a manipulating maneuver

The instant you become a parent, joy and amazement over each and every milestone becomes part of daily living. Your identity is now forever linked with your child’s, and witnessing their ability to learn and grow is one of the most rewarding aspects of parenting. Heartwarming, isn’t it?

Heh. Yep, that sponge housed beneath their cranium sure is porous. I admit I’ve succumbed to those sweet feelings more than a time or two. Those first smiles get me every time. New teeth, first foods, crawling, you know the list.

The present state of affairs in our humble world consists of our daughter who is only weeks away from becoming a preschooler, and her wannabe-toddler brother, who only months ago was my baby. Damn they grow like weeds! Even as my children outgrow their baby ways, those milestones keep-a-coming. And yes, most times these benchmarks are celebrated, photographed, videotaped, facebooked, blogged, emailed, and documented in every way humanly and technologically possible.

Most times, I said. Not sure about your life, but in our home there are certain achievements that we feel less-than-amused about. While we may share these little tidbits with family or friends, these are the types of events we tend to opt out of reporting to the pediatrician at a well visit. “Oh, yes doctor! Liam is walking, running, climbing like a monkey on crack! In fact, the other day when I wasn’t watching him he climbed onto the sofa and nearly scaled the blinds in the living room. Imagine my horror! Thank God I yanked him down before the blinds were damaged!” (Which YES, is really what I was thinking when I pried his sweaty little palms off my expensive window treatments). “Yes, Quinn’s vocabulary is simply flourishing each day! Just the other day we had the television tuned to an action movie on HBO, and she said, ‘Mommy! Daddy! That man just said FUCKER!’” (You guessed it, true story).

Fearless toddlers are meant to test their behavioral and physical boundaries by exploring their environments from floor to window blinds to ceiling. It’s how they learn to act and move in this world. I get that. And from the moment our children can speak, they can learn any word, so I get that too. Child-proofer, conversation-editor, and constant observer are all listed next to bullets under my trusted copy of the Mommy job description.

And beneath those job duties is listed another very important skill that must be honed—(lest you be overtaken by your children beyond the point of no return):

· Master of escape from parental manipulation

Seriously, how can children learn to be so manipulative? And how can we as parents actually fall victim to the manipulation of a three-year-old? Quinn is GOOOODDD at manipulation. Even great, really. She’s got a GIANT bag of tricks that I would love to steal from her to save my soul. Although her “tricks” bug the crap out of me (and often cause me severe anxiety and make me feel like a sucky mother when I give in), I am always impressed by her creativity and persistence.

Which brings me to the inspiration for this blog about spongy intelligence laced with manipulation…this occurred tonight about 15 minutes prior to dinner being ready:

Quinn: Mommy, I really need something small to eat. (Exhibit 1—using the word “small” indicates she is aware that it’s nearly time for dinner, and that my likely answer is NO—a bargaining tool)

Me: No, honey, dinner is almost ready.

Quinn: But my tummy is hurting! (Exhibit 2—feigned illness to elicit sympathy)

Me: No, sweetie. Dinner will make your tummy feel better. Just wait until dinner.

Quinn: But Mo-om, I NEED something, even TINY to eat NOW, because......I GOT A TIRED ARM! (Combining strategies now, Exhibit 1 again, followed by Exhibit 3—feigned injury)

Here is where I burst out laughing…God, this girl is funny! I am just cracking up, and she’s making her bashful face, trying not to smile when she totally realizes she is caught in the act of concocting some fake drama for the sake of a snack. This lasted maybe an instant, after which she snapped back into MASTER MANIPULATOR MODE,

Quinn: Mo-om! I need a snack now! My tired arm is just waiting!

She drives me crazy, but I love her dearly. She didn’t get a snack. She and her tummy ache and tired arm waited for dinner. Somehow by the grace of God her ailments were cured once we ate.

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