it is for them to get lost altogether, and for the ‘one offs’ to become everyday practices. And with what amounts to a tiny little sponge learning from everything we do and say, creating his own world of right and wrong behaviour around our actions, I hope I can try and find some healthier methods of coercion at the next macaroni cheese slinging event or 2am wake up call.

bribing mealtime

It took a lot of training but….

I have finally taught my 2yo to do the dishes! 🙂 I knew he would come in handy some day.

Testing the temperature of the water….

Good! Washing up…

Of course, I do seem to spend double the time the washing up would have taken drying off the rest of the kitchen and clearing up broken bits of plate…. And the ‘washed up’ utensils don’t actually seem that clean… But there’s a reason they call them baby steps right?

Reassure me parents of the world, it’s only a matter of time before I can spend my days reclining on the couch while my toddler takes the place of a costly eastern European cleaner correct? (He already has the English language skills down pat.)

Look, do you want it done quick, or do you want it done right?


Writers Block

After suffering from writers block last week, I’ve compiled a list of ideas for those of you writey types afflicted with the same disease. We all have times when the creative spring dries up, our pencil stops scratching mid-sentence, and we are plunged into self doubt and frozen inaction.

Of course, you may enjoy staring at the blank screen, watching the cursor blink, or gazing into the semi-distance waiting for inspiration to strike. If so, carry on by all means. If not, then I give you…

Top Tips for Curing Writers Block

1. Change your topic
Writing something completely different can often help clear your mind enough to get back onto the project at hand. If you are stuck in the plot of your novel, take a break from it and work on a short story or some prose, and let a different concept fill your mind for a day or two.Coming back to it a while later, you are bound to be able to see the problems from a different angle, and carry on where you left off.

2. Keep Writing
Taking a break from writing for an afternoon is a great idea. I’m also a big fan of sleeping on it. However, taking a week off to ‘recharge’ may work for some, but is more likely to stretch into longer. Inaction breeds inaction. Even if you need a holiday from your subject matter, try to keep writing something every day, even a diary entry or a blog. (Facebook statuses dont count.)

3. Borrow
Stuck at the beginning of a masterpiece? Not sure how to even begin? Try borrowing a line from one of the greats, search for quotes online and use that as a springboard to get writing. Having never written a sonnet before, and wanting to surprise my husband, I found myself staring at the screen blankly, until I borrowed the first line from John Barlas. Note the quotation marks, as  am certainly not advocating plagurism. Sometimes the first line is all you need to inspire your own masterpiece.

4. Get out more
Get inspired. Take a trip, or failing that, a walk. Go see something you’ve never seen before, find someone new to speak to. Broadening your mind cant fail to give you new persepctives on your plot themes and your characters. It’s also a well earned break under the guise of ‘Research.’

5. Read Read Read
When reading a great authors work, it is rare not to be able to note his or her influences shining out from their own pages. Reading other people’s writing, whether in the same genre or different, not only inspires your own, but makes you a richer person with stronger ideas to present, and characters to build. It doesnt matter what you choose, but make sure your own library is fully stacked. Even a book you think shouldnt have got past the slush pile can only serve as a reminder that there is hope for your manuscript yet!

6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
No-one needs to see todays writing except you. If it isnt the best work you’ve ever done, so be it. The pressure you put on yourself to create a masterpiece is probably a large reason why you can’t even put the date on the page today. Take a deep breath, start writing, and know that if it isnt great, you’ll edit it into shape another day. 

What else have you found helpful for curing the dreaded block?

My 1st birthday party

Tips for those of you hosting a 1 year old’s birthday party.

  • Do not assume just cause his name is on the cake that he will in fact want to be there. A seperate play area is great for when all the attention just gets too much.
  • Do not assume that just because he doesnt want to be there, that means he will have an afternoon nap when he can hear all he’s missing out on.
  • Guarantee that the tooth that has been hiding below the surface for almost a month will start cutting through that morning. Have the nurofen on hand.
  • As cute as you thought the pics of him ‘opening’ his presents would be, never underestimate a baby’s fear of irrational things. Serves us right for buying such terrifying wrapping paper I suppose.
  • Assume that regardless of the time span put on the party, everyone can and will arrive at once. Until this point, predict extreme awkwardess for the 2 guests that showed up on time. Once everyone arrives, predict bedlam until end of show.
  • Why would family members be on their best behaviour just because you’re throwing a party?

After all that, I’m so glad I followed my own advice not to overdo it for his first birthday. A small gathering of close friends and family was more than enough for both him and us. As I’ve said before, this party was 99% for me, and 1% for him to see pictures in the future and see how loved he was even when he was teeny tiny. The decorations, the food, the guests, the planning, even mostly the presents.. all for me. Therefore I’m okay with the fact that he didnt really enjoy much of it. Having said that, after all the crying, needing to be left alone, whinging, looking overwhelmed and being given far too much attention, I’m slightly worried that we’ve given our son a phobia of birthdays, (although watching him play with his new toys this morning has calmed those fears a little!) I also have many many cake related treats left over (come get if you want)!

An extremely tired household slept in until 8.30 this morning, and are all kind of sleepy and grouchy. Especially the littlest member. (Although whether that’s due to the overstimulation, or the shards of glass I found him munching on this morning I do not know….) Note to Self: Do not rush the balsamic vinegar and bottle cleanup just because you have a room full of guests next door.

One year ago today, was 10/10/10. A perfect day to have a baby. Equally perfect? 20/10/2010, ten days time. But I didnt have high hopes for my bump, as everyone told me that first babies definitely do not come on time, let alone 17 days early. I was not allowed to be upset at missing out on those perfect birthday dates

However, I think I am justified in being slightly irritated when on the morning of 11/10/10 (a non auspicious date) my waters broke. Oh Cookie, couldnt you have done that a day earlier? However, I will always be eternally grateful to my son, that once he started arriving, he settled on the 12th, and didnt hold out for 20/10/2010. 36 hours was long enough thank you.

A year ago today, C and I got all dressed up and went out for what would be our last date without a pre-arranged babysitter. As I squeezed myself into the chair in 86, and attempted to have as romantic a meal as possible when you’re getting up to pee every 7 minutes and struggling to adjust maternity clothes that no longer fit, I cant believe that we hadn’t met our little boy, and we didnt even know he was on his way. (If you can call two days away ‘on his way’.

(Oh dear, get ready for a week of overemotional blogging folks…)