Monday, 16 April 2012

A bit of give and take - the art of negotiating with the enemy

This is a guest post from Ben Wakeling, author of Goodbye, Pert Breasts.

My day job is as a Quantity Surveyor for a housebuilding company, and yes, I have been known to count bricks, before you ask.


A lot of my time, though, is taken up with negotiation – usually over price. Numbers get flung around like poo in a monkey enclosure, things are conceded and gained, and every now and again voices become raised. I’ve come up against novice negotiators, those with decades of experience, and discussions can last from an hour to a month before a decision is finally made.

Lately, though, I’ve come up against a tougher negotiator than even the most seasoned pro. 
His name is Isaac, and he’s 3 years old. He also likes to wear pants on his head.

Isaac has mastered the art of saying ‘No’. Whilst adults negotiating and bartering will at least give you something to work on, Isaac will simply point blank refuse to do something if he doesn’t fancy it.

“Isaac, eat your sandwich.”


This refusal is illustrated with a frown so strong you can barely see his eyes under accumulated rolls of forehead fat.

“Isaac, please eat your sandwich.”


My face, on the other hand, is largely expressionless, like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal. I don’t want to show that he’s winding me up: I don’t raise my voice, just make it a bit sterner.

“Isaac, please eat your sandwich now.”



Suddenly, you find yourself in a negotiation where your chances of getting everything you want are pretty much non-existent, much like Cheryl Cole’s chances of making it big in America. And so, it goes down to half a sandwich, then a quarter, each concession met with the same response. You know he needs to eat the sandwich to flipping survive. All he knows is that he’d rather watch Peppa Pig and do that thing where he scratches his backside for ages.

Parents are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to negotiating with their child. If you throw up your hands, say ‘Fine!’ and let him have his way, he knows he can beat you every time. Plus, it means that you suck at discipline. On the other hand, you don’t want things to descend into a full-blown slanging match – not that you’d swear at your children, of course.

"Potty mouth!"

So what can you do? Your only option, really, is to stick to your guns. You will, invariably, have to make some concessions, but as long as he eats most of his sandwich then you can chill. Isaac’s at the age where he’s constantly pushing boundaries to see what he can get away with, so as long as I continue to show him who’s boss (in a nice way, i.e. no whipping/caning/detention involved) he’ll probably turn out to be OK. At least, I hope so. If he turns out like me, he’s screwed.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mummy goes to the bottom of the class

You know when you have good intentions and everything conspires against you, making you look like a really bad parent? Honestly, it was a conspiracy. It was nothing to do with me forgetting all about my child. Nothing like that. At all.

Anyway, today my four-year-old was at a one day dance workshop. I dropped her and her two rather chatty friends off at 10am, went off and did the usual errands with the other three children. Just before lunchtime, the Dad took over so I could get some work done, which was fantastic. It was a lovely, sunny day and it was a shame to be cooped up inside, but it's not often I get a few hours to concentrate on work, so I took advantage. The Dad brought me some lunch, bless him, and I managed to read a couple of articles, and added some more words to my paper. I'll probably think better and delete them again in a few days, but at least my word count will rise for a bit.

At 2.30pm, with my brain completely in my work, the Dad shouted up and asked when I was supposed to be setting off to watch the four-year-old do her little dance show and collect her. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit times about a thousand!!! I ran downstairs, grabbed my car keys, the video camera, and phone and jumped in the car. The journey took about 15 minutes that morning, so I should be ok for the 2.45pm start.

I got to the top of the road and the traffic was three times as bad as this morning. Then I got to the level crossing, and the barriers were down for an approaching train. I got through this and the town centre was reeeeeaaaalllllly busy, and every traffic light seemed to be red. By the time I got through town, it was already 2.45pm, and I still had another ten minutes to go. 

I screeched up at the dance centre at 2.55pm, and walked into the already full studio just as they were starting to present an activity they had done earlier in the day. Relief. It looked like they had only just started the show. They must've been over-schedule. I waved to the mums of the four-year-old's friends who were laughing at me. At. Me. The cheek of it.

Oh well. I found a space on the floor right at the front so my daughter could see I had turned up. I knew she would be looking for me, and she did. She saw me, smiled, and gave me a little wave. I was full of pride. Not just for her, but for me, for being a good Mummy and not missing her show after all. The Gods of parenting had smiled on me and delayed her show so I could be there for her.

They gave their little presentation, and then the teacher said some terrible, terrible words. She said that they were going to do one more dance, and that it would be the last one. She joked this would come as a relief to us parents who had sat through two dances already. TWO? I hadn't seen any. Just the short activity presentation. My heart sank. My two mum friends laughed inwardly at my expense, as did all the other punctual parents. Probably. I couldn't see them laughing, but they were. 

I watched the last dance, which was great. My daughter was the smallest one there and she did as well as everyone else, even better in my eyes. When she'd finished, she came over and I asked her how her day had been. She said it was great, but the best part was when I came in to see her dancing, and she gave me the biggest smile and hug. 

I. Am. The. Worst. Mother. In. The. World.

Monday, 2 April 2012

#MedalMonday - 2nd April 2012

medalMedal Monday is back!!

It's lovely to see you. Sorry about the short break but we've been busy doing important parenting stuff - some of it successfully, some of it not. But that's a different story for another day.

Medal Monday is the linky where we share and celebrate our parenting victories. You might have won a battle with the school, or just actually made a meal your children will eat. Whatever it is you're proud of, blog about it and bring it here for us all to share, and bow down at your all-round awesomeness.
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