The Playroom: Lemonade

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

It’s late summer so we are doing summer things, like going to art fairs when its 90 degrees outside. There is no dad in America who thinks this is a good idea.

But my kids have been out of school for weeks now and I’m running out of ideas. So in my high-pitched, peppy mom voice, I built up the art fair thing as much as possible. I even told them how much fun it was going to be to walk for a half a mile in the blazing sun so we could get to the shuttle, “And get to ride a bus!”

As we were wandering around the exhibits by artists who clearly hate children and don’t want them coming anywhere near their stuff, my son spied a tent where you could get a semi-permanent air-brushed tattoo. He decided the dragon was lame so he wanted the viper, on his neck.

I said, “No.”

So he said, “Then I want lemonade.”

When I grew up my parents did not employ negotiation as a parenting tactic. In our house my parents’ style was “My way or the highway.” Since I was typically the “My Wayee” and not the “My Wayor,” I was never a big fan of this parenting style. So, with my own kids, I’m game for negotiation.

So there we are, in the middle of an art fair, and my inner business school kicks in, rearing it’s head like a viper. It’s me and a 7-year old kid with an attitude. He wants a tattoo on his neck, which it appears he is willing to sacrifice for lemonade. Game on.

“Okay, I’ll buy you the lemonade if under no circumstances will you ever in your entire life get a viper tattooed on your neck.”

“What about a dragon?”

“No. No tattoos ever, and you get the lemonade.”

He pauses to think this over, his sisters are urging him on, they are hot and they want him to take the lemonade option. So he agrees, no tattoos for lemonade.

We get to the lemonade stand and he tells me, “I want the big one.”

“No, the big one is 6 dollars; I’m not spending 6 dollars on a lemonade.”

“The big one has a lid. I won’t spill it.”

Eighteen bucks later my kids all have big lemonades, and my son takes one sip.

“I don’t like it.”

“What do you mean you don’t like it? It’s lemonade.”

“It has seeds in it.”

“Yeah, so what? It’s made from lemons, lemons have seeds.”

“I’m not drinking it.”

“What do you mean you’re not drinking it?”

“I’m not drinking it.”

My younger daughter, who adores her older brother, decides she isn’t going to drink hers either. She doesn’t like it because, get this, her lemonade has sugar in it.

I’m not sure I’ve won here. I take the lemonades and, with great artistic flourish, throw them all in the nearest garbage can. That’s it, that’s 18 dollars in the garbage and as far as I’m concerned I’m the parent here, I am the “My Wayor.” These kids are not getting tattoos, and I am never buying lemonade again, ever.

All three of my kids are just standing there staring at me. I’m not exactly negotiating with aplomb here. I’m losing it. My kids are sweaty and hot, their faces are all red, they are squinting in the sun and they are still thirsty. And in no way do they look like they are having fun. I feel really bad. This art fair thing probably wasn’t the best idea.

But their father knew that already.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at