When I chose to have kids, I knew it'd be a life sentence. Our blog's called 18 Years 2 Life, after all -- we get it. Maybe I was just being naive, but I thought I'd serve out my sentence in one of those minimum security, country club type prisons -- not Guantanamo. However, a while back, when my daughter was making some crazy, unreasonable demand of me, I found myself yelling at her that, "I don't negotiate with terrorists!" It was then that I realized that the relationships between CIA handler and Al Qaeda operative and parent and child are not so very different...
Sometimes, kids are the terrorists, threatening the quality of your livelihood (or just your ability to show up somewhere on time), with their outlandish demands. You know the demands to "watch me while I go potty" or "I can't wear those shoes, only these shoes (which are nowhere to be found)," are forms of domestic terrorism, but what can you do? That kid has to go potty before you leave the house and you have to get there on time, so you forget about the fact that you also need to change someone else's diaper, pack up snacks and sippy cups, and get shoes and coats on everyone -- and you let the terrorist win. It's the most timely solution.
Sometimes, kids are the captors. I've often remarked that CIA interrogators could do away with waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" and take some lessons from toddlers. Toddlers are pretty effective at producing the results they want to achieve and human rights watch groups aren't likely to kick up a fuss (or, if they are, maybe they could come to my house, form a protest on my behalf and cover a couple hours of babysitting). Here are some of their most effective techniques:
The Whine. Few things will break a parent's will or resolve faster than a well-executed whine session. When done properly, kids can make it so painful, that you've given in without even realizing what you've done. Sometimes, the insistent, never-ending whine is just too much and I cave, because I just want the pain to stop. I don't mean to, but it happens. Sometimes, I don't even realize what I've done. I just sense a bit of peace and quiet in my world, then I realize what I've done... If I were a spy and an enemy caught me, and made me cook dinner while they begged me to give up all my state's secrets, I know I'd spill everything, including the pasta.
The Interruption. The last time I finished a thought without interruption was in November 2007. The same goes for a conversation with a friend. Friends warned me that prego brain would morph into mommy brain and that I'd never recover those critical thought and decision-making skills. How right they were. If a CIA operative were to simply interrupt their subject with a simple "Mommy!" five to six times, every time they tried to complete a thought or sentence, the subject would soon be broken. I'd give up pretty much anything for the hope to finish a sentence or thought without interruption.
The Embarrassment. I once took my kids with me while I shopped for jeans. As I struggled to get into a pair of jeans (that weren't properly labeled as "skinny jeans" by the way), my then two-year-old daughter, hopped out of her stroller and started jumping up and down, saying "Look, Mommy! I can jump too!" That was followed up by a sad, running commentary of, "Oh, don't those jeans fit either, Mommy?" These comments were combined with a few well-orchestrated escapes from the dressing room while I was in a state of partial undress. See, easy peasy, just send a terrorist to Anthropologie (a place they once recognized and liked to kid themselves that they still belonged at) with two toddlers to mock their clothing choices and inability to squeeze themselves into a pair of skinny jeans -- we could have taken down Al Qaeda years ago...
The Cling. Before a terrorist has had a chance to make their morning cup of coffee, their handler should simply climb up on their hip and refuse to be put down. They can yell "I don't want to go play. I want you to hold me, Mommy," to the terrorist every so often. Then, the handler can demand that the terrorist cart them around while preparing breakfast for an entire family, all without the aid of caffeine. They'll be begging to share information in the hopes of some peace and tranquility in their cave after a few days of that.