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Or So it Seems … Better Fussing in Five Minutes a Day

Hey, kids. Christmas is coming up, and it’s time to work up your Santa-list and the even longer one for your parents. As a reformed child, I know that getting what you want requires determination and lack-of-discipline. Here are keys to the kingdom of fussing, gained from many years of watching my kid sister in action and a few tricks of my own. Use them in good health, unless you’re related to me. In which case, quit reading immediately and go mow the lawn.

Delivery Checklist

Fussing skills are innate but peak in early childhood. Fortunately, you can emulate a 4-year-old to good effect no matter what your age. Watch for a free, refresher course in your neighborhood grocery store’s candy aisle. Observe the following:

  1. Select the perfect pitch. Whining is crucial. Practice upward inflection at the end of sentences until you reach the hyper-sonic range of dog whistles. If Rover runs for cover, you’re almost there.
  2. Breath control. You have choices here. Gasping is good, but staccato bursts of random sounds are more irritating. Amplitude is everything. In public places, you can generate more noise than a 747. Practice. Holding vowels for 2-12 minutes is possible with a lungful of air. Try this. See how long you can sustain the “OM” sound when saying MOOOOOOOOOOOM.
  3. Repetition. It’s hard to ignore what goes on for a half hour. “Mother. Mommy. Momma. Mom. Ma. ” punctuated by repeated pokes to the ribcage are guaranteed to get some sort of reaction.
  4. Mask semi-obnoxiousness with manners. “Please” is one of the magic words, remember?
  5. Putting it all together. “Ah, Ah, PLEEEASE MOM.” (Gasp) “I’ll BEEEE SOOOO GOOOOD THIS TIME.” (Whimper.) “Mommy. Mom. Mother.” (Poke. Poke. Poke.)  “PLEEEEEEEEEEASE!” (Sound of shattering glass.)

Applied Psychology

In addition to HOW you beg, WHEN and WHERE matter greatly.


Try these five easy steps, and watch your success rate climb!

  1. Put your target in the right frame of mind. For Mom, this means doing the dishes or sweeping the floor without being asked. Bigger requests entail random acts of mopping, and desperate, over-the-top demands mean tangoing with the toilet brush. And we’re not talking about a mess you made. This is owning SOMEONE ELSE’S CLEANUP CATASTROPHE. Be careful here. If the room was tidy the last time Mom saw it, then it doesn’t count. You have to make sure she saw your little sister’s effort to feed pancakes to Barbie. Rat her out if necessary.
  2. Timing matters. Avoid first-thing-in-the-morning-bedside-begging, when-she’s-behind-the-wheel-wheedling or lights-out-at-nighttime-niggling. You’ll be ignored. Forgo any attempts when Mom is expecting her co-workers, boss, or other “visiting royalty.” Ditto the surprise arrival of any white-haired or wrinkled relative.
  3. Make eye contact–you’ve got to have her full attention. It’s OK to tug on Mom’s blouse when she’s talking, if she’s only babbling to herself. Don’t try it when she’s changing a diaper, on the phone, cooking, cleaning or doing all that stuff Moms seem to think are more important than listening to you. Don’t try to do anything through a closed door, especially the bathroom door. IMPORTANT! If you hear her singing or humming a tune, IMMEDIATELY drop whatever you’re doing and hit her with your biggest demand.
  4. Good salesmanship begins with a big smile and tons of confidence. Let the enthusiasm just ooze out of your voice.  Dash into the room, throw your arms open wide and announce: “Mom, I’ve got a great idea… Can I….” The idea may not, in fact, be all that great. And don’t ask if SHE thinks it’s a great idea. The point is that you’ve got to sell her, big and fast. Don’t lose heart. Remember, when dealing with Grandma, that she is the same woman who bought the set of World Books on the installment plan, from the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, AND IS STILL BUYING THE YEARBOOKS.
  5. Become a student of nonverbal communication. If you have a compound-complex, multiple-part fuss, then you need to learn when to quit. If her smile begins to flatten, or you see creases at the corners of the eyes that weren’t there when you started, desist. If she shrugs or mumbles something through a mouthful of bobby pins, assume the answer was YES! Bolt from the room before she can clarify, and then reminder her later that “you promised.”

ASKING DAD/GRANDDAD – Sure-fire Pointers

With Dad or Granddad, concentrate on this one, proven technique.

  1. Study TV listings. Find when his favorite program airs.
  2. Hide the remote so he can’t pause the show or turn up the volume.
  3. Thirty seconds before kickoff, drag his toolbox in.
  4. Hover between him and the screen.
  5. Begin with the phrase “Dad, can you help me….” Usually, you won’t need to finish your sentence. But if he’s a bit slow, drop some tools. Greasy ones first.

Nine times out of ten, you’ll hear: “GO BOTHER YOUR MOTHER!”

Then, go to back to Mom-Step-1, adding, “Dad told me to ask you….”

Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.