Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's Make a Deal....

or, "I'll take the raging ear infection that's hiding behind door #3, Monty!"

I may have mentioned yesterday that Ethan has started dabbling in the art of wheeling and dealing when it comes to trying to get out of every day chores like cleaning up toys that have seemingly projectile vomited themselves from the play room shelves to the living room floor over the course of the day. (And let's take a moment to acknowledge that I'm writing blog posts TWO days in a row! Aaaand, let's also take bets on the likelihood of me losing my mojo again and disappearing for another 3 weeks....).

While the battle for collective bargaining rights wages on in Wisconsin, I'm dealing with my very own one-4.5-year-old-person union right here in my own home and he drives a crazy hard, relentless bargain. I keep turning him away from the table, telling him that no, he may not clean up tomorrow; no, it is not reasonable for me to believe that he is playing with every. single. toy. in the living room all at once; and that, no, "Cleaning up is too boring," and "But I'm too tired," are indeed not legitimate reasons to keep the Buzz Lightyears, the Lego storm troopers, and eleventy billion matchbox cars strewn across the floor.

And yet, he keeps coming back to the table with more explanations of how cleaning up tomorrow will actually be beneficial for both of us, and how, if I can't see that, and insist on the room being cleaned at this very moment, I will have to do it myself. It's really fun trying to explain to a 4.5 year old that he really has no leg to stand on.

A few days ago, while I was attempting an unprecedented "just stopping in for ONE thing" Target trip (I'll spare you the suspense: I left with at least 5 things...), Ethan asked for a toy. I explained to him that at that very moment, there were no fewer than 50 toys on the floor of the living room and/or play room and/or his bedroom, and that until he got those cleaned up and kept them cleaned up, he could forget any more glorious romps through the toy aisle at Target. As I contemplated the difference between "Nice 'n Easy"'s "Espresso on the Double" and "Suddenly Sable" boxes, I could tell his gears were working...

"How about...." he paused, making sure he had my attention (I am riveted by drug store hair dyes), and then continued, "you buy me a toy now, and I promise when I get home, I'll clean up all the toys in the living room." Big smile. Winning! This deal could not be turned down!!

Except, it was. Poor kid. "No, Ethan; you need to clean up today's mess and show me that you can take good care of your toys before we get any more. That's the way it is. End of discussion."

And then there was much whining in the hair dye aisle.

Thus far my favorite leap-of-logic-turned-bargaining-attempt came last week when I told Ethan that he needed to clean up his toys before dinner. He stopped what he was doing (something that involved not cleaning up his toys) and said to me in a matter of fact voice, "Here's the thing, though, Mom; they're my toys and I make the rules of them. My rules for my toys are that I don't have to clean them up unless I want to. Okay?" As though, you know, perhaps I'd missed the memo concerning "Ethan's rules for his toys" and he was just trying to make it clear once and for all so I could stop needlessly harping on this whole ridiculous tidying up business.
He really wasn't trying to sass me; in his sweet little heart of hearts, he truly thought he was clearing up this little misunderstanding between us. Couldn't you eat him up? Uh-huh. I had a hard time not laughing, clearly.

The irony of the scene was when, after his declaration of toy independence, he turned to walk out of the room, and stepped foot-arch first onto one of his match box cars. Tears flowed, "owwwwiieeeeeeee!!!"s were bellowed several times and the little rule-maker hobbled to me for snuggles and kisses. He obviously wasn't seriously hurt and I obviously didn't laugh out loud at the whole thing, nor did I say anything even remotely sounding like "I told you so," but it did kind of make me chuckle on the inside that his little plan to cover the entire living room floor in pointing hard pieces of metal backfired on him.

I took the opportunity (after many hugs and kisses of motherly reassurance and unconditional love) to explain to him that part of the reason mommy and daddy want him to clean up his toys is so that things like that don't happen--to him, or to us. I explained that we're a family and families help each other out by taking responsibility for our own things, making sure they all go where they're supposed to be so no one gets hurt and nothing gets lost.

After a small, inconvenient misunderstanding of the definition of "cleaning up the living room", which Ethan translated into "take every toy that is on the living room floor and throw it onto the play room floor wherever it may land," we've managed to live in relative harmony for several days--toys pretty much in their space, coming out only a few at a time and going back when we're done with them. I've helped a little, but mostly I've encouraged from the sidelines, explaining that moms help their kids do things that they need help with--like laundry, and meals, flossing their teeth and writing lower case letters--but little kids are totally capable of picking up their own toys, so moms really don't need to help them with that a whole lot.

But this morning, the living room floor was once again starting to look like the site of a vicious match box car, Imaginext man and Transformer cage match, so I asked Ethan to clean it up before we went to the airport to pick up Husband from his week-long business trip to London.

As if on cue, Ethan grabbed his ear and wailed. "My ear huuuuuuurrrrttttssss!" My first assumption was that Mr. I Haven't Had an Ear Infection Since I Was One Year Old was working on his acting skills (his class is all into acting out the Billy Goats Gruff stories right now and I hear Ethan makes a spectacularly mean and comical troll--its possible I'm raising the next Adam Sandler and I'm not sure how I feel about that). Really. He has no conscious memory of ever having had an ear infection and even when I've been absolutely sure in the past that he has an ear infection---he hasn't. So, cynical mom-of-the-year me, I assumed it was yet another get-out-of-cleaning bargaining ploy. And I made him clean up his toys. I mean, really--it came out of nowhere.

Until he kept complaining and whining while he picked up his toys. And I realized that earlier in the morning, he'd told me his ear "was itchy on the inside". And that he'd been coughing a little bit in the night. And that I was a horrible, awful mom for making my kid clean up his toys while he was telling me his ear hurt. There was much snuggling, and repentant-mother/wronged-child bonding at that point, until we went to pick up Husband

The doctor couldn't see him until 6pm tonight; fortunately Motrin kept the pain at bay until right around that time. When Husband and I got him into the office, the doctor poked around for a few minutes and said, "Yup. That ear is infected."

I suck. And I am totally cleaning up his toys for him for the next week.

Just to clarify, I am in no way trying to make fun or light of what's currently going on in Wisconsin, nor am I trying to make an actual comparison between a 4.5 year old and the teachers' unions in that state. Anyone who knows anything about my political beliefs knows what I think of that situation.


Amy said...

Here's how bad I am: every time the kids get hurt when there's nonsense involved, the whole time I am hugging them I am saying, "See! That's why we don't (full in the blank). Somebody always gets hurt." Mean, mean mommy!

Kayla said...

Dude, if he was well enough to get all his toys out and play and make a mess, he was well enough to clean up.

lonek8 said...

you are not bad for making him clean up his toys even though his ear hurt. Maybe if he had a broken leg or something, that would be mean. I totally tell my kids "I told you so" when they step on their toys and hurt themselves.

I think Ethan sounds like he might have a future as a lawyer - all that bargaining and clever manipulation!

Sarah said...

Isn't it cuh-razy how fast an ear infection comes on? harry has has 2 in the last 3 years, and both times, he just started screaming about ear pain apropos of nothing. There was no build up at all!

I love the "I make the rules of them"-- hahahaha