The Allegory of the Cookie Snatcher

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This weekend I had a chance to visit my brother.  His home is about a four hour drive from ours.  It’s not that far when you speak of traveling within the U.S. but when you both have families, careers, and other demands, it makes getting that good quality visit in a hard task to fill.

And then you add kids to the mix.  Love them, but let’s be honest; kids complicate everything, especially trips.  Kids take your preparation for that weekend trip to the next level.  My wife and I have a bag each, I mean, it’s only 3 days.  But with kids, her bag turns into the largest suitcase we own, plus three other bags for diapers and other accessories.  Add to that the box of snacks, the cooler of snacks and drinks, the backpack of activities, pillows and blankies, and suddenly our very large and spacious vehicle inevitably has some item tumbling out of the door every time you open it because things are piled so high.

For this purpose of this post I’d like to focus on that box of snacks I mentioned earlier.  80% of the items we bring with us end up in our room during the visit.  You have the cold items that go into the fridge, some toys stay down stairs, and then a few items can stay in the vehicle.  But the majority of this is in our room now.

It is a bedroom, and a spacious one at that.  But it isn’t a studio apartment or guest house.  So there aren’t cupboards to store things in, or counters to set things on.  So with everything that is now located in our room, things are on the floor……including the snack box.

It was bedtime and it had been a long day filled with fun.  Our kids had played with their cousins and thoroughly worn themselves out with running, jumping, screaming, and other adolescent exertions that would have left a grownup in the hospital on life support.

Baths were had, jammies were on, and teeth were brushed.  The four of us gathered into our room for our nightly ritual of “gratefuls”, and prayers; we will go around and all say something we did that day or something in particular that we were grateful for, and then we mention those things in our bedtime prayer.

As we were rounding the kids up into our little huddle, T2 stopped in his tracks as he passed the snack box.  He then dropped to a squat and his had dove into the box.  I saw this and immediately said “no, no.  It’s time for bed buddy”.

T2 is a snack machine.  He started off as a really good eater.  I mean this kid would eat twice as much as J5 at every meal.  I thought for sure he had received the perfect gene mix from my wife’s side of the family and my side of the family that would make him a 6′ 5″, 260lb, solid block of a linebacker.  But more recently he has gone from a good eater at every meal to a picky eater at every meal and a constant snacker throughout the day.

He always want’s a snack.  Apples and candy, crackers and bananas.  It doesn’t matter when or where, he wants a bite of it and he wants in NOW!  But if it is dinner you place in front of him, all he sees is a snack, and a snack is all he’ll eat out of it.

So when his hand dove into the box I knew he was intent on getting another snack.  He froze and stared into my eyes.  I stared back feeling satisfied that I had caught the snatcher red-handed and stopped the theft before it happened.

To my surprise he didn’t withdraw his hand.  Usually he responds pretty well to me even if he does throw a fit and hit the nearest object in protest.  But this time we were having a bit of a standoff.

I told him again “no, no buddy.  You just brushed your teeth.  No snacks.  It’s time for bed”.  He just squatted there, not moving a muscle and staring at me in the eyes for what felt like minutes.

Our eyes narrowed and a breeze blew a tumble weed across the room.  Vultures circled above us as the menfolk hurried the women and children from the streets.  The standoff music from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly played as we both sat waiting for the other to flinch initiating the shootout that was about to go down.

With quiet confidence I didn’t worry about making the first move because I knew that whatever he pulled out would need to be unwrapped, or un-packaged in order for him to access the snackie goodness inside.  My hope was to give him the opportunity to make the right choice by removing his hand on his own rather than me taking action and forcing him to remove his hand.

Just as I was thinking this all through, like lightning his hand shot up and to his mouth.  Finally my eyes caught up with his ninja like move and registered on a small cookie with a perfectly formed bite taken out of it.  I was shocked!  How did this 2 year old manage the stealth it took to open the bag, get his hand inside, and grip a single cookie without moving a muscle and making a noise.  The brazen defiance of my authority as his father surprised me as well.  I didn’t know he had it in him to make such a bold move.

My mind spun a bit trying to process what had just happened as I reached out and took the cookie from his hand and told him sternly “that was a very bad choice”.  He made a run for it to his mom who was trying to suppress her giggles at the humor of it all as a support to me.  A swift slap to his diaper-cushioned bum was the last straw as he climbed up into momma’s lap to have a cry.

He wasn’t crying because of the spank I had given him.  Had we been playing his reaction to that same spank would have been a laugh, it wasn’t hard enough to cause any pain.  It merely re-enforced my disappointment in him and helped him realize the opposition he was up against with the choice he had just made.

