Today, whilst much laundry and cleaning takes place, I am posting a re-run of one of my most popular posts. Originally posted on August 23, 2010, this musing is part rant, part cautionary tale, part blatant stealing. And all truth.
If You Give A Kid A Cookie
If you give a kid a cookie, she's probably going to ask you for another one.
You'll think she's cute, so you won't see the harm in giving it to her and you'll say yes. When you give her the second cookie, she'll start to get that crazed look in her eye.
When you see that crazed look, you'll decide it's time to divert her attention, so you'll ask her if she wants to ride her bicycle in the back yard.
When she says yes, her older sister will want to come too, but first they'll both need to change their entire outfits, probably into something that includes a boa, and they both will need shoes.
You won't be able to find their godforsaken flip flops, so you'll have to take the time for socks and shoes that tie. Your own lunch will grow cold while all of this shoe business is happening.
When their shoes are finally on, they will change their minds and want to take a bath instead. They will want to wear their bathing suits in the bathtub.
When you squash this request like a rolled up New Yorker on a fat mosquito, they will both start wailing. You will respond by forcing them to go outside and play.
While they are outside playing, they will decide to climb the Magnolia tree. They will fight over who gets to go up first. You will spend a few minutes pondering just how much your neighbors curse you every time they hear screams wafting from your backyard.
Your older kids will hear the commotion and run outside to take over the tree-climbing. They will knock over smaller children on their way up. More screaming will ensue.
You will hide inside for awhile, until you are sure your neighbors are about to call CPS. Just in time to stop the neighbors mid-dial, you will storm outside with a couple of cans of whoop ass and look around for a few likely recipients, who will have scattered and are now hiding. At least they are quiet.
You will go back inside and discover that in the very short time you have abandoned your Kitchen Command Post, the kids have helped themselves to the cereal, with most of it landing on the floor. You will crunch your way over to the broom, cursing short people all the way.
You will ask a kid to sweep up the floor, and he will respond as if you have asked him to chop off, deep fry, and eat one of his fingers. You will not take kindly to this, and will give him a piece of your mind.
When the kitchen floor is clean, you will serve lunch. The youngest will be full of cookies and will leave her plate entirely untouched. The older kids will each object to a different item on the menu. You will deliver the When I Was a Kid We Ate What We Were Given speech, prompting you to marvel that they can all roll their eyes at the same exact time and with the same degree of disgust. You will spend their lunchtime trying to get them to stay in their seats, eat their food, and not fight. You will fail.
You will wonder if lunch is a contact sport in other people's houses too. You will become momentarily overwhelmed by just how ineffectual your parenting is. You will step into the hallway and bang your head repeatedly against the wall, until five little voices announce that someone is at the door. They will stampede to the front door, fling it open so that it crashes into the book case, and pour out of the house, like clowns out of a VW bug, looking for the non-existent visitor. It will take you a long time to corral them back into the house and back to their lunch plates.
When they are finally finished eating, they will disperse to create five different disaster zones in various parts of the house. They will be intensely focused on the task at hand for 7 minutes, long enough for you to go to the bathroom and take one bite of your long-cold lunch.
All five of your swarming children will now decide that they deserve to watch a movie. You will say yes, sweet Jesus, yes, but you will have them clean up the day's activities first.
You will expect them to object and you will not be disappointed. It will not matter that the house rule is to tidy up bedrooms and common areas before turning on the television -- they will stall and complain and bitch and moan and resist and will not comply until faced with the usual ultimatum: if things aren't cleaned up in ten minutes, there will be no movie at all.
At some point in the next ten minutes, the youngest will mess her pants, the oldest will tease and torment the fourth born, reducing her to tears and causing you to wonder if he (the oldest) will someday land in jail, and the other two will pick this moment to color-categorize the entire lego set in one small corner of the house. A nice impulse, but a time-consuming one that doesn't actually fall into the Clean Up Your Room and the Common Areas in Ten Minutes column. They will not understand when you thank them politely through clenched teeth and re-direct them to the 8,632 crayons on the dining room floor.
When the rooms are finally...well...clean is maybe a stretch, but at least less hazardous than before, they will fight over which movie to watch, until they notice steam coming out of your ears and wisely decide to shut their pie holes and settle on a movie. There will be a few more scuffles over who gets to sit where, and finally, an exhausted air of inactivity will settle over the living room.
After about 13 minutes, a kid will come in and ask for a cookie.
And if you give a kid a cookie, you better be sure there is plenty of red wine in the house.
* * *
Thank you, Laura Numeroff, for the wonderful series that inspired this post. Your books are treasures in this house.
* * *