Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

March 6, 2010

For any parent of a preschooler, there comes a time when you realize that your child is smarter than you. I’m not talking about book smarts here, but rather sheer intellectual power—the kind that allows total domination of another person (in this case…me).

Over the last several weeks, I have become keenly aware of Wyatt’s mental superiority. I’m sure it’s been there for some time, but I’ve been sweeping it under the rug, along with Graham’s discarded cheerios. It’s pretty hard to ignore the fact, though, that Wyatt works me over on a daily basis through the art of shrewd negotiation.

“Mommy!” he says. “Mommy, I want two snacks today.”

“Wyatt,” I respond with feigned patience. “You know you only get one snack before dinner. Otherwise, your appetite will be spoiled.”

“But Mommy! I’m SO hungry. I need grapes and cheese. Does that make sense?”

“Yes it does, Wyatt. But you only get one snack. Grapes or cheese, not both. We’ve talked about this a hundred times.”

“But Mommy! I want grapes and cheese, and a banana, and some fruit snacks. Does that sound like a good idea?”

“No, Wyatt! You just get one snack.”

“OK, just grapes and cheese, then.”

“Fine. Grapes and cheese.”

Wyatt 1, Mommy 0. And that’s just the drive home from school.

Wyatt is also a master manipulator at the dinner table, where no matter how much I cater to his tiny taste buds, he always finds some reason to reject my cooking.

“Wyatt, if you eat five bites of your dinner, you’ll get some applesauce…you’ll get a bath tonight…you’ll get a sticker on your chart…you’ll get the deed to this house…”

I realize I’m breaking the cardinal rule of parenting by bribing my child to consume something more than air at dinnertime. I’m supposed to let him go to bed hungry, and he’ll learn a lesson about refusing to eat, and he won’t do it again. Except that trick doesn’t work on my kid. Believe me, we’ve tried it—several times. And here’s how it always plays out:

“MOMMY!” he shouts from his bed at 3 a.m. “DADDY!” One of us (usually Christian because I am paralyzed by exhaustion) goes stumbling into Wyatt’s room.

“What on earth is your problem?” Christian growls in Wyatt’s general direction.

“Daddy, I’m hungry.”

“Yeah, and you know why you’re hungry, Wyatt? Because you didn’t eat your dinner.” Christian unceremoniously heaps Wyatt’s blankets back on top of him and heads for the door.

“Daddy!” Wyatt pleads.

“What?”

“Daddy, I want you to cuddle with me.”

“What? No. I’m going back to bed.”

“Daddy, PLEASE! Cuddle with me. I need you to cuddle with me.”

“Fine, I’ll cuddle with you.” Christian crawls defeated into Wyatt’s twin-sized bed and catches a knee to his kidneys every five minutes for the remainder of the night.

Wyatt 1. Daddy 0. Actually, more like Wyatt 12,583. Parents 0.

Perhaps we started exposing Wyatt to the TV show Survivor at too young an age. Christian and I are devoted fans, and Wyatt seems to enjoy watching the show alongside us. But while he asks cute questions such as “Why is that girl so dirty? What happened to that boy’s tooth? Why are those kids fighting in the mud?” I’m starting to wonder if he’s not picking up on the social game play and applying what he learns to outwit, outplay, outlast his parents. Boston Rob seems to have nothing on him at this point.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be taken in by Wyatt’s cunning ways any longer. When I sense that he’s trying to pull a fast one on me, I say “Stop it, Wyatt! You’re being a used-car salesman.” And yet I still find myself bending to his will as he logically explains why he needs another snack or pleads with me in dulcet tones to read him one more book before we shut off his light.

It’s truly humbling to go head to head with Wyatt and come out the loser as often as I do. Yet I find some comfort in this: My kid is no slouch. Wyatt’s natural art of negotiation will come in handy one day when he’s buying his first home, arguing a case before the Supreme Court, or selling his business for a gagillion dollars. For now, I’ll fight back enough to help him hone his skills, and I’ll keep my sense of humor by picturing Wyatt standing in a car lot, wearing a cheap polyester suit with his hair slicked back and spouting off a well-rehearsed sales pitch to some poor fool who doesn’t know any better.

And yes, I know. I am that fool.

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Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This really makes me laugh out loud since I, a reasonably intelligent woman of 67 years, have just been conned by the young gentleman about 50 times during the last 24 hours–specifically, acquiring an extra snack and a half at bedtime and reversing innumerable opportunities to go to bed and stay there. I’m thinkin’ politician, heaven forefend.

  2. Sarah, I read your post already and tears streamed from my tightly squeezed eyes as I tried desperately to control by belly as it jiggled from laughing so hard. I don’t know what parent hasn’t experienced the scenerios you cronicle and if they deny it they are outright liars!

    Anyway, I read your blog to my older kids after dinner tonight and found myself laughing all over again. Mike, the kids and I enjoy your writing as though you are our own private journalist, penning adventures happening within our walls. It’s nice to know we all experience the same joys as patents.


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