Monday, January 23, 2012

I guess "The Negotiating Fours" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Charlotte is hardcore into the bargaining stage of childhood.  Everything is a negotiation or a deal or a swap.  And she has a memory like an elephant.  Here's an example of life with a four year old.

One Monday you are eating dinner with your four year old, when said four year old suddenly gets a yearning for peanuts.  "Mom, can I have some peanuts?" she may ask.  "Sure," you reply, "Once you have finished what you have on your plate, if you are still hungry, you can have some peanuts."  After some time has passed, and food starts to get pushed around the plate instead of eaten, your four year old might repeat her request.  "Now can I have peanuts?" she asks, hoping that maybe you'll just forget what you said before and absently put more food on her plate.  "Not yet," you reply, patiently.  "I can see that you aren't really eating anymore, let me set a timer for 7 more minutes."  You calmly re-iterate the terms of the negotiation - 7 minutes, all the cucumber, 3 more pieces of kielbasa, and THEN the peanut payload will be delivered.  7 minutes later the timer dings and the cucumber is gone but the kielbasa has just been picked into tiny pieces.  Adorable four year old moppet deteriorates into crying, heartbroken child.  You, Mom, calmly remind the child that the peanuts are not going anywhere, and peanuts are promised on the morrow.

Stage 2: room cleaning.  More deals commence.  Child wants help cleaning, parents insist that child cleans their own mess.  It is really only two jobs, a huge pile of stuffed animals and 8 million pieces of Playmobil playset.  Even though it is a jillion cutely sculpted plastic pieces, it is not that hard to clean up.  They all go in a giant drawer.  It would take one adult with medium sized hands approximately 45 seconds to clean up the Playmobil mess, and another 60 seconds to put the stuffed animals away in their bins.  Child manages to drag out process over 20 minutes, and eventually the ultimatum comes out again, "Put these things away in 5 minutes, or you will not play with them tomorrow.  I am setting the timer."  Five minutes passes, of course the toys are not picked up, and the announcement is made that the four year old will not be allowed to play with the playset the next day.

As a parent, you now have two VITAL pieces of information to remember on Tuesday:
a. Peanuts were promised, peanuts must be served.
b. Playmobil is prohibited as a consequence.

If your day and life is anything like mine, you will wake up tired and too late on Tuesday and rush your way through the day.  Tuesday night, as you are tucking your four year old into bed, they will burst into tears and announce, "You promised that I could have peanuts today and you never gave me peanuts!"  You apologize profusely, and your way-too-canny child will then throw in your face, "Well, you said I couldn't play with Playmobil but you forgot and I DID play with Playmobil." 

And that is what it is like to parent a four year old.

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