Negotiating is one of the skills my mother taught us intentionally, and one that I teach my kids intentionally. It is also a skill I use in my marriage, and one I use at work.
With the kids, it is like a lot of skills and even character traits. More of a pain at their current age than a benefit. I'm taking the long view, but it is a major pain in the butt when they don't yet understand where the line really truly is, but know how to work the angles...
Saturday was one of the big street festivals in our town. Every agency, group, organization, restaurant, student group, and what appears to be half the home-based businesses in the entire town show up, set up booths, and prepare for the flood of families. A lot of regular folk turn out, and it is unusual to wander for any length of time without running into someone you know. (Strangely, this time the first person I encountered was someone from work...)
And it was negotiation central.
Mr G was all over those skills. Before we even reached Main Street (yes, we have a Main Street, which is actually still the main street), he had asked about what his options were if he found something he wanted that was outside his financial wherewithal for the moment. I said I'd spot him change if he was close. Otherwise, no.
And then he saw the first place he wanted to go. Instead of just at the booth, he wanted to go inside. And honestly, I didn't want to. I wanted to stay outside and hang out with the work friend I'd invited down with his wife. It is challenging sometimes to create a friendship outside of work, and more so when you're working across cultures. In general, I haven't pursued a new friendship for years - I just do not have time to make friends with all the people I think would be good to be friends with. Certainly I struggle to keep up with the friends I already have. But still... This guy is enough above the margin that I'm pursuing it intentionally. Plus I majorly need a work friend. I've been at this job since November, and he's the only likely candidate. He's a really good candidate (despite the culture difference), at that, but it's a lot of famine in the friend variety at this job. I'm going to take the one shot I've got.
So, when Mr G wanted to go inside (and wanted an adult with him), I really didn't want to go. I wanted to hang out, be present, be the good host, and...
Sigh. I was faced with a child who knew how to ask for what he wants, and negotiate when faced with a no. He asked for reduced time commitment on my part, stated his case on why he wanted an adult with him, persisted, and explained why the inside of the store was important to see. Okaaaaay, okay. Yes, I'll go with you.
He didn't buy anything, but Miss R did. That left ep on the sidewalk with our tentatively new friends (said work friend and his lovely wife). I think ep got a lot more face time than I did, all in all. Because the negotiation just did not stop. I've mentioned that at this age it can be annoying, yes?
Next it was where we were going next, and how far. Just those two more booths? We can go by ourselves and meet you back here. Can we just look there, please? We don't need to buy anything, we just want to see what is available. And then there was the place with the glass jewelry, and then could he have his own french fries instead of sharing them, and ... My brain hurts. He was good at it. Persistent, challenging my logic and my assumptions, working the system for his greatest benefit without tipping the scales too far.
He did max out eventually, and get to the begging for a loan stage - just a few more dollars to spend. Granted, he'd misunderstood something I'd said, and then he felt like I'd gone back on my statement (rather than having misunderstood or misinterpreted). And so when he'd spent his money (plus the change I said I'd spot him), he thought we were still going to go back to another stall and get something he'd seen there. Only, he was out of money. But I'd said. And yet he was out of money. And then it was like this...
Mr G: But you know, mom, I'm very good at earning money. I'm good at it, I'm fast, I will have the money in just a couple of days. Baba is paying me more and ...
Me: We don't want you getting in the habit of spending outside your means.
Mr G: But it's inside my means if I have it in two days.
Me: No, it's not.
Mr G: That's not how I see it.
Me: It's how I see it, though, and I'm not comfortable teaching you to buy on credit.
Mr G: It's not credit!
Me: It's a loan. The International Bank of Mom is closed.
Mr G: But you know I'm able to get the money, and you SAID.
Me: I said, yes, but I meant only if you hadn't already spent your budget - which also fits within what I said.
Mr G: But I really want BOTH, mom!
Me: I understand you want both. You really, really want both. You chose to buy the better item, more valuable and a more reasonable option, which will last longer and suits your style better.
Mr G: But I think the other is really cool.
Me: Hmm, I recall that at the time, you weren't sure if it was good enough, which says to me that it wasn't.
Mr G: But it was!
Me: Okay, even if it was, opportunity cost is something we all have to live with. You got the better item at the expense of getting the merely good item. That was a good choice. To me, that seems the best choice. It still is uncomfortable, because you'll still feel the wanting for the 'just good' thing that you also wanted. But you'll feel better about that sooner than you think. (realizing lecture mode started, cutting back)
Mr G: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, I'm sure.
Mr G: Really, really sure?
Me: Very sure. You made a good choice, Mr G. It's just uncomfortable when you can't make every choice you want to make all at once. It is kind of ouchy.
Mr G: Yeah. (Collapsed his head against my chest for a hug.) I still really want it. I think you should...
Me: No. Bank is closed.
Mr G: You know I could earn it.
Me: Yes, I do. And I'm still not going to give you the money. It would be a bad habit to start.
Mr G: But I don't ever ask for extra money or loans!
Me: Actually, Mr G, you do. Nearly every time you find something you can't afford, you ask us to spot you the extra. I already did that today. I'm not doing it again.
Mr G: Oh. (Attitude shifted as he realized I was actually right, and this wasn't a case of 'you never, you always, it's not fair!'.) Okay. (pause) Can we at least walk past the stall?
Mr G: But you SAID.
Me: No, it will just eat at you. We're going to walk our guests home now. This direction.
Mr G: ARGH.
Me: I understand. But we're going this way. Now, please.
Mr G: Okaaaaaay.
That part wasn't the ideal negotiating methodology, but it was a good conversation anyway.
When we got home, he was still on the verge of tears from frustration. He sooooooo wanted to buy both things. But no, mom held her ground and didn't roll over. Dammit. But he also solved that emotional state problem by asking if he could get out his woodsman's blades and hack some cardboard up to put in the recycling bin. Yeah, sure! So he banged away, distracting himself with the exercise. He didn't do it angry, either - not aggressive banging, just something that took some concentration and effort. By the time he came in, he was looking a lot more peaceful. Next morning, he was still wishing it could have been otherwise, but he's not depressed about it.
And that's just one layer of negotiating I did. There was also the uppies/carry-me negotiation (I overdid things earlier in the day and started bleeding from the endometrial biopsy, so I was trying to keep the physical effort down... only, I didn't manage that, because there was too much fun to be had carrying Miss M upside-down, and dancing with them on my hip, and doing dips... and uh, that was stupid. Stoooooopid. Can I say stupid again? STUPID. ARGH.).
Beyond that further, and much more important, is the slow, gradual re-negotiation of our roles (ep's and mine), the arrangement of who we are together and who we are apart, and how we shift those. I've been appreciating him a lot, and it has come out in ways that he appreciates NOT AT ALL. Oy. So, we're re-negotiating how to even express things effectively, and how best to attend to each other. Negotiating where one role starts and the other ends, and how to structure the re-connections, and all of that.
At least the doc did say that I need only wait three weeks to resume, er, activity. But still six for biopsy results, unless there's something more important sooner. I'd have rather not waited any weeks for the former. Or the latter, really. But the former is always good when renegotiating roles and boundaries and needs with one's partner.
Meanwhile, negotiating in a different way continues, too - negotiating the tricky boundaries of an intercultural friendship just ticking over the line into the real friends category. Still too new to lean on without breaking it, and far too many tricky areas to just let it grow in without some careful observation, and yet more negotiating.
There's a lot of that going around.