Smile, smile, smile. This is what memories are made of
"Why are you putting down a plastic bag?”
“So that if something spills, it will be easy to clean up.”
“But Maaa — I’m going to be so careful!”
“Why do you care if I put down a plastic bag? It’s smart. I do it when I bake, too!”
And then we begin.
“Well if you want to bake, you’ll have to read,” I say to my first grader, who is still struggling over her words.
“In…grat? Grad? Grid?”
“Ingredients. Okay, I’ll read. You just get the ingredients.”
“What are ingredients?”
I start to sweat. That’s one of the warning bells they talk about in anger management courses. I force a smile and keep reading out the list.
“Can I crack the eggs? Nechama’s mother always lets her crack the eggs. I’ll be soooo careful.”
Smile, smile, smile. This is what memories are made of.
“Of course, just be careFUL! HELLO! CAN YOU DO IT OVER THE CUP? Okay, let me just scoop out the egg shell ‘cuz we don’t want a crunchy cake.” I’m glad she at least thinks that’s funny. I can be a mean mommy and funny, too.
We keep going, agonizingly slowly, scooping flour and baking powder… “No, that’s baking soda!”
“So what? It looks exactly the same, Ma. Also, can we put in sprinkles?”
“No, it doesn’t call for sprinkles.”
See? Mean Mommy. I squeeze my eyes shut as she puts the mixer on high speed, then helpfully point out that she should slow it down before the blue kitchen table becomes a white kitchen table. I watch her carefully sneak a lick off the sugar cup when she thinks I’m not watching. Then another and another. I chuckle to myself because it’s not like I never do that when she’s not watching.
Once the cake is safely in the oven, I race to clean up before her sticky hands make their way into and onto anything else.
“Can I pleeaasee lick the… Ma, you washed the bowl?” Her eyes nearly pop out of her cute little head as she sadly watches the soapy water spill over the brim of the mixing bowl.
I’m clearly the meanest mommy ever when we bake.
We successfully avert that near disaster by finding the unwashed spatula. I begrudgingly offer it as a peace offering. I hold my breath the entire 39 seconds it takes for her to lick it clean.
“Should I put this back in the drawer? I basically washed it for you.”
The next rainy day comes and my forgetfulness works in everyone’s favor as we once again pull out the KitchenAid. She measures and pours, I wipe and catch, and her siblings hover over our shoulders so as not to miss anything.
We take turns scooping batter into the muffin tins. I physically hold my hand down to stop myself from taking away the scooper.
So this is what avodas hamiddos looks like. Each time I bake, I’m a tiny drop less stressed. Only a tiny drop. So tiny that I still commit to never ever bake with the kids again after each session. So tiny that I myself didn’t realize anything had changed until suddenly we were baking again, and I’d cleared off the table, dumped everything in the sink — and then, just before I turned on the faucet to fill the bowl with soapy water, I turned to my daughter and asked, “Do you want to lick?”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 762)
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