Negotiating With Toddlers
SCENE: INTERIOR OF A SUBARU STATION WAGON. TIME: 43 MINUTES UNTIL NAPTIME
SARA: Ok bud, so what are we gonna do when we get home?
CHARLIE: ummmm, wash our hands, brush our teeth, and pee!
SARA: That’s right. So as soon as we get home, let’s head on up, ok?
CHARLIE: mmhmm (noncommittal).
Five minutes later, they enter the house.
SARA: Ok bud, let’s head on up! (brightly optimistic)
CHARLIE shrieks and throws himself onto the floor.
Come on bud, let’s head up. Otherwise we won’t have time for books before your rest (grimly resolute).
CHARLIE: Do we have to do all of the things? (incredulous, affronted)
SARA: What do you think?
CHARLIE: Do we have to do all the things, or no? (impatient, disgusted)
SARA: Let’s start with one thing at a time. What would you like to do first?
CHARLIE: Umm, pee.
SARA (relieved): Ok! Let’s pee downstairs in case you have to poop.
CHARLIE: No! Upstairs!
SARA (reluctant): Ok.
On the way up the stairs, CHARLIE continues the interrogation.
CHARLIE: So we just have to pee and brush our teeth. Not wash our face.
SARA: Right. Your face is nice and clean.
CHARLIE: Yes. So just two things. Pee and brush our teeth.
SARA: And wash your hands.
CHARLIE: My hands are nice and clean so we don’t need to wash them.
SARA: (stalls for time) You think so?
CHARLIE: Not wash our hands. Just two things (decisive).
SARA: Ok, well let’s sit on the potty (evasive).
CHARLIE: I peed! (triumphant, jubiliant)
SARA: Great! Ok, now would you like to wash your hands or brush your teeth?
SARA: Yeah, bud? (dread looms)
CHARLIE: I have to poop.
SARA inhales heavily and releases her breath through her teeth, thinking with desperation of the jar of Nutella in the cupboard to the right of the fridge.
SARA: Ok (beaten).
CHARLIE: I want to use the downtairs potty.
SARA (she anticipated this request): Ok bud. Let’s go poop downstairs.
They head downstairs, CHARLIE exuberantly, SARA wearily.
CHARLIE: I already peed, so we did all the things!
SARA ignores him and leads him by his shoulders to the downstairs bathroom.
CHARLIE: I want you to stay right there while I poop (points to a spot on the floor roughly 2 inches by 2 inches wide. Anything outside of the indicated spot won’t do).
CHARLIE: Actually, I need some privacy.
SARA leaves the bathroom.
CHARLIE: I pooped! (jubilant, triumphant)
SARA: Great! (because it is) Ok, let’s head up.
CHARLIE: Um, mum?
CHARLIE: Can I have just a tiny, little treat? (he puts his index finger and thumb together to demonstrate the meagerness of suggested treat and raises his eyebrows cherubically).
SARA: Fine. Here’s a chocolate chip.
CHARLIE: Thanks! (joyful) Mum?
CHARLIE: We only have to do two things, NOT three things (firm).
SARA: Ok bud, let’s brush your teeth.
CHARLIE: I want to wash my face!
SARA (bewildered but losing the will to go on): Ok . . .
CHARLIE washes his face, screeching as the wet washcloth makes contact with his skin.
SARA: Ok, do you want to brush your teeth or wash your hands next?
CHARLIE screams and kicks at the air.
CHARLIE: My hands aren’t dirty! (furious, indignant)
SARA’S voice wavers: You don’t think so? (she hides her fear behind bland questions).
CHARLIE: They’re NICE AND CLEAN! (adamant)
SARA: Ok, should we brush your teeth? (cowed)
CHARLIE: No. I want to wash my hands FIRST.
CHARLIE: And THEN brush my teeth. After.
CHARLIE: Hands first, teeth after. Ok?
SARA: Hands first, teeth after. Yup! (makes last ditch effort at retaining any sort of intellectual leverage in the situation)
CHARLIE washes his hands.
CHARLIE: Are we done all the things? (hopeful)
SARA: What do you think? (hopeful)
SARA: Almost! Just one more thing!
CHARLIE: Teeth? (mischevious)
CHARLIE brushes his teeth without incident. SARA becomes giddy with relief, imagining the dip of the spoon into the well of creamy, chocolate-y comfort.
SARA: Yeah, bud?
CHARLIE: Are we done all the things, or no? (demanding answers, looking for justice)
SARA: Yes. We are.