When you become a mother, there are certain skills you expect you will need.
For example, if you are a mother, it’s probably helpful if you know how to do things like make sure bottles are an appropriate temperature for babies, how to comb hair without major battles, and how to make sure different foods on the same plate do not touch one another.
I expected all this as I held each of my newborns in my arms. I understood the requirements and felt up to the challenge.
Or so I thought.
Ten years into my career as a mother, I still find myself woefully lacking in one very critical skill: negotiating.
Labor classes are all well and good, but what we REALLY need is a class dedicated to teaching mothers how to reason with miniature people, how to make deals with five year olds, how to play on the emotions of their children to negotiate acceptable outcomes.
You will need to be able to talk a toddler down from the top shelf of the closet where he has been hiding, eating an entire family sized bag of M&M’s. You’ll need the skills to dissolve a hostage situation involving your daughter and her sister’s beloved blankie. You’ll need to negotiate bedtimes and eating veggies and endless other situations. It’s in the fine print of motherhood, apparently.
I negotiate all the time around here, but the one area I find most challenging is when trying to talk an extremely hostile child into taking medicine of any kind. I mean, really, it gets ugly enough, tense enough, that I could call in an FBI professional negotiator and within fifteen minutes they’d be throwing their hands up and walking out the door. If there were actual hostages they wouldn’t stand a chance of survival.
There is no shaking this kid. She ain’t gonna budge.
Just tonight I was wishing I had gone through official negotiation training. My middle child stepped on an anthill yesterday. Throughout the day today, we watched as her ankle continued swelling. Around noon, I gently suggested she might want to consider taking one teaspoon of Benadryl.
You can imagine how that was accepted. Gasping. Shrieking. Running to her room to hide.
Afternoon rolled around, and her ankle continued to swell. Again, I meekly mentioned how Benadryl would likely help the situation. We had neighbor children playing on our trampoline, gleefully jumping and having a blast. I reminded her that little girls with swollen ankles do not get to jump on trampolines. She just crossed her arms, reclined on our patio furniture, and silently watched the fun happening without her.
When her daddy arrived home from work, he took one look at her ankle and demanded the Benadryl be taken. Somehow daddies seem to get the attention of children easier than mothers. But even so, it was a no go.
Throughout the years, we have tried EVERYTHING with this child. Promises of dessert, an extra book at bedtime, a surprise from the dollar store, discipline, a million dollars… she is tougher to break than a kid strung out on a cartoon marathon.
It was looking dire. I was having visions of an imminent trip to the ER for a shot of Benadryl (to the tune of $400 or so). At this rate, my daughter was going to look like she had elephantitis if she didn’t take one lousy teaspoon of medicine.
And then, like a glorious angel of mercy, our neighbor walked in. Sensing the situation, this brilliant mother of four suggested we mix the medicine with a little bit of Coke.
“I don’t like Coke,” our daughter announced. This from the child who any other day would be fine if Coke were the only beverage she had for the rest of her life.
“But Lauren,” our neighbor said,”your medicine is cherry flavored. It will be cherry coke!”
And that was it. That was the ticket. My child’s eyes lit up and she couldn’t wait to get her hands on that magic concoction. We watched in amazement as she drank it down and enjoyed the accolades of our neighbor and her children. It baffled me to be honest. I’ve tried mixing her medicine in Sprite, orange juice, anything I could think of in the past and it’s all been rejected.
I felt rather silly at that moment. A good negotiator would know his subject’s favorite things, his weaknesses, his passions. I’ve had eight years with this kid, after all. I should’ve known cherry coke would get the results we needed. But then I remembered that the tricky part is that the likes and dislikes of children change faster than Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend. It’s always a guessing game as to what will work.
The good news is that she took the medicine. She didn’t cry hard enough to make herself throw it up, and we didn’t even have to double team her to get her to take it. Success!
My husband and I shared a look of relief, leaned back in our chairs (after removing the gummy treats stuck to the seats), and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Another one for the books. The negotiators had won in the end.
And I could’ve kissed my dear neighbor’s feet.
So what are your secrets of negotiating, fellow parents? What’s been the magic element to persuade your little darlings to cooperate? What new lows have you stooped to, what thing that you vowed “never to do” when you were child-free have you now embraced?