Advanced Negotiations, An Ongoing Series

From time to time I’ve mentioned Eli’s futile attempts to threaten his sister by saying things like, “If you don’t do what I want, I’m leaving!” He’s moved on from that; instead, now he tattles. He tells us every thing Liza does that’s wrong, where “wrong” is defined as “things Mom and Dad have said are bad, and also things I don’t like”.

My dad harnessed this childhood trait for his own nefarious ends. Every year we traveled from Arkansas to Alabama for Christmas. Our tradition was that, on Christmas morning, we woke up and ran into the living room, where all of our presents were displayed, unwrapped, just as Santa had brought them. This meant that dad had to pack the car with our unwrapped presents.

One year he hit upon a brilliant stratagem. He took me aside. “Stephen,” he said, “I’ve put some of Andrew’s presents in the car. I need you to make sure he doesn’t go near the car and find them.” I agreed, so he then found Andrew and said, “I’ve put some of Stephen’s presents in the car. Make sure he doesn’t go near there.” We watched each other like hawks, ready to tell dad if one of us got within twenty feet of the car.

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to use Eli’s tattling for yet. Eli doesn’t have that problem, though. He’s sure he can use it in negotiations. We’ve started asking Eli and Liza to work out their own disagreements, so tonight, when Eli yelled, “Liza hit me! And it wasn’t for any reason, either!” I asked them to figure out how to resolve the problem.

“Liza, please don’t hit me,” Eli said. “Or else I’ll tell dad again.”

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