Some day in the future when I’ve died and my daughters eulogize my life at the funeral, I have no doubt most of how they’ll remember me to others will be measured by how many more times I told them “no” than “yes” throughout our years together.

Over the weekend, it occurred to me that my job as a mom is pretty much limited to keeping my children alive, fed, hydrated and clean, and the way I do that is by preventing them from having any fun or by making them cry (which is often because I’ve prevented them from having any fun).

Petunia, my older daughter who will turn 4 later this summer, bears the brunt of the vast majority of my discipline. There’s usually not much discussion once I utter the “N” word, which usually means she turns on the waterworks at the audacity of the one-sided negotiations.

“Can we keep the chipmunk who ran into the house after I left food outside the front door and then left the front door open, and can it sleep in my bed?” she asked on Sunday afternoon.

“No,” I said flatly, having just finally succeeded in lowering my blood pressure to a point where it could no longer actually cook pasta after getting the aforementioned chipmunk out of the house.

“Can I skip a bath again for the fourth night in a row?”

“No.”

“Can the older girls who live a few doors down paint my entire body from head to toe again tomorrow, and next time, can they also paint more than just one of my very expensive dolls?”

“No.”

“Can I jump on your head in the swimming pool?”

“No.”

“Can I go play in a parking lot?”

“No.”

“Can I pick the baby up by her neck?”

“No.”

“Can I look for the bear in the backyard that Daddy saw this morning?”

“No.”

My younger daughter Peony, who turns 10 months old later this week, isn’t exempt from “no.” Like, I was clipping her nails the other night after a bath, and she just wept and wailed and shuddered as if I were actually clipping off her fingers or an entire arm.

Granted, there have been times in the past in which blood was shed when I’ve clipped her nails, but it’s been awhile, and I’ve since learned that good lighting is key. She can’t remember that when I walk past her crib four times a day that the only place for me to go is the bathroom, so she sobs thinking I’ve abandoned her. And yet somehow she remembers what happens when the nail clippers comes out once every two weeks.

She also learned last week how to get to a sitting position all on her own, which was followed a few days later by standing up in her crib all by herself. When she does it at 4:30 a.m., she is enraged at the “no” I utter in response to her figurative plea to start the day. In those “no” moments, I might not be saving her life, per se (because we still have a couple of more days, I think, before she figures out how to hurl herself over the top of the crib and onto the floor), but I’m at least trying to salvage the day by not starting it at an hour when even prostitutes have the good sense to stay in bed.

I’ve made attempts at positive reinforcement, but there are just so many ways you can spin, “No, you may not keep your hands in you pants for one more minute” while waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket. The only teachable moment in the situation that I can figure is that the person who gets the shopping cart after we’re done with it won’t realize or necessarily appreciate that Petunia actually used the sanitizing wipes at the store entrance before she decided to use her butt cheeks as a drum kit. And that’s actually less a teachable moment and more the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a dirty look.

It didn’t even really matter that Petunia had a banana split for dinner — not dessert but dinner — on Saturday night. She had pink ice cream and a veritable smorgasbord of toppings from which to choose, even though she ignored the marshmallow sauce, whipped cream and hot fudge so she could leave ample space for the maraschino cherries (nine of them) and the sprinkles (all of them).

The next morning, when she asked for hot chocolate as the temperature outside neared 90 degrees, she was denied and was told she could have some blueberries instead, she got down on the floor, kicking and screaming as if the hot-chocolate rejection was the final piece of evidence she needed to convince a jury that I am, indeed, the worst mom in the world.

Which is what she can tell people at my funeral if it makes her feel better. But at least I’ll go to my grave knowing I managed to keep her alive to speak at it.

More at www.meredithcarroll.com.

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