Thursday, July 12, 2007

Negotiating with Terrorists

No Negotiating with terrorists…………or your child.

Governments often contend that they will not negotiate with terrorists and if you have ever watched the show 24 you will understand that translates to – we won’t talk to you, but you will talk to us or we will further plunge this Bic Pen into your knee. But, I digress.

Negotiating with your child is tricky business and can often set a precedent that may never in your life time, be undone. If your child is screaming at you in an attempt to convey their deep dissatisfaction with your decision not to serve chocolate ice cream to him/her in bed at 7:45 am, or any other completely reasonable demand that you are rejecting because you are mean and hateful, you may find yourself considering negotiations to end the terror. That example is probably a bit extreme but it has happened. Try this on for size…

Last night my daughter, my 4 year old daughter, came into the play room where my son and I were sitting reading Junie B. Jones (they are extremely funny books if you have yet to discover them.) with a bright and happy smile on her face. It was going on 9:15 and a few minutes earlier she was showing signs of an “I am up too late” melt-down quickly approaching, so I was naturally confused. I watched her as she walked to me with an air of confidence and a gleeful swagger and I realized that she was chewing gum. Gum is the Crack Cocaine of treats for 4 year old girls. She smiled and chewed her gum in a big old open mouth rythmic manner and said “look what I found!” I naturally responded with the following…”where did you get that? And you better not tell me it came out of your trashcan!”
No answer.
“Where did you get that gum?”
“It’s okay Mama, it was mine. I put it in there and I just got it out. It’s okay.”
“Yeah? no it is not okay. You just brushed your teeth and we are going to bed. Spit it out.”
Hysteria. Mayhem. Floods. Locusts.
The screaming was so loud that it pulled my husband from his book, downstairs.
“What the hell is going on up here?” he asked from the doorway at a safe enough distance for a quick departure.
“Gum” I said because I felt that it was a sufficient answer.
“Everybody hates me. Everybody thinks I am stupid.”
This is what my daughter says when she is not getting her way in an attempt to illicit pity and guilt. Sometimes it actually works.
“I told her to spit it out, and well, you can see for yourself that she wanted it.”
“But where did she get gum?” his confusion was understandable, but he clearly did not remember the resourcefulness of our little angel. Be advised she will take over the world one day, mark my words.
“From her trash can.” I offered no further explanation again because I felt that this was a sufficient answer.
She then threw herself on the floor again. “It is mine.”
He left the room. He just turned around and walked out, mumbling to himself as he walked down the hall. I wanted to scream “cut and run” at him, but as a card carrying Democrat I could not.

I was not going to negotiate with her. She simply can not take gum, god only knows how old, from a trash can and stick it in her mouth at 9:15 at night. Period. I began to read again and ignored her pouting puffs and deep breathing and occasional sniffle.

It was quiet again. I thought that she had fallen asleep on the floor. She had not. She was laying on the floor listening to me read and CHEWING THE GUM!
“spit it out.”
“spit it out.”
“but Mama….”
I put my hand under her chin, just like the nuns used to do, and told her to spit it out. She did, with a little effort and a lot of spit.
“now” I said, “take this and throw it out.”
More tears, but she was tired and she did not have much fight left in her. I was wearing her down. Jack Bauer would be proud of me.

Shortly after that I tucked her into bed and laid down next to her while she fell asleep. My husband finished the book for my son in his room and I felt victorious. I did not negotiate or give in.

This morning I woke up early. I let the dog out. I still have to go pick up that pile of poop. I got the paper and started the coffee and began my work day. Shortly after I had bellied up to my desk my son walked in and turned on the television in my office. He watched a little PBS and I started answering emails. We were happy.

My husband came in with coffee and asked where Ingrid was. Still asleep. She came in the room about 5 minutes later happy as a little lark. She climbed up in the chair next to my son and then it hit me. She WAS CHEWING THAT DAMN PIECE OF GUM AGAIN!

“Are you chewing gum? Are you chewing that piece of old, nasty gum again?” I asked, knowing the answer but resigned to the exercise of being the parent here.
She smiled.
“I am a raccoon.”
“Huh?” please remember that I was only half way through my fist cup of coffee so my reflexes were a little dim.
“I am a raccoon. I dig what I want out of the trash and I eat it!”

I did not make that up.

What do you do? I laughed.

And I realized that she had felt the same self righteous gratification as I had the night before. She had not negotiated with me either – me being the imperialist usurper of all that is fun in the world. She had simply altered her devious plan.

She shook my hand and agreed that she would not make any more nuclear weapons but she never agreed to stop buying them from outside sources.

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