Upon further investigation I discovered that the bag of cookies was sitting down in the corner of the box wide open.  There were only a few left, so grabbing just one would be easy.  This little guy happened to see this opportunity and went for it.  Even further than that, when I was satisfied that I had stopped the snatching before it happened, I had no clue that he already had a firm grip on a cookie.  He could literally feel the rough texture in his hand and even the chocolate chip beginning to soften and smooth as he ran his warm thumb along the surface of it.

He could have a bite of that cookie and he knew it.  Everything around him was telling him he shouldn’t, or couldn’t.  But there it was, in his grasp, and he knew it could be in his mouth fulfilling his snack need.  He sat there, thought it through from every angle he could think of, and when he was certain his pursuit would be successful, he went for it!

As I knelt there, the prayer ended up being a bit of a muffled blur as my mind turned thinking about that audacious move.  He’s a good boy.  He can be a bit of a handful as he wanders the house digging into everything he possibly can.  Going from item to item, location to location, opening cupboards, picking up phones and remotes, and opening up backpacks and bags; finding anything he can get his hands on and giving them a thorough examination as he tries to figure out how it works and what it does.  But usually, he is fairly obedient if you ask him to leave it alone (even though he has to bring it to you rather than just setting it back where he got it from).  And then he is off to the next exploration.  But in this instance he determined in his mind that he needed that cookie in his mouth and he seized the opportunity to do so.

I hear those motivating stories so often about the guy that had an idea.  An idea he knew would work.  He set his mind to it and nearly lost everything he had as he scrambled and clawed his way towards success.  Now he is a hugely successful and respected business man living in the lap of luxury and soaking in the fruits of his labors.  He made it because he believed in himself and in his plan and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I usually walk a way feeling 6 inches taller.  My chest puffed out and my stride energetic.  My mind thinking “If he can do it so can you”.  I lay in bed that night day-dreaming and romanticizing about how it would happen for me as I stepped up to my potential and rode the wave towards enormous success.

Then the next day at work my momentum would quickly be restricted as the day-to-day realities settled in.  Thoughts like “I’m not him” or “he went to college” or “he had connections and a confidence that I didn’t” would start to cross my mind realizing that I was already chained to a career and a reality that I would simply have to live with.  Before I knew it the stars in my mind were replaced with the every day worries that needed that space more.

I have come to the conclusion that in my life I will have to work my way through life.  I won’t get a free ride and I won’t create a path that leads me to a millionaires’ life of yachts and summer homes.  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I find a sense of pride in my every day victories as my family moves along having what we need and not going without.

In fact, this process of purchasing this building has really made me check myself.  As I have looked over the numbers in relation to my business and my personal finances; we are doing quite well.  Well enough that I feel proud of myself (and that is a rare thing for me to feel).  This is as a result of the times that I stepped up and went for the opportunities that I saw.  When the need was there, I was ready to take action and make it happen.

Now that’s not to say that with a bit more confidence and a more ready willingness to take larger risks I may be in a different spot.  I honestly do believe that anybody can be hugely successful if they determine themselves to be.  But at what cost?   And for what purpose?  For my son, the bite of the cookie was enough.  Yes, he probably could have grabbed the bag and made a swift ninja roll underneath the bed and proceeded to stuff the remaining 5 in his mouth before we could have stopped him.  He, in that instance, would have been 4.75 cookies richer than he was only having taken the single bite.  But what would have been the consequences of that choice?

Instead, the single bite was enough.  His mom chuckled, his dad was surprised at his gall, and his taste buds were satisfied.  The risk was the stern retort from his father and a swift spank that, if he were his sister, he would have boldly said “that didn’t hurt”.  But within 60 seconds the tears were dry and daddy was kissing him goodnight as he incrementally lowered him into bed with a “whao” at each level as daddy searched for the smile and giggles of his little boy.  I don’t condone his choice to disobey dad.  But the boy got what he wanted and I’ve gotta give him props for that.

As we search for our successes we need to have a confidence in ourselves that will allow us to push closer and closer to our potential.  There will be calculated risks that we need to take.  They stretch us and force growth upon us that will be for our good.  But that needs to be balanced with what the real purpose of our success is.  Yes, we call millionaires and billionaires successful.  But does it come at the cost of a broken home, addictions, and health problems?  Do they have children who don’t know their fathers or who don’t care as long as their trust funds don’t run out?  At what cost?

It’s important to know what we want and then to go for it.  But we need to make sure that those wants are for the right reasons and achieved in the right way.

 

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