Sunday, October 16, 2011

Manipulating fantasy to suit reality

Assuming you're not new to the planet, Amish, or the child of a liberal who wasn't allowed to watch television as a child, you know who Cookie Monster is.  From day one, he was the breakout star of Sesame Street.  For all the jingles and songs that you can still sing today (OnethwthreeFOURFIVE, six seven eight NINE know the rest), you know that Cookie Monster loved cookies.  He is personally responsible for the internet meme NomNomNom.

He is the Cookie Monster. He eats cookies. It is his raison d'etre The word "Cookie" is part of his title.

But at some point, parents everywhere lost the ability to say "no" to their children.  When I Was A Kid, if a child grabbed a box of Oreos and attempted to wolf them down in a onomatopoeiatic fervor,  they were taken away, and the child was punished in some way that made the point, and very rarely resulted in a need for psychiatry.  The same occurred if the child attempted to purchase firearms, tried to make his own french fries (especially if there was no Crisco in the house and he tried to use olive oil instead) and in general, anything that would directly or indirectly cost the parents money.

But today's little darlings are such fragile works of art that the thought of denying them anything sends parents into paroxysms of guilt and fear.  And for those who venture the risk of suggesting that 18 snickerdoodles is not the best choice for breakfast, they are met with the ultimate argument, one that has apparently become indisputable in our modern age - "But I saw Cookie Monster do it on television".

Ah, well that's that then.  There is only one response to such an argument.  Tell the child that you don't care that Cookie Monster did it, he doesn't live in this house, so sit down and eat your turkey bacon and tangerine juice or I won't take you to Gymborama this afternoon.

No, of course I'm kidding, that kind of mouthing off will get Child Services on your ass faster than asking your kid to go to the next aisle in the grocery store and grab a box of tri-color rotini.  No, of course the actual response is to change Cookie Monster.

Cookie Monster now understands that cookies are a "sometimes food", and he cannot eat them all the time.  And as a result, cookie sales have plummeted across the nation, and Nabisco is in danger of being bought by the company that makes Toblerone.  Oh, wait, let me check my, I'm sorry, it hasn't done a damn thing to the cookie turnover rate.

So what did it accomplish?  It gave everyone the feeling that they had Done Something.  We don't actually need to solve problems anymore. we only need to Do Something About It.  The idea is that if, say, a train full of toys need to make it over a mountain to deliver its goods to a village of sick little children on the other side, we don't have to actually provide an easier way to get there, or beef up the little train's horsepower or add another engine to the load, we only need to hold a fundraiser to raise awareness of the issue of train/toy load ratios, and donate the funds to a charity that helps provide paint jobs for freight cars manufactured by the party's primary sponsor.  It's important to show that while we have no desire to help fix the train's problem, we support its efforts.

Allow me to offer an alternate solution.  Child Logic is hard to get around.  It cannot be reasoned against, it can only be fought with equally outrageous logic.

So, when your child opens with "But I saw Cookie Monster do it", counter with, "Cookie Monster is..."

A Monster - Monsters' digestive systems are wildly disparate from human ones.  Observation will notice that Cookie Monster has eaten, in times of great need, typewriters, furniture and an IBM computer. Surely the digestive system of a child cannot be held to that standard.

Fictional - Now, odds are, even at the tender age that your child is at, he's already worked out that what he sees on TV is not real.  But in case you don't want to jump right into the deep end of the pool, you can explain that when Cookie Monster is not performing, he eats a healthy diet, and the cookie binges are solely for your entertainment.

A Celebrity - Celebrities are held to a higher standard in this country.  They are allowed to do and say things that we normal people would never be allowed to, based solely on their ability to stand in front of a television camera and not dissolve into a puddle of chemicals.  So Cookie Monster's diet is a reward for the years of work he put in honing his craft; the endless years as a spear-carrier in summer-stock, the now-embarassing appearances in local haunted mazes and other low-budget Halloween productions, not to mention the half season he spent understudying Lassie.  So when YOU'RE a millionaire with your face on a million t-shirts and bibs, THEN you can eat all the cookies you want, and NOT before.

Hey, they make as much sense as what they actually did.


  1. Vinnie, as you saw for yourself, I was laughing nonstop while I was reading "Manipulating fantasy to suit reality"! People always think every kid is too emotionally fragile to handle the word "no," but life is full of "no's", so both kids and parents need to get used to it. Even our beloved Aspie Kid has learned that you can't always have everything you want, especially if it's wildly expensive and/or fattening! :-) Great post, as always!

  2. What fun, Vinnie, and how true! It reminded me of something an uncle of mine said when a niece first began toddling about on her own two feet, reaching for some verboten object on the coffee table: "Ah, she's learning that there's a whole big, beautiful world out there to be told 'No' about..." I suspect (and hope) that spirit may be on the rise again.

    And another thing: That business about trying to make french fries with olive oil has the sound of rueful firsthand experience --or am I reading too much into it? (I once tried putting Carnation evaporated milk on my cereal. Tasted awful; I dumped it over the backyard fence before anybody found out about it. Dunno what the neighbors thought.)

  3. Irina tried to leave a comment, but for some reason, Blogger wouldn't let her! Fortunately, I still have the original message she left, so I'm quoting it:

    "I truly enjoyed reading this truthful article written with humor. No means No.. Simple and to the point. It is the most powerful word in the human language. Let's start using it more!"

    Amen to that, Irina! Thanks for joining the conversation; feel free to put in your two cents here at ITRD? anytime!

  4. Saying no only works if you mean it. Any new parent will find that out really quickly.

    Child logic is unfathomable.

    But if I have a choice, I'd pick Numero Uno. Because Cookie MONSTER is a monster. Makes sense to me. It might even make sense to a kid.

    I think a kid only expects something to make some kind of sense. Even if it's fantasy sense.

  5. Yvette, I know you speak from experience, being a mom and grandma yourself! Makes sense to me, too! :-) Glad to have you join the conversation. my friend!

  6. "It's important to show that while we have no desire to help fix the train's problems, we support its efforts".

    Which is the problem with what I've come to refer to as "Boutique Activism". Much more people would (I believe) rather be Fashionable than Involved. Why bother actually doing something when you can just pin on a little ribbon (or put a bumper sticker on your car) and appear as if you've accomplished something significant?

  7. Michael, I must agree with your remarks about "Boutique Activism." Granted, I'd like to think that those who would rather be Fashionable than truly involved really have their hearts in the right place, but are simply too swamped with the obligations of everyday life to put their money where their mouths are. I guess sometimes it's quicker and easier to put ribbons, stickers, and bumper stickers where their mouth is instead!