Why is it that I can negotiate with a car dealer but not with my four-year-old?
When I was pregnant with Jacob, I was still driving around in my little thirteen-year-old Geo Prizm. I saw no reason to give it up. But everyone was telling me that I NEEDED a bigger car.
“Do babies come with an entourage?” I asked. “Because this little person is going to start out somewhere in the ballpark of six to nine pounds. WHY DO I NEED A ROOMY INTERIOR AND CARGO SPACE?” When I said this to people with kids they looked at me like I really shouldn’t be entrusted with a newborn.
Then they cocked their heads and slowly enunciated the words, “For. All. The. STUFF”. Oooh, right. The STUFF. Babies come with stuff? Can I just order the basic model? Without attachments? Apparently not. It seems that someone (Babies R Us?) passed a law in the late 1990s requiring babies to be equipped AT ALL TIMES with: a car seat, a stroller, a diaper bag, a change of clothing, a bag of toys, a blankie, a lovie and several pacifiers. Eventually I got spooked enough by the idea of all this STUFF. I capitulated. And started car shopping.
So there I was, having just kicked off my third trimester, waddling around car dealerships. Car salesmen would come up to me and ask, “Do you know what kind of car you’re looking for?” And I would give them my specifications. And then they would say, “Okay, well why don’t you tell me what colors you like and I can bring some cars around for you to test drive.” Seriously. I got the color question. TWICE. At least, the second time I was prepared. “Do the red ones work differently than the blue ones?” Salesman looked at me confused. “Because if they work the same way then WHY DO I NEED TO PICK A COLOR TO DO A TEST DRIVE??”
An aside. If you work in a car dealership and have a customer who happens to be a female, try treating her as though she has the mental capacity of a real, live ADULT. See what happens. Just do it as an experiment. Do it for me. Do it for your mother. Do it for humanity.
Fast forward a few weeks. Okay, FINE, a few months. I finally decided which car I wanted to buy. I went to three dealerships and asked them to quote me a price. Then I went back to the one with the lowest quote. This time I brought my husband, Dan, with me. But here’s the thing: the salesman refused to honor his quote. I showed him the piece of paper he’d written it on. He stood firm. He put on his ‘don’t-be-ridiculous’ face and said, “I couldn’t sell you the car for THAT. I wouldn’t make ANY PROFIT.” By now, it was close to lunch time. And I was very hungry. And cranky. Dan was ready to get up and leave. I was not. “I am NOT AT ALL CONCERNED about you making a profit. Seriously?!? You’re a car dealer. You always make a profit. ARE YOU GOING TO HONOR THE PRICE YOU QUOTED ME OR NOT?!?” Dan looked shocked. The salesman did the whole “Let me go talk to my manager” thing. (What are they really doing back there? I’m thinking “Beavis and Butthead” reruns.)
Meanwhile, I was only getting hungrier. It was touch and go whether I would start snacking on the salesman’s desk. Finally, he came back. We got the car for the price quoted. Though, in the end, it was an empty victory. (That damn car has been recalled at least four times. Bastards.) But the point is that I was able to negotiate successfully.
So, why, WHY, can’t I negotiate with my four-year-old?
Jacob never wants to go to sleep. Or, perhaps more accurately, he never wants to go to sleep in a room by himself. Stick him on a cot at preschool, in a sea of other napping four-year-olds, and he’s down for the count. Stick him in a room by himself at home and he starts negotiating. This boy has game whether he’s resisting bedtime at 8:00pm or wants company in the middle of the night.
Jacob: But MOOOOmmmy, I need you.
Me: Jacob, honey, you need to sleep in your own bed. We’re just down the hall.
Jacob: Mommy, NOOOOOOooooo. Stay!
Me: Jacob, it’s 4:00am. I’m TIRED. I need to rest just like you do.
Jacob: Okay, Mommy. Rest with me here. I’ll make room.
Me: No, honey, I need to rest in my own bed.
Jacob: Okay, Mommy. OKAY. You go rest in your bed. I’ll come with you. (Starts gathering up stuffed animals.)
Me: Honey, that’s not a choice.
Meanwhile Dan is standing (half-asleep) behind me. Lurking. Waiting. Because he knows that eventually I’ll cave. (Though in some cases, he’s tired enough not to remember he got up and thinks he’s still in bed.) In between talking to Jacob, I’m leaning toward Dan and whispering out of the corner of my mouth.
Me: Maybe I’ll just stay in Jacob’s room so we can all get some rest.
Dan (barely conscious): NO.
Me: It’s 4:30 in the morning. It’s not like it’s midnight. There’s no way he’s going to be tired enough to fall back asleep unless one of us is in here.
Me: Just this once?
Dan: We don’t negotiate with terrorists.
And then there are the negotiations about food. We were eating sushi for dinner a few nights ago– one of Jacob’s many favorite foods. There were only two pieces of avocado maki left.
Jacob: Mommy, can I have the last two?
Me: How about you have one and Daddy has the other.
Jacob (whining): NOOOOOooo. I want TWO. I have only had two so far.
Me: You have to share with Daddy.
Jacob (now sounding completely calm and rationale): Mommy, I need two. Because then I will have four. And I *am* four.
Long pause while Dan and I look at each other.
Me: Jacob, I’m forty. Does that mean I get forty pieces of sushi?
Jacob (pauses for a moment to think): I WANT ONE HUNDRED.*
Because ultimately the best defense is a good offense.
And then this morning. Jacob was annoyed because Dan was reading Emma a Sesame Street book using the voice of Elmo. (Jacob was not the only one who found this annoying.)
Jacob: Daaaaddddy, STOP.
Dan: Jacob, I’m reading to Emma.
Jacob: Daaaddddy, NOOOO. Use your regular voice.
Dan: Jacob, when I’m reading to you, it’s your choice. Right now I’m reading to Emma. (Emma tries desperately to squirm off Dan’s lap.)
Jacob (storms out of the room and follows me downstairs): Daddy, I am going on vacation and you are NOT coming! Just me and Mommy! And Emma!
Me: Vacation? Where are we going? Bahamas??
Jacob: Yes! Just you and me and Emma. NOT Daddy.
Dan (still upstairs, suddenly has a vision of me and the kids taking a “vacation” without him– sleeping in, eating out, movies, poker with friends, road trips– and bursts into song): Heaven, I’m in heaven . . .
Jacob: And there will be NO naptime and NO bedtime.
Me: Wait a minute . . .
Dan: Heaven, I’m in heaven . . .
I wasn’t even part of that argument and I think I still lost.
Someone. Send help.
*Dan would like me to add that he ultimately placated Jacob by cutting Jacob’s sushi in half so he had “two”. SO. VERY. WRONG.