I have been sick for the past several days. Mr. M picked up a bug when he went camping and it hopped on me, leaving me in no shape to write. Even my dreams are sick: Rick Santelli made a pass at me on the trading floor; Ben Bernanke started growling while he was testifying before Congress.
So here's a re-hash of my third blog post, from last August.
Ever wonder what makes a good lawyer? Behold, it is your little one, the super lawyer in the car seat. Kids come armed with the skills of a trained litigator, trial lawyers growing in the womb.
Instinctively expert at forum shopping, manipulation, and debate, they could bloody F. Lee Bailey in the backyard wading pool long before they're eight. Masterful negotiators, stern and forceful promulgators (DO NOT ETER THIS ROOM UNLESS YOU KNOCK FIST), they come equipped with elephant memories and perfectly callibrated bull sh-t meters.
As adults we loom large, the inevitable and unwitting targets of these formidable foes. Even the most stalwart of parents will disintegrate in a face-off with these verbal warriors. "Alright, damn it. Go have a sugar coma. Eat the blasted cookie."
But be forewarned: this Perry Mason moment is kiddie catnip to a child, compelling him to pursue more victories with the tenacity of a crack addict.
So when your little one arrives, it's time to get down and lawyered up. Here, a brief tutorial of what to expect from your litigator.
* Forum shopping: which parent (or third party) is most likely to give the kid what he wants? Mr. M is a champion forum shopper. As in, "Hmm. I would like a Sprite. Who best to prey upon at this moment? Mom? The waiter? (as I exit for the bathroom) Yes, the waiter. I'll order up a Sprite right now." (See also shuttle diplomacy, as in "Dad, Mom said I can't have any chocolate milk, but I know you'll say yes since I haven't had any sugar all day.")
* Cross-examination (a/k/a beating a dead horse): kids just know how many times and in how many ways they must ask a question to get the right answer. Mr. M: "But you just said you wanted me to be excited on my first day of school. Are you now saying I CANNOT have this new lunch box? Have you lost your mind? Have you already forgotten what you said?" (See also, framing the issue)
* Framing the issue: you can get the answer you want to any question, so long as you ask the right question. Mr. M: "Mom, you want me to be the happiest kid there is, right?" (Me, like Charlie Brown's teacher: wonk wonk wonk) "Okay. You're the one who said it. I get to wear my Spiderman suit every day at school for the first week. It's all settled then." (Me: wonk wonk WONK!)
They also try their luck at framing the answer. Me: "Why are these dirty clothes on the floor next to the hamper?!" Mr. M: "I aimed wrong."
* Preemptive Strikes: They'll just answer the question for you. Get ready for the ubiquitous, "Okaaaay . . . I'll take that as a yes," when you are on the phone with the teacher, doing CPR on your neighbor, or are otherwise overwhelmed. And when all else fails for the child litigator, you may hear, "Alright. That's your final answer! By the way, today is opposite day!"
WONK WONK WONK!