If we chart the ways Mac has learned how to say, “No” and what rhetorical moves he makes when he still doesn’t get his way, we may able to get some insight into his motives, and perhaps be able to prognosticate what he may have in store for us. Also, since Scarlett is watching Mac closely and learning, we might be able to predicate what lays ahead.
The Simple “No”: He learned quickly that this wasn’t getting him very far with Jenn, and simply left me stunned when I first heard it, so it still didn’t let him get his way.
The Declarative “No”: This actually was first used by Jennifer. Jenn would say, “No.” and she would repeat herself by saying, “I said No.” Needless to say, this quickly was picked up by Maconnell and soon his simple No’s would be followed by an emphatic “I said No.” in which his rhetorical move is to emphatically point out—to declare—that he “exists” and should be treated as a separate entity with all rights and privileges. Lucky for us, this move is quickly countermanded by simply picking him up and placing him in his bed, his chair, or what have you.
The Hidden “No” aka “Why?”: This took me a while to pick up on. Maconnell has apparently done some research in neuro-linguistics and understands that when a question is posed, we feel compelled to answer; even if we have no intention of answering the question, we still pause to consider the question which leaves us open to all sorts of further manipulation.
So when Mac asks, “Why?” in response to a request or a command, what is really going on is he is saying “NO.” When he asks, “Why?”, we are put into an infinite loop that makes any further progress impossible. We are stopped in our tracks—mouths open—coming up with a reply, while we forget what we wanted Mac to do. It’s a neat Rhetorical Device in which ‘The Questioner is Questioned’ and all basic premises are up for grabs and Mac goes on to stay up another ten minutes past his bedtime.
The Carefree “No”: Slowly we learned not to fall into his “Why?” trap, so Mac changed gears and started asking, “Why Not?” when he was told to do something. This tricked me for a while, because it brought out my anti-authoritarian streak: “Why not, indeed?!?” but then I realized it’s hard to be a parent and anti-establishment at the same time, and Mac still got to stay up past his bedtime.
Bribery: “No” by other means: When all else fails, Mac has realized that he can always bribe us. He can delay his bedtime by a good 5–10 minutes if he offers, hugs, kisses, and reminds us he needs to take his vitamins and brush his teeth
The Long Goodbye: “No” by Multiple Voices: This occurs once Mac realizes the jig is up and he is physically being carried to bed. He will start saying, “I love Mommy”, “See you in the morning,” and a phonetic “Bonne Nuit,“1 which is french for “Good Night.” This french flourish seduced Jenn right away, and showed Mac’s willingness to use anything, even other languages to twist us just so. But usually by this time, he has given up, worn out by his fight to stay up a few more minutes, and pretty much knocks out immediately when he is deposited in bed.
If Hobbes in Leviathan tells us that life is Bellum omnium contra omnes, then we can see that Mac learns, adapts, modifies, keeps what works and throws away what doesn’t with an ease of facility. I used to wonder how humans survived given how seemingly weak we are when young, but this exercise has dispelled that. Mac is doing just fine.
- Jenn tells me that actually he says, “Bye Night,” a combination of Good Night and Bye. [↩]