Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moo Moo's Guide to Compromise

A good friend of mine, Tony, pointed out a book to me, just a few weeks before I journeyed to Italy. The book was called, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.”

After living with a four and five year old for nearly a month now, I have discovered how true that statement is. While we learn a lot of lessons: Like sharing, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, the one that stands out to me most is the idea of compromise.

I have learned from these kids that we learn compromise VERY early, but we learn about a deeper kind of compromise…we learn about bargaining.

Kids are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They know when you are trying to trick them, they know when their parents have left and who they can try and get away with things with, and they know where the chocolate is hidden in the kitchen. They know how to scream, how to fight, and how to hustle. Their compromise is bargaining—their compromise is hustling.

Walking through the door on the coldest day in December, I tell the kids that their snack will be yogurt and that their mom has chosen it. I go to the kitchen, I take out two yogurts, I put them on the table, and I say snack time!

The kids come running in, and the young boy says—"No not that one, I look in the fridge." He spots the one and only MooMoo vanilla and chocolate pudding—the equivalent to a Trix Yogurt that would have been sitting in my fridge when I was five. The young boy turns to me and says, “Can I have that one?” Untrained, I say, "Of course"…But as soon as the young boy puts it on the table, the young girl’s eyes light up. “I WANT” she yells. And then the gaping wallows of tears begin to stream as I take it away and say we must not eat it, if it is the only one left. Thankfully, within moments the mom has walked through the door and begins to take care of business.

Just a few days later, I am faced with the same challenge. Yogurt for snack time.

I sit the two yogurts on the table. The kids sit down. The young boy eats his diligently saying “It was good…chocolate now?” I say “Maybe.” The young girl sits defiantly at the other end of the table, shaking her head with her arms across her chest. “I WANT MOO MOO.” I tell her no. So she goes and sits in another chair, still arms crossed, and a smug look on her face.

I tell the boy that he can have ONE chocolate. He and I sit down and play Eenie Meeni Miny Moe to decide which chocolate it should be. The little girl says, “Moo Moo,” and “I don’t like this one.” I know it’s not true as I have seen her eat it with her mom. She knows I am easier to get away with things with, because I can’t tell her no—and because I can’t tell her why not in her native language. All I can do is pretend to cry when she cries too, and see if she gets the point. But this time, I try something new. I start opening the yogurt and say it’s either this or nothing. She still carries the smug face. She sees the chocolate again in the boy’s hands and her eyes are bright.

“If you eat this yogurt, you will get ONE chocolate.”

Smiling, she grabs the yogurt and asks me to help her open it. I help her and she starts taking big bites.



This is not compromise. This is the most important lesson we learn when we grow up…How to bargain our way to get what we truly want. I am starting to think the show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” should be transformed into, “Have you been hustled by a 5 year old?”

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