Bartering is often a part of life

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 26, 2015

Moments of clarity seem to come more quickly with age — though admittedly for many of us that will reverse at some point.

Last week such a moment came over a spoonful of peas.

The peas were nothing special, just the frozen variety that had been boiled into softness, and then cooled on the plate.

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The challenge was the squirming 2-year-old who was waging a momentary hunger strike.

Logically, we know skipping a meal here and there won’t likely kill any of us. But that bit of clarity was lost in the moment. The goal at the moment was to get Anna’s brain to focus and eat a spoonful of peas.

The best news is that we’ve been blessed with what could be described as a “good eater.” She typically likes all kinds of vegetables — albeit only when the veggies are room temperature or below, which is a bit nasty to my palate.

But lately, she’s seeking to push the boundaries, explore the world around her, find her role in it and test her ability to control the situation.

It was at that moment that I realized just how warped things had become at our house.

It hadn’t been too long ago that the phrase, “No. We don’t put our feet in our yogurt” had come forth from my mouth.

But in this pea-laden moment, I realized I’d become a parental barterer.

“If you’ll eat one spoonful of peas, you can have a muffin.”

No sooner than the words had left my mouth did the litany of recent barter statements, actually let’s call them what they really are — barter begs — come into focus.

I realized life has become a temporary state of constant bartering.

We’re in the middle of potty training, which at the moment has become a game. A quick, “I have to go potty” can send the house to DEFCON 3 as we all scramble to get to the bathroom. Usually it’s a short-lived, second or two on the actual seat. With her mission to control the house complete, she’s ready to move on to another task, with no intention of actually making anything happen on the potty.

After half a dozen of these false alarms in a short time period, frustration set in along with my barter-ultimatum gene.

“If you’re not going to sit on the potty like a big girl, I may just need to put it in the attic until you get bigger.”

Child psychologists please don’t write in. I’m not particularly proud that I lowered myself into essentially threatening to banish a small, plastic ladybug potty to the attic. I did it. I’m guilty of being human.

All I can say is this time it worked. Within an hour, that little plastic ladybug was christened multiple times and the entire house had a celebration.

The two dogs even ran around with excitement, though I’m fairly certain they didn’t have a clue what was actually going on — true, they may have smelled something was up.

Back to the peas, clearly the muffin didn’t hold the power it did earlier in the week, so I pulled out the big guns.

“You cannot get a strawberry until you eat your peas.”

Worked like a charm, though, somehow I felt a little dirty, like somehow I’d become a professional manipulator.

Hmm. Perhaps I’ll wind up in politics one day. Lord, I hope not.

Despite the new sense of clarity, the bartering continues from time to time, though I’m trying hard to curb the practice.

It just doesn’t seem wise to let it go unfettered.

Who wants their daughter to grow up thinking they can barter their way through the world?

Come to think of it, that skill may not be a bad one for her to have.

For now, I’ll just be happy if she eats her peas.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or