When my nephews were tiny lil boys, my sister-in-law (SIL) was pondering a portion of a child-rearing book that discussed bargaining vs bribery. I’m not sure of all the intricate details but she filled me on how according to the book – bargaining with a child was better than bribing said child.
As my nephews got bigger, my SIL was constantly in a state of bother trying to discern the real difference between the two sides; it seemed to depend on the wording, more than anything else. Saying “If you put away all of your toys then you’ll get to watch TV before bed” was better than saying “I’ll let you watch TV if you clean this room.” Too me it all was just semantics, which seemed, far out of the comprehension of toddlers.
I remember every now and again, poking fun at my SIL when “You’ll get a cookie if…” was said. But by the time they were three, the goal was achieving the desired action – any way necessary. Which I think is something we could all relate to.
Which brings me to the other day.
First it needs to be said, that Lil Burs is quite the chatty Cathy. I have yet to find a moment where she isn’t at the ready with any number of conversational topics. Thing is, these topics, are some of the furthest things from either my mind or potential to interject any viewpoint on. Just the other day, she rattled on for forty-five minutes about jam. Yes, the stuff that you layer onto toast with butter (or, if British, also layer between cake). It started off with making jam, then her favorite jam flavours, onto what flavours she hasn’t tasted and culminated to what new ones she desired to make. She would have continued if I hadn’t finally
asked begged her to stop.
That lasted for all of seven minutes before she was recounting to me something about that thing she’d seen somewhere else. I tuned out at that point.
Typically on such occasions, we’re either walking or on a bus as a family. Which allows me the benefit to separate myself from the conversation ever so slightly, leaving Burs to contribute to the debate or analysation of the topic at hand. If we’re walking, I slow down just a bit and recede into my own mind with thoughts of fictional characters, TV shows I’d like to emulate, the beauty of the city or shoes I may have seen and what outfits they’d look good with. On a bus, I fall into my Kindle and am drifted away to far off lands.
I consider these times – father/daughter moments. Because the two of them can go on at length about a vast number of topics.
Back to the here and now. Burs, Lil Burs and I decided to head off on the open road and see Dover Castle. I must say, intially I was wondering how a two hour drive would be handled; either in a chorus of ‘I’m bored’ or with random conversation about the space time continuum. However, it was wonderful drive there, as Burs and I focused on following the SatNav (GPS for you Americans) and doing our best not to get lost. While the lil one was perched in the back seat, where she busied herself with finishing up a homework assignment.
Once at the castle, the conversations were built around where we were and the amazingness of our surroundings, hearing of the stories and learning more of the intricate role Dover Castle has played in history. And then, I’m not sure when, the lil one ran with leading the conversation. It started off simple with a ponder about sleeping habits, then lead to eating habits and before I knew it she was owning a castle, which she had us living in while friends were allowed to rent parts at half the price. But then changed that to openning up a restaurant and wanted to know how we felt about the whole castle spinning around on a daily basis and “wouldn’titbecoolifahotelturnedaroundlikethatbuteachfloorshouldgoinadifferentdirection.Oneclockwisethentheothercounterclockwisebutthenhowwouldpeoplegetinside.Imean…”
And then I tuned out. I realised that her gabbing mechanism was at full throttle and there was simply no way to stop her now. Not without it turning into a big thing. But then out of no where, I heard her ask her dad about ten pounds. It went something like “I’d do that for ten pounds.” To which I then offered her ten pounds if she stopped talking until we got home.
I don’t know what came over me.
Actually, that’s a lie. I know the fear of a two hour car ride with her going on at length about random topics was too much for my mind to deal with. Before I knew it there was a light in her eyes and she agreed to it. I had bribed her into not talking. I obviously learned nothing from what my SIL told me all those years ago. And am officially a horrible non-biological mom because of it. I’ve now taught her, I’m sure, that she should never just stop talking if she can make some money out of it.
And mind you, she did it. She struggled and nearly caved in a few times on the way back but didn’t utter a word for two hours and thirty-five minutes. Of course, once she stepped inside the apartment and gave a yelp of victory – as well as reconfirming that I now owed her £10 – she picked right up where she’d left off and filled the house with chatter again.
Which makes me wonder how bad is it all in the end? Sure, I’m no clearer on the bargaining versus bribery front but I do agree with my SIL – sometimes you’ve got to do what is necessary for sanity to prevale. In the end, there was a silent car ride home and the lil one is happily richer. No harm – no foul. That is, until the asking price for silence hits £20. Then I’m in trouble.