I remember reading the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff and thinking how cute it was.
It’s all about how if you give a mouse a cookie he’ll keep wanting more and more adorable little favors: a glass of milk to drink, a mirror to look in, a broom to sweep up the crumbs, etc. It was quaint, polite and remarkably clean, given that the narrator was living with a mouse. I congratulated myself on recognizing the metaphor for raising children. It certainly wasn’t rocket science, but hey, I was ten.
Then I had kids of my own.
Since I had such fond memories of the book, I was excited to read it to my boys. I found an old tattered copy at a second-hand store and presented it to my children like they had just won the lottery. They loved it. My three year old pretended to be a mouse for the rest of the day, asking for silly things, and pretending to have a milk mustache. Of course, he had no idea what a mustache was and thought it was something he could hold in his hand. It was sickeningly cute.
However, when I denied him a fifth cookie the delightful little mouse from the story suddenly became a hideous rat. He threw himself face-first onto the kitchen floor and began to wail. In an attempt to distract him I started reading the book out loud to myself. As I read, I realized that the metaphor I was so proud of understanding so many years ago was a little dubious. Where were the waterworks, the tantrums, and the poops? Why was this mouse running the household? It made no sense.
I decided that someone needed to write a more accurate version of the story, so as not to lull unsuspecting girls into a false sense of serene parenthood. So here you have it folks: the real story.
If You Give A Toddler A Cookie
If you give a toddler a cookie, he’s going to demand 15 more.
When you tell him he can only have one, he’ll probably throw himself on the floor and scream bloody murder.
When he’s finished he’ll ask you for some milk…in a blue cup, with a green lid, and a yellow straw. Otherwise he won’t want it.
Then he’ll want to dunk his cookie in the milk, so you’ll take off the lid that took 10 minutes to find.
When he sees that the cookie is wet he’ll ask you to dry it off.
Of course you’ll have to explain that it’s physically impossible to un-dip a cookie.
When he realizes you can’t dry the cookie, he’ll drop it on the floor and stomp away.
As you start to clean it up, he will come back and insist on helping you out.
He may even end up wiping the whole floor, except the part containing the cookie, of course.
When he’s done you’ll probably want him to take a nap, or take one yourself.
You’ll have to drag him up the stairs kicking and screaming.
He’ll crawl into bed, and make himself comfortable after throwing the pillow on the floor.
He’ll probably ask you to read him a story. So you’ll lay down next to him to read, and he’ll tell you there’s not enough room. You’ll get out of bed, and he’ll tell you he can’t see the pictures.
As you lean over his bed to show him the pictures, he’ll get so excited he’ll want to draw one of his own.
He’ll refuse to sleep and come running out of his room one hundred times until eventually you give in and bring him some crayons.
By the time you return with the crayons he will have changed his mind and request a glass of water.
He’ll take a few drinks and settle in to bed. Just as he drifts off to sleep he’ll realize he needs to poop and insist on using the big boy potty.
So…you’ll carry him to the toilet.
And chances are while he sits on the toilet he’s going to remember that he never ate his cookie in the first place.
So he’ll ask for another.
I’m not sure, but I’m guessing I probably wont be getting a children’s book contract any time soon. Oh well. Somebody had to say it.