10/31/2007 04:19 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ghoulish Negotiations

Two weeks ago, Liam came bounding into the house on a Friday afternoon with something special from his teacher. Apparently, for being such a good boy in school, she had given him the opportunity to bring home the Oriental Trading Halloween 2007 catalog. She takes the motivation for him to pay attention where she can get it and in this case, the reward for paying attention all week was being allowed to bring the catalog home to peruse it at his leisure.

That night, Mairin scampered off to spend the night at a friend's house. I had a conference call. Liam was watching Toy Story for the umpteenth time and decided to do some shopping.

Before I dialed in for the call, I explained that I wanted him to look through the magazine and write down everything that he wanted to purchase including the page number and the price of the item. He grabbed a legal pad and headed back to the living room to work on this little project leaving me in peace on the call.

He didn't surface for an hour and a half.

When he did, I realized I had made a typical blunder as I often do in not spelling out each and every direction to a tee.

I did not supply him with a budget.

As I was getting off the phone call, he proudly handed me what was tantamount to a thesis. He was so excited. He was jumping up and down with the thought of our home being filled with countess plastic toys, candy, games and decorations.

Neatly inscribed on four and a half pages of legal pad paper, four columns wide in tiny print were the items, prices and page numbers for all the items he just had to have. Opening the catalog, each corresponding item was circled with a check mark in it to indicate that it had been dutifully recorded in his request.

At the bottom of the last page was the grand total that he had painstakingly added up on a calculator.


"Liam," I said slowly because I knew his heart was about to break. "You did a great job writing down what you want."

"I know, mom! See! It is all there! Can we order it now on the computer?"

"Liam, this is too much money. Mommy cannot order all of these things."

"But MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, you SAID to write down what I WANTED." Ahhhhhhh, the whining tactic. My favorite.

NOTE: Never in my wildest dreams did I think that his request would add up to thousands of dollars worth of cheap merchandise.

"Liam, these are all wonderful things. I will definitely buy you a few of them. But we cannot buy all of them. There isn't enough room in our house. Can you pick out five things that you would really like to have and I will order them?"

If looks could kill, I would be dead.

He started crying and ran upstairs, threw himself on the bed and buried his head in his pillow.

"You don't like me anymore! You HATE me! Mom! You SAID you would get them if I wrote them down."

Sorry, can do, but in a very bittersweet way the typical preteen behavior you are displaying is a very welcome thing. I have prayed for this. I have prayed for this. I have prayed for this. I have to remind myself of that sometimes in the heat of the moment.

I tucked him in. The night was over. Tomorrow we would live to fight another day.

Fight we did. For the rest of the weekend, he stated his case. Over and over the request would spill out to purchase it for $2,312.70. He tried everything. He reminded me that I could go to the bank to get money out of the machine. He reminded me that I could write the amount on the little yellow slip of paper (which is also called a check) and actually spelled it out for me. "Like this, Mom. Just write...T-w-o t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d, t-h-r-e-e h-u-n-d-r-e-d a-n-d t-w-e-l-v-e d-o-l-l-a-r-s....." He suggested that we set up a lemonade stand to raise money for the purchase. Nothing would turn it off. He was determined to find a way.

Then on Sunday night, he lost a tooth. All of the perseverance immediately ceased.

I hate when we lose a tooth right before bedtime. I never have cash on me. The kids still aren't sure if the tooth fairy exists but they do know that they get a better return on their investment if they lose their teeth at their dad's house.

I scrounged around and found a pitiful $3.00 worth of change in assorted coins.

Once he was sound asleep, I reached under the pillow to feel for the little Ziploc with the tooth in it. As I pulled it out, I realized there was a piece of paper taped to it.

Oh how cute, I thought. He wrote the tooth fairy a note.

On the paper was simply written: "Leave $2, 312.70, please."

I filled the Ziploc up with the chump change and slunk off to my bedroom, thus effectively killing the tooth fairy and all the hope that she brings with her.

The next morning, I was buzzing around getting ready to fly out of town for work to California. I heard him jump out of bed and say, "OH MAN. I ONLY GOT THREE DOLLARS."

When he finally came down to breakfast, face hanging to the ground with disappointment, I promised him that if he picked out five things I would be happy to buy them for him as soon as I got home.

Again, he protested and reminded me that I didn't provide parameters with the initial instructions. As I kissed him goodbye, he said four little words that made my heart sing, "I'll think about it." We were making progress.

When I got home from Los Angeles the next day, he greeted me at the door with a new paper in hand with the most important, must-have of all must-have items on it.

To sum up the story:

Alien Test Tube of Slime ............................................... $11.95

Mini Magic Cube Puzzle Key chain ................................... $ 4.95

Gummy Hamburgers .................................................... $ 9.95

Wormy Skullboxes with Powder Candy .............................. $ 8.95

Marshmallow Brain ...................................................... $ 8.95

Revised Total .............................................................. $44.75

Teaching your child with autism the art of effective negotiation..... Priceless

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!