Bribe and Switch

After preschool drop-off is supposed to be naptime for toddlers, but we’ve got neighbors coming for dinner and we desperately need at least a single grape or stick of broccoli or something to show that we do, in fact, eat vitamins here. But sleepy Claudia generates her own gravity, and that’s hard to fight — so it’s bribe time.

“Claudia, can we run to the market before nap? I’ll get you a treat…"

Baby agrees, and we’re off. The requested treat turned out to be apple juice, which for Claudia of the Early Afternoon might as well be kerosene on a barbecue.

The funny thing about treats and my 2-year old, though, is that she doesn’t actually have to ingest it. She just wants to know we’ve bought it, so I put it in the cart and make plans to drink it myself after midnight. (I only drink alone. Juice, anyway.) By the time I’m loading the car, the treat, I expect, is forgotten.

When we get home, though, Claudia surprises me: “Treat? Treat?” For the first time ever, she’s remembered my promise, and I briefly panic: apple juice before nap would mean a hyper, sleepless toddler and, more importantly, no break time for daddy.

Then I remember one of my favorite parenting techniques: Bait and Switch. “You want your treat, Claudia? Well, I wasn’t supposed to do this, but how about these… special… sweet… carrots?

“Yeah, carrots! Carrots! Carrots!” she says with a manic enthusiasm, as if I’d offered her amphetamines before her O-chem final. As I hand her some carrot sticks I get some of the thrill of a Moroccan street vendor haggling with American tourists: there’s nothing as awesome as selling to the ignorant.

A few munches and a swig of milk later, and Claudia is asleep, no doubt dreaming of the apple juice she never got.