I was so excited the first time I made cookies with my boys. I had visions of them calmly stirring the batter, sneaking a taste when they thought I wasn't looking. I imagined them happily watching me measure out the ingredients as I explained what each thing was as I added it to the bowl. I knew it was going to be fun, and I couldn't wait to enjoy the experience with them.
Things started out well. It was so cute watching them rush for the stools in the kitchen, pulling them as close to the mixing bowl as they could get--so close that I barely had elbow room. Equally adorable was when each of them then rushed to the utensils to pick out their very own spatulas to help stir with. And that's about where the calm and cuteness of the experience wore off.
Ever-curious Jacob opened the canister of salt and poured about half on to the counter before I got it out of his hands. Stubborn James refused to let his brother--or me--touch the mixing bowl without his permission. There was baking soda, salt, and flour in equal amounts on the floor and in the bowl.
Not only was my kitchen now a total wreck, my patience was starting to wear thin, and I just wanted the damn cookies DONE. I'd gone from excited and happy about the whole experience, to wanting to pull out all my hair in a matter of minutes. What was I THINKING, letting a one- and three-year-old help me bake?
In lieu of screaming like a banshee and banishing my children from the kitchen, I walked away from the situation and sat down in the office with my husband. "What's the matter?" He asked tentatively, pretending to not notice the flour splotches all over my face and in my hair. If there hadn't been steam rising from the top of my head, he might have laughed, but God bless him he held his tongue.
"The kids are making me crazy!! All I wanted to do was make some freaking cookies and now the kitchen's a mess and I don't know if we even measured anything right...." I let out a 2-minute tirade with some less-than-clean language, and by the time he stopped me I was close to tears.
"Babe...why did you want to make cookies with the kids?"
"I thought it would be fun. I wanted to show them how to do it."
"Take a look in the kitchen."
I huffed and crossed my arms, but still I stuck my head out the office door and looked in to my cookie-coated kitchen. There were my two boys, covered with even more flour than I was, pretending to measure and stir and laughing together. They were having fun.
The cookie-baking experience had not been anything like I hoped for, but I'd still accomplished my goal. I had shown my boys something new, and they loved it. The only thing standing in the way of ME having fun, too, was that I was stuck with a fantasy that didn't match my reality.
There are so many instances of parenting that end up turning out nothing like we've planned. It can be difficult to overcome the disappointment sometimes, but seeing the bigger picture can often help ease the anxiety. Having someone point it out can often help, too (thanks, Hubby). I often end up learning lessons from my children when I set out to teach them something new.
We've since baked cookies more times than I can count, and although I have to admit I sometimes still get a little tense, it really does warm my heart to see them race for the stools, spatulas in hand, ready to make cookies--and probably a really fun mess--with me.