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Is that a threat?

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"Fine! Then I won't invite you to my birthday party!"

I'm the one throwing your birthday party.

"Fine! Then you can't have a piece of my cake!"

I'm the one baking your cake.

It must be hard to be 4. You don't have much to bargain with. But then my three-more-days-until-I'm-5-year old hit me with this zinger:

"Fine! Then when you're a really old grandma, I won't come and visit you!"

He’s 4! (Well, three more days until he's 5.) Where does he learn this stuff anyway? (OK, so when I was a sassy teenager I used to tell my parents how they might want to rethink that curfew or I'd put them in a second-rate nursing home one day. But it was all in jest and my three-more-days-until-I'm-5-year old wasn't even born yet. Do you suppose he heard me from up in heaven?)

I guess his threat really should scare me (hey, I saw the LDS movie "The Mail Box"), but it doesn't. Whether it's three more days until your 5 or 35, long-term threats don't hold the same fear factor as immediate ones. Any holiday furniture sale ad will illustrate my point: No payments until 2015! We don't believe the day of reckoning will ever dawn.

Will I really be a "really old grandma" someday? Do you really think my little fellow will remember that decades ago, I made him lug toys from the kitchen down into the playroom to be put away properly when he didn't feel like it? What, it'll be Thanksgiving and I'll have to wrap myself in a crocheted shawl and hobble out to his car to ask him why he won't come inside the house along with his wife and children to enjoy some turkey, and he'll answer with a satisfied smirk, "Oh, I think we both know the answer to that, Mother. Saturday, June 18, 2011, ring any bells? You made me clean up toys when I wasn't in the mood? Ya, I thought so. Enjoy your turkey."

But I guess I make long-term threats to my kids all the time too: How sorry they'll be if they quit the piano when they are on their missions and serving in a place where nobody else can play and the whole congregation is singing off key, or how glad they'll be in college when they can type 60 words a minute and their term paper is due the next day, or how much further ahead in the game they'll be when their metabolism finally slows down in adulthood and they'll already be used to eating vegetables and whole grain bread, so dig in. Or the classic, universal threat, "Just wait until you have children!" while in my mind I'm adding, "and oh, how I'll laugh and laugh and laugh!"

They're probably taking these threats just about as seriously as I'm taking my three-more-days-until-I'm-5-year-old's. The difference is, I really mean mine. I do! I'll follow through. I will laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

Even when I'm a "really old grandma."

Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, free-lance writer and mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com