It’s not about the broken cookie

When my son was a toddler, I went to a parenting seminar. I don’t even remember what this particular one was about, but the speaker imparted a bit of wisdom that I return to again and again as I view human behavior and current events.

It is not about the broken cookie.

Most parents have experienced this moment more than once. You have a toddler. It’s time for snack. You hand them a cookie, and it has a piece missing. It might just be a little corner. They may have 2 other cookies.  It doesn’t matter. They sob. They wail. Their faces turn purple. No amount of reasoning works.You may even offer them a new, unbroken cookie. Unfortunately, it’s too late. Your child is inconsolable, knowing that this was the only cookie worth having, but it is broken, all of its magic cookie goodness drained into the cosmos, never to be retrieved. Their lives are ruined.

It is not about the broken cookie.

They’re frustrated by their inability to draw the pictures they want. They imagine fantastic landscapes of glorious color, and all they can make are big fat crayon squiggles on the paper. They want to sing and dance like the people on television, but they trip over their own feet. They do not want to wear the shirt with the green stripes, and they prefer the pink yogurt to the blue, but they can’t find the words to express the thoughts in their head, and no matter how loud they yell, Blue does not listen and therefore, does not see the clue. Then to top it all off, just when things are about as bad as they can get, you have to hand them this stupid, lousy, can’t-catch-a-break broken cookie.

The thing is–we don’t grow out of it. The cookie just changes form. Your teen snaps at you when you tell them they look nice, because deciding what to wear is a social life-or-death situation, a gauntlet they walk every day. Your spouse blows up because they can’t find the Home Depot receipt, which is lost in a pile of paperwork they can’t get to after a week of chasing other people to ensure their work is finished.

The broken cookie becomes a symbol of injustice, of a fickle and uncaring world. It is that one last indignity that tips the scales.

A mob storms an embassy because of some idiot’s YouTube video. My son is bewildered by current events.  Why do people act this way?  I tell him is that it is not about the broken cookie. This is not to justify anyone’s actions, but a reminder that nothing is simple. Even small cookies can have huge consequences, so be mindful of how you treat them. Sometimes it’s about the absent cookie, he says. I’m about to compliment his profound observation and I realize he’s being literal.

Guess I need to go to the grocery story. I’ll shop carefully.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Robyn Lee ©2006 Creative Commons


2 comments on “It’s not about the broken cookie

  1. hiyacynthia says:

    Hmmm. Profound cookie post.

  2. Sopphey says:

    Very aptly put. I might steal your reasoning and share it in future blog posts.

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