As some of you may have read in an earlier post, I have been off work lately. This rare freedom of being home with no actual schedule has taken some adjustment. Today I chose to take this opportunity to do one of those “mommy” activities. you know, the ones that so often when you think of them sound wonderful, by the time you begin them, feel overwhelming, and years later when you look back on them, are remembered as magical. Yes, one of “those” activities.
The activity that I chose to subject myself to was an afternoon of baking, so I invited my daughter and her seven year old friend to make cookies. Not cookies from a box, or an already prepared dough, nope, not for my kids. I thought it would be a truly wonderful experience a special bonding moment if the three of us made cookies from scratch.
Before the flour began to fly through the air and the eggs had cracked on the floor, the task seemed quite simple. Each girl had her own work station, each station with its own set of bowls, measuring spoons, bin of flour, box of sugar, butter, vanilla and secret ingredients (also known as salt and Baking soda). The only ingredient that the junior chef’s did not have, was the most crucial ingredient of all, the bag of chocolate chips. Yes, these were under the control of the “chef-master” for fear if they were left unsupervised at the work stations, we may be having chocolate chip cookies, minus the chocolate chips, which are never quite as good.
It became clear to me even before the girls showed up to bake, that this entire project had become a little too organized. Perhaps a bit over managed would be a good term for it. Yes, I can say with confidence that the measuring spoons and measuring cups were too neatly and carefully placed on the counter, and that the placement of the baking soda, sugar and flour were perhaps a bit too carefully spaced. It is quite possible had anyone but the girls visited my kitchen, there may have been questions like “which cooking magazine is coming over to do a photo shoot” or “when will Emril be arriving”? Yes looking back on it I am a bit amused at my expectation of what was soon to be.
Could it be that this medical leave had brought out this overly organized mother who had lost her zip and pizazz and traded it in for “work stations”? For anyone that knows me, overly organized is not exactly my “cup of tea”. I am a wing it kind of gal. A ride by the seat of her pants and hope it will all work out person. I am not a planner, certainly not a strategic organizer, and definitely not a chef that follows cooking rules. To be perfectly honest, I almost never use a measuring cup, had to search high and low for my measuring spoons and am so disorganized, that I had no idea I owned four bags of flour and multiples of every other ingredient required to bake such cookies. Never the less, today was a new day and my cooking class had begun.
The girls arrived and I was ready to go. Assigning each one to a separate side of the kitchen, instructing them to “wait” until I had read the first ingredient from the recipe. Could it be that I had chosen to substitute these innocent second graders in place of my employees? Could I possibly miss my job so much, that I was turning my home into a place of business? How odd that for so many years I have joked about the desire to have a few weeks off, “if only I could break a bone” I believe were my exact words. Is this where the ” be careful for what you wish for” rule comes in? I hate to admit it, but I think it is true.
There is nothing I love more than the hustle and bustle of a busy day. The shorter the deadline, the better, as far as I am concerned. The more people I have to manage and the more clients that come through my door, the more stimulated I become. No pile too high no task too big, “bring it on”! yah, I hate to admit it, but I love my job. I love how it makes me feel and the satisfaction that it offers. Yes, this is true, so true at times I am ashamed to admit it, but never more so than today.
When the first ingredient was read off the recipes, it became evident I was in for a different day than I had planned. I felt it, the feeling I had created in the room. The look in their eyes and the panic on their faces when that first puff of flower went dancing to the floor. it was all this mother needed. My desire for a job well done did not have to be dismissed. It was the job that I had lost site of. What was I setting out to achieve? Did I really need five dozen chocolate chip cookies in my house? Was that my mission? No. My mission was to create a fun bonding experience for these two little girls, and what defines fun is whatever is fun to “them”.
It only took 45 seconds into this baking project for a couple of second graders to show this mother, manager, and organizer that no matter where she was, or who she was teaching, the same rules always apply, ‘know your audience”. With no expectations, no need for organization, no real desire to even gain an edible cookie from the task at hand, I stood in my kitchen offering oodles of praise, little advise and a lot of encouragement. As these two little girls so cautiously wiped down every little spill, it was my lips that blurted “kitchens were made to get messy, just leave it and have some fun.”
The delight in their eyes and those cute giggles of glee were enough to satisfy any stirring I had within me. For the first time in years, I had the time to reflect and find my audience at home. The task was not overwhelming at all, it was a gift. A pure simple specifal gift that two seven year olds’ brought to me. To throw caution to the wind, or flour to the ceiling. To tear up the schedule and throw out the plan, to have no blueprint at all. Sometimes that is what we need.
For those of us who spend more time at work and more energy on our job than our families, it is moments like these that we should not let slip away. Today, I was not overwhelmed, and it only took a few minutes to realize that this experience was magical. It is moments like these we should worry about “not” having in our busy schedules of appointments and tasks. These are the appointments we should not cancel, for these events will teach us the most important lessons of all, “life” lessons. It is times like these that we truly see what matters, and what will make a difference. These investments are those that will pay the highest dividends and produce the most growth, not just for us but also for our children. For to love our children is not just a kiss before bedtime, or an I love you as we rush them off to school. It is not just providing of basic needs. It is the giving of ourselves. The time we offer, the tone in which we offer it, and the joy as we delight in it.
It is this gift that I was given from my parents, and it is my hope and prayer that I will pass it along. For one day my children will be teaching my grandchildren and it will be then that my report card will come…. And I will see how successful in life I truly have been