The other day I was doing some shopping in our local mall and stopped by the food court for lunch and to sit down for a few minutes. Much to the chagrin of my daughter who thinks that the mall is her best friend and who thoroughly loves shopping,  I do not. I am the type who goes to the mall out of necessity. I get in and get out as quickly as possible. I actually think it is one reason that my husband married me. If one wants to know the truth, my hands down favorite thing to do at the mall is to “people watch.”  For those of you who are not familiar with this great past time, I simply like to watch folks…how they interact, how they relate to each other in families and so forth. I know it sounds weird, but I have been enjoying this activity for several years now and I people watch in all sorts of places…airports, stadiums, concerts…anywhere where there are lots of folks gathered or moving along …just basically living their lives. I know...I am strange, and I plead guilty to that accusation. You will get no argument from those who know me best.

           On this particular day, I watched a young mom and her two young sons who had finished their sandwiches and the mom had just pulled two chocolate chip cookies out of a bag and handed one cookie to each of her little guys who looked to be about six and nine years of age. What I witnessed next is a scene that has played out over countless times  in the lives of siblings and food. It is a scene in which the reality of our selfish natures is clearly revealed. After receiving his cookie from his mom, the older brother takes a good long look at it, then takes a gander at younger brother’s cookie…and he is obviously not pleased with the comparison. This is evident by the scowl and disapproving look that is on his face. Younger brother is completely unaware of how big bro is sizing up his treat and that is his first mistake….being oblivious. He was not aware of  his surroundings, was not in a defensive posture, he was not carefully guarding his dessert. You are thinking “ Pam, how ridiculous…you are talking about a cookie here, not a strategic battle of some sort.”  Oh no?...well, you did not raise the likes of Erik, Ben , and Matty Hastings. These three guys of ours had it figured out early on when they were just little tykes.  When our family was in a like situation where I was handing out cookies, whether it be at home or out somewhere,  make no mistake about it, they had a battle plan….as soon as each of them had that cookie in their grubbly little mitts, they immediately, in a split second seized up the size, the quantity, the texture, the number of chocolate chips inside and anything about that cookie that could be studied, they studied it . They then watched with intent eagle eyes the passing out of the other cookies to their two brothers and studied their cookies as well. If everyone seemed to receive a cookie of similar quality..meaning that no one’s cookie was significantly larger, softer, more chocolatey (if that’s a word) than anyone else’s , all was fine. However that often was not the case  and when one brother received a cookie that was quite obviously a superior treat..just heads and shoulders above the other two cookies that were handed out..look out, beware, because " IT " was about to happen.  You ask...what is  " IT "?  " IT " my friend ,was none other than the all powerful, much dreaded, infamous Hastings “security spit”. The lucky one of the three who instantly became aware that he had received the choice cookie and saw that the other two brothers were planning a cookie abduction in the next two seconds would resort to immediate defensive action. Before the other brothers’ hands could even think about the thievery that their devious minds were planning the envied brother who possessed the much desired cookie would simply lean over that wonderful prized cookie and launch the “security spit”. Why do I call it the security spit? Because that one single action completely, unequivocally secured that cookie to it’s original owner. It was his, it was going to stay his and we all knew it. Everyone in the family clearly understood that no matter the age of the brother…that the “security spit” was the great equalizer. No one had to worry about being a few years younger as long as he could spit..no sir! It not only ended food disputes…it prevented them. I wish that this young mom at the mall that day could have been aware of the value of the security spit as it could have spared her ten minutes of her two boys each reaching for that top cookie as they fought and squabbled with each other. I wanted to walk right over to her and share the value of this now Hastings tradition. Right about now I know that my readers are perhaps somewhat appalled. You are thinking “ Pam, did you actually teach your sons the “security spit” when they were little?”  No, I did not ..in fact in the beginning , I would try to stop it by saying the responsible thing that mothers are supposed to say like “Don’t you do that..that is disgusting…were you born and raised in a barn?” and other well known mom like sayings. The problem with that however, is that when I took this hard line and totally forbid the security spit, the fight , the hassle was on..and it would last longer than I wanted. Oh, I would do the correct thing and punish the selfish fighting, but as time went on, a strange thing happened.  I began to long for that instant peace in certain situations that every mom of multiple young children who is reading this knows exactly what I am speaking of. I am somewhat uncomfortable admitting this but I grew to love the “security spit.” I mean, it actually got to the point where I would take a quick glimpse inside any given bag of cookies, and if there was an obvious superior one, I would mumble  “okay guys, we’ve got a winner in this bag, so whoever is the lucky boy just may want to be ready with you know what.” I didn’t even have to say the words out loud because we all knew what I was referring to….the ultimate weapon, the beautiful peace maker..the beloved  “ security spit.”  I came to be very fond of it…it was a frazzled mom’s best friend !  Are you a young mom who is weary of the feuding at meal time?  Do you find yourself just tired and wrung out over squabbles and hearing claims of “He got the best one…I want that one.”  Well,  you may want to institute the notorious “SS”…you and I both know what it stands for ! Don’t think of it as something unrefined …just think of it as a creative method of finding peace and harmony. Did I go over to that mom in the mall and share this valuable information with her? Did I share this gem of wisdom born out of years of experience ? No, I did not…just wasn’t sure she would have appreciated the tried and true Hastings method. Many don’t. For you dear reader..I have shared with you a golden nugget...a best kept secret... and maybe if you take heed , some day when   your own children are  grown, you will look back and remember perhaps with a smile on your face …a mom’s best mealtime friend…the great equalizer…the instant peace maker…the beloved “SS” ! Am I smiling right now?  You know that I am.