Whenever I wanted something as a child I would go to my parents and say, “Oh, dearest mother and/or father, if you could find it in your magnanimous heart I entreat you, might I have that toy and/or candy, there, in the aisle betwixt the Chapstick and the National Enquirer?” Well, that’s what my brain said, my mouth sounded more like “GIMMIE! GIMMIE! GIMMIE! PLEASE? OOOH, I’LL NEVER ASK FOR ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!” My parents were calm and collective and immediately returned an answer of “Maybe.”
Maybe? What the hell is this maybe, crap? Can I have it or can’t I? The indecision is killing me. So of course, I would continue to ask if a decision was made. That is a path to rejection. Maybe leads to pestering. Pestering leads to annoyance. Annoyance leads to NO!
I hated that. I hated when I would ask for something and I would get maybe as an answer. Getting “Maybe” as a response was like a the insurance in Blackjack. It’s a sucker bet. Any kid who hears maybe as a decision is morally obligated to continually ask again and again which always leads to the same final answer of “No.” It was almost like baiting a child to piss you off into saying it. There it is, “maybe,” sitting in the middle of a forest with no one around. A child slinks along the treeline, stalking its prey. The “maybe” sits there enticing the child. “No one is around to stop you, go ahead.” The child hesitantly walks up and taps at the word. Jumping back to see if a trap gets sprung. Nothing happens. The child once again, more cautiously sneaks up on the word and taps at it. Jumping back, but not as much. Now, full of confidence, the child brazenly walks up to the word and grabs it, full force, and begins to yank at it. It notices the string but it’s already too late. The trap is sprung and soon the carefully woven net of “No” surrounds the child, capturing it in its grasp with no chance of escape. Another one caught.
Maybe. What the hell?
But now I am a parent and the constant barrage of “Can I have a cookie?” or “Can we race the car?” comes from the mouth of my three year old. We have to restaurants that we frequently patronize and in both there is a small area for games. One has a racing game and the other has a couple of crane games. We used to be able to fool her into believing that the demo of the racing game was her actually playing it but she caught on rather quickly and said, “Daddy, you have to put quarters in there to make it go.” With the crane games, she doesn’t accept the fact that the machines are geared towards not paying out, with the exception of the candy one which allows you to play until you win. So, as we make our way out in the evening for dinner and she says, “Can I race the car” or when we go to the grocery store and pass by the bakery prompting her to ask for a cookie, I have fallen into that same answer strategically employed by my parents. “Maybe,” I say to her. Then the cycle repeats all over again as it did when I was a child.
But, I add a caveat to the answer. “Maybe, but you have to be a good girl and sit quietly and eat your dinner.” And for the most part we manage to get more results out of her than if we were to just say “Maybe” and be done with it. She hasn’t quite caught on to the length of time that should pass yet and when I say, “In a minute” she immediately equates a minute to a few seconds between her asking the first time and the second time. She’s getting better but there are instances where I catch myself saying “maybe” when I really mean no but I don’t want a full blown three alarm meltdown from saying it. Sometimes, she forgets what she asked but she has a pretty good memory and calls me on it. Perhaps she is baiting me into a trap and the hunter is suddenly becoming the hunted.