Here, Have a Cookie Before Dinner!

Leigh has learned to trust her parenting instinct. Sometimes, it's OK to have a cookie before dinner.
Leigh has learned to trust her parenting instinct. Sometimes, it's OK to have a cookie before dinner.

I guess now that we’ve celebrated Labor Day, we can officially say that summer 2013 is over.  After 12 weeks of a very lax summer schedule, it’s now my job to get my kids used to more structure again for the school year. Dinner needs to be earlier, and so does bedtime.  Some days, it is like herding cats. I sometimes wonder if I can accomplish it.  But if I don’t have success one night, then so be it. 

The one thing that parenting has taught me in eight years is that you have to live one day at a time. Some days are easy.  Some days are hard. And if you mess things up one day, then there is always tomorrow to do it better.

I’ve not always had that philosophy.  In fact, I will admit that before I had my second child, I was a very tense parent.  Some may even say that I was such a basket case over scheduling that I actually stressed myself out.  Naptime had to be at a certain time. Bedtime had to be at a certain time. Desserts were rare, and under no circumstances would my child have a dessert before dinner.  I had no flexibility at all. I only made friends with other moms who had similar schedules, and in hindsight, I truly didn’t open myself up to new friendships with other parents who were a little more flexible in their parenting style.

I was a first-time, older parent reading best-selling baby book after baby book trying to figure out best ways to raise a child and never ever thought about using my own instinct.  I could manage a half-million-dollar public relations budget but didn’t know how to change a diaper.  You even could infer that I was creating my own parental prison.

We would decline dinner invitations from people we would meet with kids around my son’s age because we were afraid it was too late for our son to go to bed.  We would skip birthday parties at 1 p.m. because, “My God, who in the hell would schedule a birthday party at 1 p.m.? That’s naptime!”  That’s a sacred time, even if your own child is standing in the crib singing E-I-E-I-O at the top of his lungs. I didn’t understand the joy of being flexible from time to time.

It wasn’t until the end of 2009, when a new bundle of joy entered our lives, that I realized that having a baby wasn’t so hard after all.  It was actually a joy and not a hardship. Who knew?  Infants are really kind of fun. If they are tired, they’ll go to sleep.  If they are hungry, they’ll let you know.  Now, granted, I had some experience this time around, but I didn’t open one baby book at all.

With the birth of my daughter, I had no choice but to be flexible.  And since I’ve started writing a lot more and maintaining the HinesSight blog, you could argue that I’ve gone to the other extreme of being too flexible and not firm enough.  There could be too many late bedtimes now.

But I’ve learned that flexibility is a little more fun in life as long as you know you have to have limits.  Raise your hand if you would let your child have a chocolate chip cookie before dinner? Many of you are probably spitting out your glass of wine as you read this.  “Absolutely not!” you say. “Who on earth would do that?”

Well, I’m here to say that one night in a blue moon, it is certainly OK for your child to have a chocolate chip cookie before dinner.  And don’t judge any parent who does allow it.

I was at StayBridge Suites Ballantyne Charlotte this summer working on some travel features.  Staybridge has a complimentary beer and wine social three weeknights a week.  It’s really nice with some light entrees, too.  If we hadn’t had kids with us, I probably would have called that social “dinner” and retreated back to my suite. However, my friend and I, traveling with four kids between us, planned to take the kids out for pizza.  But, after a tiring day at a museum, a glass of complimentary wine sounded divine.

We walked into the social, and many young professionals were already enjoying the festivities.  There was not another young child in sight. I spied a plate of big, beautiful chocolate chip cookies, and, without hesitating, I said, “Here, have a cookie, and you can go outside with the games they have set up for us.”

I probably had to get my friend up off the floor from shock after she saw my son bite into a chewy cookie before dinner, but with my children having cookies, she didn’t deny her kids the sweet treat, either.  We enjoyed our wine treat, and the kids enjoyed their treat, close to the dinner hour.

The restaurant wait that night was unbearable.  By the time we sat down, it was almost 8 p.m. Despite the late hour, our kids were as happy as could be.  Had they not had that cookie at the social, then this tale could have had a very unhappy ending because nothing is worse than waiting for a table with starving children.

My friend, who I have known since my rigid parenting days, looked at me and said, “Thank God they had a cookie!”

I took that as a compliment.  So when life throws you a complimentary wine and beer social and you have your kids with you, go ahead and let them have that cookie.  Life is too short not to enjoy a glass of wine.