He’s already thinking like a parent

By Mir
February 13, 2007

When Otto and I picked up Chinese food this weekend, they gave us three fortune cookies. We, of course, ate two of them. The third cookie has been sitting on my kitchen counter ever since.

I moved it to a more prominent location this morning while I was packing the kids’ lunches, reasoning that maybe I would see it when I WASN’T running around, busy, and do something with it. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do. Eat it? Throw it away? Who knows. All I know is that I was tired of seeing it shoved back on the corner of the counter where I stack the diet coke cans waiting to be crushed and put into the recycling.

Finally the lunches were packed, everyone was suited up, and we headed out to the bus stop. As is my custom, I saw the kids off, walked home, and started cleaning up the breakfast stuff.

And as I put Monkey’s cup into the sink I saw that the cookie was gone.

I knew what had happened. Sometimes, with two kids, it’s hard to figure out who’s responsible for something. They both blame each other, or they both claim innocence, and you never really know. But this time was easy.

Monkey not only hardly eats anything, he’s not one to sneak… well, anything. It’s just not what he does. (He does plenty of other annoying and obnoxious stuff, but not that.)

Chickadee sneaks food. And shiny things. She often takes items that would be freely given her if she’d just ask, but for whatever reason, she doesn’t ask. (We seem to have cured her of out-and-out stealing, but she will still “borrow” things from me or from school at times.) Chickadee also happens to think that fortune cookies are just about the coolest invention since pierced ears.

So; no mystery, here. Chickadee took the cookie.

Is this a big deal? Well, I don’t really care about the cookie. I care that she takes things without asking. And I care great big heaploads about the fact that she is inclined to lie rather than to fess up, most of the time. So in thinking about how to handle this, I decided that the priority would be to get her to tell the truth.

When the kids got home, I waited until a lull when Monkey was busy elsewhere and sat down to confront her.

Me: Chickadee, I need to talk to you.
Her: Okay.
Me: I’m going to ask you something, and I am only going to ask you once, and you are only going to answer once, because you are going to tell the truth the first time. Okay?
Her: Okay.
Me: Did you take the fortune cookie off the counter this morning?
Her: Yes.
Me:[but… she never cracks that quickly! what do I do NOW?] Okay… ummm… did you eat it?
Her: Yes.
Me: [wait, what was I supposed to do next?] Well. Um. You need to ASK and not just take, next time, please.
Her: Okay.
Me: Okay then. Thank you for telling me the truth.

And then she went back to what she was doing, and I wandered off wondering, vaguely, if I was supposed to do something else. I think I was maybe supposed to mete out a consequence. But neither do I want to punish her when she actually owns up as requested, because then what’s the incentive for her to tell the truth?

I conveyed the dilemma to Otto tonight on the phone.

Me: So I don’t know, do you think I should’ve punished her?
Him: Did you ask her what the fortune said?
Me: Did I… what? No. Why would I ask her that?
Him: Well, that’s part of the equation here.
Him: What if the fortune said something like “You will soon become very wealthy?” Then she’s taken a fortune away from you that YOU NEED, and that should be punished.
Him: But if it’s a cruddy fortune…
Me: Ooooooooookay….

I am not kidding when I tell you that Otto certainly brings fresh perspective to my life.


  1. Dawn

    Fanfreakintastic….it doesn’t get much better than that. Ya better hang on for dear life…this one is a keeper!

  2. Kris

    He’s not half bad… I mean for a man and all. *snurk*

    ::ahem:: poke, poke – ping!

  3. Kimberly

    Maybe the fortune told Chickadee to tell the truth.

  4. mary

    My mom (of eleven children)always said that you never ask a child a question that you already know the answer to. That way there is less potential for said child to lie or feel compelled to stretch the truth. Rather than question the precious little darling, throw it out as a comment. Then ask why. My mom was very smart. Just like you. And so pretty, too. Just like you.

  5. Barb

    Mary – I have the same philosopy with my kindergarten students.

    Mir – I think you did/said enough. She fessed up and I share your belief about not wanting to punish for telling the truth.

  6. Bob

    maybe her fortune read: “A wise and knowing woman will ask you a question of great importance, you will do well to answer truthfully or face a butt-warming.”

    or maybe she just figured it was no big deal. whatever.

  7. Sophie

    Kimberly’s comment cracked me up.

  8. Sara

    Love that Otto.

  9. chris

    I love Otto’s reasoning.
    And I alos love Otto. Though with this nickname I always picture him looking like an Otter.

  10. Otto

    I do NOT look like an otter. Get that out of your head.

    I look much more like Jeff Goldblum would look like if he’d lived my life instead of his own.

  11. Mom2One

    That Otto. He’s a thinkin’ man!! :)

  12. Mir

    Oh good lord. Otto doesn’t look a THING like Jeff Goldblum, and I don’t even want to think too hard about how he came up with THAT.

  13. Brown Eyed Girl

    Oh my word….are Otto and my husband related?

  14. Chris

    Hummpphh. What you SHOULD have done is teach her a fundamental life lesson that was passed on by a beloved SIL- that every Chinese cookie fortune must be read aloud with the words “in bed” added at the end.
    (Oh maybe she is still too young for that? We decided that the almost 14 year old was finally old enough for our “inside” joke and the results have been hilarious- sometimes more so because of her “that’s gross!” responses.)

  15. jenn2

    Love that man. And yes, I always picture him as a little otter-ish as well. Cheer up, Otto, it could be worse. My readers (alright, reader.) always asks if I’m positive Mr. Clairol isn’t gay. He isn’t.

  16. Stephanie

    Well, what did the fortune say? I have been saving fortunes since college, when someone told me it was bad luck to throw one away. Kind of like when you tell your wish after you blow out your birthday candles, it won’t come true.

  17. Liise

    OMG! During the entire Chickadee conversation,I was waiting for you to ask her what the fortune said!

    Am I the only one?Besides Otto of course…

  18. shannon

    I was wondering what the fortune said, too. I think you did well, but not punishing her. If you had, she’d only learn that you get punished for being truthful.

    Kudos to you!!!

  19. Jessica

    I have lived a long life of hoarding food and eating on the sly because my mom was very suspicious of what I ate and when I ate it. It’s taken me years to not feel guilty when I eat a cookie or a piece of candy.
    While I agree with you that she shouldn’t be stealing food, and I think you handled the situation beautifuly, and you’ve probably been dealing with this forever, I think you should try to get to the bottom of why she steals food.
    If we’d had a “snack box” or something and a rule about how many coolies or candy we could help ourselves to each day, I might not have felt like I had to scarf down whole chocolate bars on my way home from school.
    OK. Sorry. That was a really inapropriate post, and way too personal. Please don’t be offended!

  20. Melanie Marie

    That is too funny! I think his perspective will help keep you on an even keel!

  21. Amy-Go

    I love that you’re totally nonplussed because Chickie did the right thing. Could it be that she’s LEARNING something? That She’s MATURING? That you’re *gasp* an EFFECTIVE PARENT? Naaaaaaaaah….;)

  22. Cele

    We didn’t ask Otto in which movie he thought he looked like Jeff Goldblum, let’s hope it’s The Big Chill and not The Fly

    I think you could have asked what the fortune is, I mean life does hang in the balance on this, but you did it just right.

  23. InterstellarLass

    Yeah, because what if it was something where the ‘in bed’ codicil could have been added and been totally awesome. Then you REALLY would have lost out.

  24. Nancy

    Amazing when kids do exactly what they “should” but Soooo not what you expect. Those are the rare moments in parenthood when you say to yourself “Did I do something Right here?”

  25. Genevieve

    I’m guessing Otto looks like Jeff Goldlum in “Earth Girls,” after the shave, when he’s totally buff.

  26. Contrary

    If we have any child rearing discord here, it’s that Pookie will ask questions he knows the answers to and I don’t. On the flip side, he never raises his voice and I will yell until I am hoarse. Between us, we’re either one really awesome parent or one big mean butthole. I’m sure the answer varies from day to day and child to child.

  27. Tracey

    It is such a relief to know that other parents out there go through the angst of how to deal with the ‘little’ things, which get complicated by the ‘telling the truth’ issue.

    I’ve caught our middle daughter out ‘taking’ stuff, and then lying about it, so I really know where you’re coming from on this.

    Thinking about it (which you never have time to do at the time), you could have, after she’d admitted it, asked “Do you think taking it without asking was the right thing to do?” so as to put the onus back on her. And ask her what she is going to do next time she sees something that she’d like…

  28. amy

    That was a great story — and my only nonfunny thing to tell you is that you did 100% the right thing. :) I do want to know what the fortune said though – in fact I would never have left it around that long… I would have opened it that night even if I did not want to eat it!

  29. Allanna

    Dang! I’m hoping that Otto DOES look like Jeff Goldblum, since (face it Mir, it’s so true that) you deserve a good-looking man.
    (And I happen to think that Mr. Goldblum fits the bill …)

    I’m also insanely curious what Chickadee’s fortune was. Are you going to ask??

  30. Otto

    The Goldblum reference goes way back – a couple of friends mentioned it, sometime between when “The Tall Guy” came out and “Mr. Frost.” One of those is very funny, one is not. But put them on your Netflix list …

  31. Wendy

    I’m with Otto on this, since I too had a mother always evaluating what I ate or was about to eat (which only encourages sneaking food). I mean, really, are fortune cookies a food anyway? They seem more a like toy. And how tempting for a kid! Between my kid, dog and hubbie, a totally exposed cookie would never make it that long!

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