When my daughter was seven years old, she decided to secede from the family union. It all began with ham. I was getting ready to make dinner and she wandered into the kitchen.
"Mom, what's for dinner for me?"
We have this conversation several times a week, and the answer is always the same.
"The same thing that's for dinner for the rest of us. Tonight it's ham and potatoes and green beans."
She gave a theatrical sigh. "Mo-om. I'm serious. I won't eat that. What else can you make me?"
"I can make you go to bed early tonight. How's that?"
"Mom!" Tears now. Oh, she's good. "Can't I eat the other stuff and not the ham?"
"Sure you can. You just won't get a treat tonight after dinner, is all."
"MOM! I hate ham! I hate it! You know I do! How can you be so mean?" She stomped off, heading upstairs to her room. This is unusual, as she usually drags this out for awhile. Finally, she returned, holding her favorite doll, several books, a flashlight, a backpack stuffed with...stuff...and a pair of fuzzy-footed jammies wadded up under her arm. She headed into the powder room, deposited it all, then charged into the front room to the drawers where her markers and various other kid stuffage are stored.
This should be interesting, I thought.
She returned a few moments later, taped a piece of paper to the floor outside the bathroom, dropped a pile of pennies next to it, then stepped inside and shut the door.
I walked over and read the sign:
Go ahead Mom take a penny
I saw her feet on the other side of the door. I briefly wondered if she was waiting for me to bend over and take a penny so she could open the door and bash me in the head with it. I finally decided that it wasn't her style when she spoke.
"You can take some pennies, Mom. You're gonna need 'em for taxes."
"You have to pay taxes to get into my country. I'm moving in here."
"In the powder room?"
"Yeah. It's my country now." There was a slight shuffle as she bent over to pick something up, then I heard her talking to her doll. "Sophie? What do you want for dinner? You can have anything you want because this is my country and I make the laws and the laws say you can have anything you want."
Perhaps what we needed, then, was a diplomat.
"Anna, would you be willing to negotiate over dinner?"
"What's that? Is it a kind of broccoli? I won't eat that."
"No. When you negotiate, you make a deal. I make you a deal about dinner and you decide if you like my deal, or if you want to come up with a deal. Then we both finally agree."
"Let me ask Sophie."
I waited patiently, as she conferred with Sophie, her lone citizen. It's rough being the sovereign leader of a powder room. Finally, she opened the door.
"OK. But you have to write it down and sign it so you can't change your mind."
"This is acceptable. Shall we proceed to the table?"
Five minutes, two pieces of paper, three failing magic markers and one working marker later we had an agreement, duly signed by both parties. A treaty, if you will. Anna would eat three pieces of ham: One to see if her tastes had changed and she now liked it, one to double check because first impressions can be faulty, and a third because it's healthy. In return, I would provide rainbow sherbet and let her watch a half hour of her favorite TV show before bedtime.
She was tough. A worthy adversary. She then agreed to temporarily relocate AnnaLand to her room, since the powder room didn't leave her any room for a wildlife preserve or her stockpile of 438 stuffed animals.
And that is how I became the chief corrospondent assigned to the AnnaLand bureau. She's returned to her home country on occasion in the years since, but doesn't stay for long now that I've enforced a "no electronics" rule in the bathrooms. We've both learned the fine art of negotiation, and it's served us well.
Tonight we're having cauliflower. I may need to set up an embassy in the laundry room before her brother declares war.