"Tai Gui Le" and the Art of the Barter

Many years ago, before I was married and while I was attending school at Utah State University, I had the opportunity to travel to China with some friends.

While there, I learned “the art of bartering.” To barter is to haggle over goods and to negotiate a price; with the primary purpose being to get the best deal for all involved. I quickly learned—while standing in my trusty Chacos, in a dirty market street—that the Chinese people love to barter. Spitting numbers like calculators; feverishly scribbling prices on palm-sized notepads.

I don’t speak mandarin, but did make it a point to learn a few useful conversational phrases. “Tai gui le,” or, “too expensive,” was one of them. I’d go back and forth with a seller, trying to negotiate a price, and would usually give up with a shrug of the shoulders and a “tai gui le." They would almost always call me back! They wanted my money!

One day I was sitting at my computer, working; rapidly shooting off emails in a desperate attempt to get caught up on my inbox. Camren walked over to me, put his hand on my arm and said, “Mom, play Uno with me?’

“Okay,” I said, “Just give me ten more minutes and then I can play.”

He placed his hands on his hips and said, “Two minutes.”

“Five minutes,” I said.

He firmly held his ground and said, “TWO MINUTES.”

As I looked into his dreamy brown eyes and his sweet and earnest face, something clicked and I profoundly realized that time spent with our children is non-negotiable. It is PRECIOUS. It's gold.

In his book, “The Power of Positive Parenting,” Dr. Glenn Latham makes reference to studies conducted involving parent-child interactions in the home. The findings were alarming. Parent-child interactions are far more likely—typically five to six times more likely-- to be negative than positive. One study indicated that in the 1930s and 1940s, contact between parents and their children averaged three to four hours per day. And now? Twelve minutes. 
More than anything else, our children want and need our attention and love. They want our time. They want us. They want us to be present.

And so I chose to walk away from the computer in that learning moment and play with my son. Do I regret it?


Make time. Don’t barter it. 


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