The Negotiator


There’s nothing more frustrating arguing with a three-year-old, but there are few things more challenging, it seems, than negotiating with a five-year-old.

I feel like my relationship with Vivian now is calmer than it was two years ago because Vivian has matured. She can calm herself down more, and it’s possible to reason with her. However, that same maturity has unveiled something else: Vivian’s intelligence. She’s sneaky, and will look for and exploit any loophole in the system.

Case in point, this past Saturday, I was taking Vivian and Nora to her grandparents for a visit. Vivian asks that we stop off home to get her doll Luvvy, a comfort object.

That’s reasonable, I think, and I have to grab my own computer as well. “Fine,” I said.

“And I want purple blanket too!”

Now that’s not reasonable. Yes, purple blanket is an important comfort object, but it’s a bedspread. The place it belongs in is a bed, and not the back seat of a car getting mixed together with winter boots and coats. “No,” I said. “It’s too big.”

Thankfully, she accepts this. “Well, then, I want Princess!” Her pet stuffed unicorn.

I can see that I have to draw a line here, so I put my foot down. “No,” I said. “You each can bring just one thing to your grandparents’ house.”

Nora pipes up. “I waan my wuvvy.”

Wuvvy — I mean, Luvvy — is Nora’s doll, an exact replica of Vivian’s Luvvy, except that Nora stripped her naked. Nora, however, already has her comfort object: pink blankey, which is much smaller than purple blanket.

So, I try reasoning with Nora, who’s two. Miraculously, it works. “Nora, you can only bring one thing to your grandparents’ house. If you bring Wuvvy, you’ll have to leave pink blankey behind.”


But now Vivian gets concerned. “But if Nora leaves pink blankey behind, she’ll get upset!”

Nora is starting to let go of pink blankey as a comfort object. She generally only depends on it for bedtime, now, although there are cases when something upsets her and she needs pink blankey now. It’s a reasonable concern.

But by now, the conversation has gone on far longer than I want it to. I want to shut off debate and not commit myself. Also, I have a suspicion as to where this is going. So, I retreat to the parents’ standby: “We’ll see.”

My suspicions were confirmed when Vivian then sniffed and said, “Why does Nora get to bring two things and I only get to bring one?”

I stood my ground. I exchanged pink blankey for Nora’s Wuvvy, and took my kids to their grandparents’ house. But when Vivian wasn’t looking, I stuck pink blankey in the trunk.

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