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No-Spend Challenge inspires tweaks to a family tradition

FDR, 3, ate homemade pancakes as a cost-saving

FDR, 3, ate homemade pancakes as a cost-saving measure instead of going to IHOP as his family is taking the #NoSpendChallenge for a month. Credit: Newsday/Daysi Calavia-Robertson

Today could have been a total disaster.

There could have been crying. There could have been screaming. There could have been kicking of the back of the seat (yes, this happens sometimes).

It could've turned into a full-blown toddler tantrum because, you see, today is the one day out of the month that my 3-year-old has an hourlong vision-therapy session at a pediatric optometrist's office in Merrick. When he started vision therapy at the start of the year, he hated it. But because he is my son, I knew I could bribe him with food. 

"If you don't give the doctor a hard time today ... if you just behave and try your best, Papi and I will take you to IHOP for chocolate chip pancakes after," I told him. Worked like a charm. So much so that this IHOP bribery thing became something of a tradition. 

This morning when I told FDR, "Today we're going to Dr. Sherman's office," he grinned his biggest grin and yelled, "Yay, pancakes!" 

Yep, I'm the same parent who potty trained him by giving him a Hershey's Kiss every time he went in the potty. What else should I expect? Am I ashamed of myself? Only slightly.

Anyway, I knew that because of no-spend month, there could be no IHOP trip today, so I planned ahead. When I shopped for groceries, I bought pancake mix and, earlier today, I asked Matt to run by the supermarket and grab a bag of M&M's and a can of whipped cream so FDR could put the toppings on his pancakes himself. 

When I buckled him in his car seat after the eye appointment, he looked at me through the rear view mirror and asked, "Now, IHOP?" I said "No, now, you're gonna go home and make your very own pancakes with Papi. It's going to be so much fun!" 

And, though I had to return to work, my husband tells me that it really was. 

I think one thing that's important to note about this no-spend challenge thing is that the goal of it is not to suffer. The goal is not to be deprived of all the things we want. The goal is to try to make do, try to make ourselves happy without spending so much money. 

At Dr. Sherman's office, I noticed a sign hanging in the waiting room that couldn't have been more on point for today. It read: "The best thing you can spend on your child is time."

Well then, lucky me. 

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