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I knew that things weren’t going to plan when I saw Meri’s head disappear down the stairs for a second time whilst she mumbled something about “Tigger blanket”

“Meri,” I called after her, “It’s bath-time!  Come upstairs to Daddy.”

But she’s not completely stupid. She knows that bath-time leads to story-time which leads to bedtime and, as I suspect most of you will know, that is not a popular time of day with children.

Meri also knows that outright disobedience only ends one way – namely an accelerated bath and bedtime which completely misses out the good, story-time, bit in the middle. Therefore she has become a student of Niccolo Machiavelli and employs the most devious and underhand tactics to get her own way.

Her first ruse was to insist that she undresses herself. This can take some time. Shoes come off and each one has to be put away. The fact that she cannot yet manage to take her tops off without help is of no consequence, she struggles away giggling to herself knowing that her filibustering is working. Woe betide any parent who actually tries to help her. She wails, wags her finger, crumples her brow and says, “No!” with startling assertiveness.

Next up is the negotiation on the number of stories. I allow her two and she knows this. Her mother can be swayed and often ends up reading double this number before persuading our little literary critic that it is time to move on.

The real time killer though is the go-slow on milk drinking. Meri can make the last 25ml of milk last an eternity. She smiles disarmingly as she puts the bottle in her mouth and doesn’t drink anything. It’s only after half a dozen ultimatums that she actually finishes the last few drops.

Today, however, she surpassed herself. When she came back upstairs, she had her brother, Arun, in tow. She was dragging him behind her and when she had him in position, she pointed at him and said to me, “Arun bath. Arun wash hair. Meri no bath.”

I laughed out loud. It was a remarkable piece of what I think is known as low-down feminine cunning. She was throwing her slightly bewildered brother to the wolves to save her own skin.

I walked up to them both as Meri was straining every sinew to pull Arun into the bathroom like a lamb to the slaughter and asked Arun, “Do you want have first bath or should Meri go first as usual?”

Arun looked at me, looked at Meri and with an expression of disdain just said to me “Put Meri in the bath.”

God help me if they ever stop bickering and start working together. I wouldn’t stand a chance. I think I’d better dust off that old copy of Machiavelli to make sure that they never do.


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