02/06/2015 04:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Mini Muffins Helped my Middle Child

"Coffee shop?" my son asks, quietly, understanding that a sweeter cadence will appeal to my good will. He's 3 1/2, so it's not caffeine and conversation he's after. It's the mini muffins that have become a moderate addiction.

Gabriel's preschool is located next to this particular coffee shop. We head there more frequently than I plan to after 1 p.m. pickup. We often get a banana oat muffin for him and a cappuccino for me.

Sometimes he picks out muffins for his older sister and dad (chocolate chip and lemon poppy seed , respectively) but he often eats those, as well, gently removing one from the bag and proclaiming, "I'm just going to have a bite of this other one." From there, he finds it logical to finish what he's started.

It seems like a healthy indulgence for my middle child, who had the hardest time of all of us when our latest addition, Adriana, was born in August. His behavior was just short of alarming, but stressful nonetheless. Tantrums and screaming bouts that couldn't be stopped by bribery or hugs, instigated by events we could never predict (the hot dog wasn't right in the bun or his drawing didn't turn out as planned, and you can't erase magic marker). Once he threw himself onto our couch, yelling, at 4:30 p.m. and passed out on the spot. I carried him up to bed and he slept until morning.

His wise and comforting teachers assured me this was normal; he'd been displaced and was struggling to control the situations he could. I struggled, too, as all parents do when deciding how much to give in to our children. The outbursts weren't ok, but I understood that there was -- in his mind, anyway -- just cause for totally losing it that one time in the car when the light was green but I couldn't go because of traffic.

The coffee shop was a neutral zone, however, probably because baked goods have a calming effect on most reasonable human beings. Plus, the baby was often soundly sleeping in her carrier, leaving Gabriel and I a few interrupted minutes to speak, usually about what he and his cohorts had for lunch that day.

Sometimes during our discussions I'd ask if he remembered the summer, when Adriana was still in my belly. We'd turn the air conditioner in my bedroom up high on hot days and take a nap together in the big bed.

He opened his brown eyes wide -- my eyes, the girls got their father's blue -- nodding yes.

The rough times passed, like everyone said they would. I appreciate the collective wisdom better now that it's over. Our only boy is again adorable and appropriately obedient. Incidences of hitting and general defiance seem more like typical 3-year-old behavior.

Our trips to the coffee shop don't seem necessary at this point, but there it is, every day. I try to explain that we can't go so often. I think to myself that we shouldn't spend the money on a regular basis like that, and tell Gabriel that we'll have a different snack at home.

Where to give in? The right thing is to ensure he doesn't win this battle regularly. Right? And yet I want him to win. I want that cappuccino, tired from new motherhood the third time around. I want those peaceful moments before the baby wakes up.

So, I try to argue, and mostly fail. "If we go all the time, it won't be special anymore," I've told him.

But post-pickup, we're there more often than not. And it still is.