Archive for Monday, July 16, 2012


River City Jules: The 4-year-old negotiator

July 16, 2012


The last time my nephew, Charlie, stayed with us, my husband fed him Girl Scout Cookies for lunch. This might be why nearly a year has lapsed since his last visit.

No matter the reason, we were happy to host the little man-child again for a weekend. Gone are his terrorizing toddler ways with the head-banging and diaper-filling as Charlie, now 4 years old, has entered the world of “Star Wars” and toilet-flushing.

Most impressive of all, though, Charlie has mastered the art of negotiation — probably more than most businessmen, definitely more than every single member of Congress, and always coming out ahead.

Charlie hit it hard the first night.

In an effort to claim the titles of Best Wife Ever and Best Aunt Ever, I decided to make a lemon pie (my husband’s favorite pie) for dessert (Charlie’s favorite meal).

I did not realize, however, that my sister had spent the week prior convincing Charlie that the leftover lemon merengue pie they had in their own refrigerator was far too sour to eat and would assault his highly refined taste buds were he to try it. My sister, brother-in-law and 11-year-old niece enjoyed that pie the rest of the week without Charlie’s interference.

But I am not Charlie’s mother; I am his aunt.

So I let Charlie in on the fact that his mother had duped him into believing lemon pie was hardly edible just so she could have more to herself. I then poured lemony filling into two pie crusts and slid them into the oven to bake.

We all enjoyed a humid evening playing outside, explaining to Charlie why we were not going to fight with real light sabers, ride our dog like a horse or build a tree house in our (somewhat treeless) backyard. He made compelling points on each issue, nearly winning out on the tree house, but we agreed to table further discussion until the next visit.

We came back in as the sun set, easily past Charlie’s bedtime.

“Charlie,” I asked the 4-year-old boy as I pulled the piping hot pies from the oven, “What time do you usually go to bed?”

“Hmmm …” He thought for a while and then, spying the two lemon pies he now knew were not only edible but potentially delicious, returned my question with one of his own. “Well, what time will the pie be ready to eat?”

“Whenever I put the whipped cream on top,” I said as I smiled at his eager little face that probably should have already hit the pillow.

“How ‘bout I have a piece, then I go to bed?” he suggested.

While his mean old mother might have sent him to bed without any pie, his aunt would never dream of it.

“Perfect,” I told him before leading him up to the bathtub while the pies finished cooling.

Maybe he is less negotiator and more Jedi Knight. Maybe Aunt Julie is a sucker. But Charlie will never pass up lemon pie again.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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