One of the primary reasons we got a membership to Costco was for the gallon-sized bags of dried mango, the Achilles heel of snacks for everyone in our family. In a subsequent moment of domestic exertion, I ordered snap-top Tupperware to store all of our snacks in a pull-out drawer. They are now filled with pretzels, tamari chips, almonds, granola bars, plantain chips, veggie straws, and the prized dried mango. It’s a level of snack-filled plenty I would have died for as a kid and yet another way I’m somehow compensating for the deficits of my childhood.
These snacks—and the recently acquired tub of Halloween candy—are often the hub of my kids’ negotiations. “I’m not going to school unless I get a lollipop.” “I’ll put on socks if I can have a piece of dried mango.” And so on.
My children love to negotiate, particularly during moments of parental exasperation. For me, this is disproportionately on school days before 8:15 a.m. when we’re rushing to get dressed, pack lunches, put on socks, eat breakfast, remember to bring in the three objects for show-and-tell and pack an extra snack for after school. One or both of the kids starts to resist: Julian doesn’t want to get dressed. He only wants the flannel shirt that’s filthy from wearing it the past two days. He only wants lemon yogurt. Ada wants to draw and pretends she can’t hear us when we call her to eat her cereal. She’s busy making a necklace and can’t put on her socks. She wants the iPad. Her sweater that she loved yesterday is now too bunchy and she’s pissed. Sure, occasionally the morning goes like clockwork, but usually there is at least one substantial hiccup which leaves us on edge and racing the clock.
The negotiations of a 4 and 6 year old are exasperatingly mundane and repetitive, defined by arguing over seconds and minutes, bites of toast, and numbers of blueberries and sips of smoothie. They are over the “wrong” socks and shampooing, bedtime books, and insisting Julian wear pants to breakfast. And they are more tiring than five back-to-back zoom meetings, because your combatant is often irrational, wired to win at all costs, and doesn’t care that you don’t yet have coffee.
Negotiation—engaging in it, and then giving into it—can feel like a parental failure because it can arise from not setting clear expectations. When one is less self-critical, you realize many of these asks are not things you could have possibly set expectations around, and that kids will take any opportunity to come in and pounce. Add a second kid, a dose of sibling rivalry, and one parent away for the week, and you’ve got a recipe for giving your kids copious amounts of whatever the hell they want.
This morning Julian is first to be ready, masked and out the door. He runs down the hall to call the building’s torturously slow elevator. Ada is dawdling, drawing a treasure map that she wants to finish before she goes. I’m rushing her out the door. She wants three more minutes that we don’t have. I tell her we need to go, in sterner language. She crinkles up her nose, narrows her eyes, and runs away. “1 PIECE OF HALLOWEEN CANDY,” she insists. I hold my line. She spews some nasty words then resigns and grabs her backpack and goes to the hall. When Julian sees us come out together he plops himself down in the hallway: “I don’t want Ada to come. I’m only going to school if you take me alone.” Ada—who hates to be late—looks at me and reaches into her pocket where she’s secretly stashed away more dried mango. “Oh Juliannnn, i’ll give you this mango if you come to school with me.” She knows, too well, how to play both sides.
Recommendations for the kids:
Sweats sets: These extremely cute sweatshirts, hoodies, and sweatpants from Lewis. Dying for that snail print and wish the grasshopper/wheat one came in adult sizes.
Draw: This Paper Mate set of 40 felt-tip pens was a huge hit for Ada’s birthday. Half the collection are scented, so you can draw french toast with a french-toasted smelling pen. (gag)
For the holidays: I’ve mentioned Children’s Haus before—a pop-up play house your kids can draw on, sticker on, or transform into…pretty much anything you can imagine. DISCOUNT: Newsletter readers get 10% off with the code YP10 (+ there’s free shipping through the holidays)
Gift Guide: The Kid Should See This makes my favorite Gift Guide for Kids
Recommendations for the grown-ups:
Pie: If you’re ordering pies for Thanksgiving, Petee’s Pies makes my favorite pies in NYC. Highly recommend the sour cherry crumb and the black bottom chess. If you’re making a pie for Thanksgiving, it’s not the obvious choice but this Chocolate Cream Pie is always a hit.
Breakfast: We’ve become waffle people and my go-to is this buttermilk-based recipe. Don’t skimp on the butter and throw in some chocolate chips to please the kids. We have this Chefman waffle maker which totally does the trick.
Watch: The Chair on Netflix with Sandra Oh as an elite college’s first woman, POC department chair, co-starting Jay Duplass, which explores gender, power, academia, cancel culture, adoption, and single parenting in a succinct 6 episodes. (The Atlantic boldly calls it “Netflix’s Best Drama in Years”)
That’s it for this week. Leave a comment, send me a note, recommend something you love back my way. <3