I have an ultimatum problem.
My problem is not, in fact, related in any way to the Bourne Ultimatum.
Let me back up.
This weekend in Los Angeles, it rained the rain of FOREVER. By Sunday morning, my husband, David, and I had been trapped inside with our two marauding minis for over 36 hours, and we were getting more than a tad shack wacky. Some time after our ninety-four thousandth game of, "I make a tower, you knock it down," we decided that remaining dry was deeply overrated and made a break for the car. Off we drove, straight to our local fast-food franchise for some quality time at the indoor playground.
Once there, all four of us happily stuffed our collective maws with ill-advised salty treats. Snoodie joyously chased his fellow rainy day refugees around the enlarged hamster habitat with unbridled glee as Crink worked on fortifying his immune system by crawling happily about upon the sticky and garbage strewn floor. It was smiles all around for the first time in days!!
There was only one *tiny* problem. The door leading out of the play area was stuck open.
This meant that the children were free to wander forth from their designated containment area and into the main restaurant, thus placing them in imminent danger of being trampled by fast food patrons rushing towards the register in their relentless quest for fried foodstuffs.
Every time the slide dumped him out by the open door, Snoodie would make a break for it. The first two or three times he escaped I dutifully got up from my seat, chased him down, and deposited back in the playroom.
But for some reason, when I went to collect him about time number four, the following phrase suddenly came out of my mouth.
"Snoodie, if you go through this door one more time, we are going home!"
Yes, I had presented.......................the accidental ultimatum.
As soon as it came out of my mouth I regretted it.
You know how they say that, in court, lawyers should never ask a question that they don't know the answer to? Well, here's another rule: a mom should never pose an ultimatum unless she's willing to accept the consequences.
And the fact is, I wasn't willing.
I really, really did not want to pick up my two delighted children, pack them screaming into the car, and drag them back to our poorly constructed playroom with its dripping walls of doom. I didn't want to forego merry trips down the slide for grumpy repeated viewings of "The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". And, perhaps most importantly, I didn't want to stop eating inappropriate quantities of french fries.
And yet there was Snoodie, heedless of my accidental ultimatum, heading for the open door yet again.
As he sailed happily through the opening I realized I had two distinct choices:
a. Make good on the ultimatum. Retain my authority. Assure an afternoon of shared homebound misery.
b. Stay at the playground. Ignore ultimatum. Abandon any pretense of authority over my offspring and embrace the destiny of the woman who sat next to me on a recent plane trip home from Florida and said, "If you don't stop that, you are going to get it!" to her young daughter roughly nineteen thousand times during the flight. (For the record, her daughter never got anything except maybe a gnawing sense that perhaps her mom hadn't really thought through the whole 'parenting' thing too carefully).
I chose "B" people. I chose "B". I just couldn't bear to leave our plastic-y and vaguely pestilent wonderland behind, and so as I caught the fleeing Snood once more I knelt down in front of him and said in my best stern Mommy voice,
"Mommy doesn't like it when you leave this door!"
He nodded his head, took this in with appropriate reverence and replied,
"I like cookies!!!"
before dashing back towards the slide.
I returned to our formica booth, slumped down next to my husband, took a long pull of milkshake, and comforted myself with the knowledge that the Snood was probably too young to remember today's ultimatum-related mishap.
The way I figure it, I've got a good six months before his cognitive skills reach the level at which he will be able to really understand that I'm totally punting after an accidental ultimatum.
Which means I've got exactly that much time to master one very simple rule: