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‘5-second Rule’ and Crumbled Cookies

“Daddy, you’re just like a boy,” Molly declared. This was not exactly a compliment. But since “a boy” is what I’ve been all my life, I took no offense.

But my offense was heinous: I ate a piece of cookie I’d dropped on the kitchen floor.

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In my defense, I must say it was an exceptionally good cookie. Hot and fresh chocolate chip, right out of the oven. The piece fell on the floor because the cookie was so soft and moist it crumbled–folded is more like it–when I took a bite.

“Five-second rule,” I announced as I bent over to pick up the fallen piece, which I popped into my mouth.

The “five-second rule” is an important loophole of fatherhood.

You try hard to be a good parent. You work yourself into a froth to protect your children from germs. You realize stuff that falls on the floor shouldn’t go into anyone’s mouth.

But the “five-second rule” offers expedient sanity in a hectic world. Something perfectly good, like a cookie, falls on something theoretically semi-clean, like the kitchen floor. To throw the cookie away would be a waste, so you invoke the “five-second rule.”

I prefer to believe–unfortunately without a shred of evidence to back it up–that the “five-second rule” was formulated by a dad who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rule is built upon the theory that floor-cooties can’t jump on a cookie, chip, grape or other food item in less than five seconds. So, if you or your child drops said food item, you or your child can eat it if you pick it up in less than five seconds.

When I was a young parent, I never would have invoked the “five-second rule.” Joanna and I scrupulously protected Molly’s big sister, Lindsay, from cooties and other microscopic organisms that skulked on our floor.

If Lindsay’s spoon fell or she threw her sippy cup onto the floor, we’d scald the fumbled object with hot water before it could go back into our precious baby’s mouth.

Then she learned to crawl. And then she started licking the kitchen floor. Jo and I realized we couldn’t keep germs completely away from our child unless we locked her in a disinfected bubble. And that, as they say, is no life.

Of course, we didn’t encourage Lindsay and Molly to lick the floor. And we haven’t fed them scrambled eggs off the linoleum. But I figure the “five-second rule” in our kitchen won’t herald the end of civilization as we know it.

And besides, watching my toddlers eat the occasional M&M off the floor reminded me of a central tenet of parenthood–99.99 percent of the time, it’s about God’s grace.

You can’t protect your children from every danger. You can only try to teach them well and trust them into the hands of God, who loves them more than any parent can imagine.
Marv Knoxis editor of the Baptist Standard. This column was reprinted with permission.