Collective bargaining

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One of the most frustrating parts of spending all day with a 3-year-old is that everything devolves into negotiation, from the clothes she puts on in the morning to the number of poems I read before she goes to bed. Once I stopped negotiating and just caved in to whatever meager demands she made, and then she chastised me like the beardmonger in Monty Python's Life of Brian for failing to haggle: "No pops, you're supposed to say I only have five minutes left in the bath," she told me. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd assume my daughter once sold fake Rolexes in a Constantinople bazaar.

As a lawyer, I was often involved in complex negotiations. But even with several multi-million dollar settlements under my belt, I could never have been prepared for the hardcore negotiations of my new career as a stay-at-home dad. My daughter is already as crafty as a seasoned partner at any white-shoe law firm. My infant son is a shrewd but less-seasoned negotiator: his repertoire is limited to the single (though highly-effective) tactic of screaming until he gets exactly what he wants.

Sadly, the potency of this method has not been lost on Juniper, and any unsuccessful negotiations usually end with a shriek-filled showing of sisterly solidarity. On most days, I feel like beleaguered management constantly on the verge of a threatened strike from The Screamers and Whiners Union, Local 413. Take today, for example. After explaining that she could not have PB&Js for three meals in a row, she parleyed with the fact that Gram only eats one kind of food. I told her it was different for her and when she asked "Why?" I resorted to my stock response: "Because I make the rules."

"No, I make the rules," she said, stomping her foot. This was the moment on those nature shows where the upstart adolescent gorilla challenges the aging male silverback. That Ennio Morricone motif from the spaghetti westerns sang out in the background. A tumbleweed rolled past us.

"No one can make the rules about food unless they can reach the counter," I said.

"Then I won't eat. And Gram won't either."

Poor girl. Someone needs to tell her that no matter how much a man loves the Union, he will always love boobs more.