I had many jobs before a got married and become a dad. One of the more interesting ones involved working at a pawn shop during college. Back then, at the age of 21, I had no idea how much the job of pawnbroker would prepare me for the job of parenting.
To start with, the pawn shop taught me was how to spot a liar. A liar will tell you his item works perfectly while pieces of it are literally falling off as he speaks. A child will tell you he isn’t responsible for the green footprints on the floor even though he just so happens to have green paint all over his hands … and cheeks … and feet. Pawn customers will swear the mini fridge they’re trying to sell belongs to them, even though it has the words “Rent-A-Center” written in marker on every side. A child will promise she didn’t sneak a bite of cake even though there’s icing on her nose and chin.
Working at a pawn shop also taught me how to give lowball offers. For example, I would offer a customer $15 for a TV worth $60. In the same way, I would tell my kids if they pick up 175 pine cones from our yard, I’ll give them $1.75. This experience in giving lowball offers led to the skill I learned to use the most in parenting – negotiation.
Before becoming a parent, I had no idea how much of my day I’d spend in the art of negotiation. How much dinner has to be eaten, when bedtime is, whether to buy gum at the store, time allowed on iPads at home, how long friends can stay over … it all involves negotiation.
I guess all those weekend shifts wearing my denim shirt and tie eventually paid off.