I recently saw a video gone viral of a grandma baking cookies with her toddler grandson. It was a complete disaster as he flung ingredients everywhere and tried eating each item including raw egg and baking soda. It was hilarious and I was rolling with laughter. You know why? Because it wasn’t me. This woman found the humor in her grandson’s shenanigans (probably because she’s a grandma now) as did hundreds of thousands of viewers according to YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, here’s one of the many different edited versions of this video.
I enjoy cooking at times. Even more so, I enjoy baking. ALONE.
When I was a new mom with one child, I often daydreamed of a future afternoon in the kitchen, sun filtering in warm beams of light, daughter cautiously standing on a chair, learning how to make cookies or brownies topped with powdered sugar or sprinkles. We’d be giggling and smiling and making a minimal mess because I would still have complete control over the situation, of course. We’d pop the pan in the oven and after the timer dinged, lovingly look at each other from across the table as we sank our teeth into the warm ooey-gooey dessert we had just made. I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to make this fantasy come true.
You know those pictures of happy families baking together in the kitchen with not a hair out of place nor a single sugar crystal on their shirt? Or those pictures of parent and child throwing flour at each from other across the kitchen island, but everyone involved is having the time of their lives? Those images tricked me. They are why I had that fantasy as a new naïve mom. I now roll my eyes when I see pictures of happy families together in the kitchen joyously making a delicious-looking concoction because I don’t feel it’s very realistic. It’s staged for a magazine or the pictures on social media don’t show the chaos happening every other second of the process.
We now have three kids ages eight, four and two. I’ve tried including them on multiple occasions. They deserve kitchen instruction if they feel so inclined to help and learn. And I’d really like for them to know a thing or two about making a meal before they leave the nest one day.
But you know what happens each and every time? If you’re a mom, you probably have similar answers.
1. If one asks to help, the other two insist on joining as well. We have one step stool for the youngest to reach the counter, but even though the other two are tall enough, they demand also being higher, which involves dragging two kitchen table chairs across the hardwood floor to the island, almost always involving one person stubbing a toe and having a meltdown. This then involves them touching their dirty feet which means they have to wash their hands AGAIN.
2. With three “get me higher” furnishings around the island, the toddler HAS to position himself directly in front of the trash drawer; this is the only location where he won’t throw a tantrum. The oldest feels the need to take the spot that blocks me from opening the fridge. The middle child then always gets stuck next to the toddler which is too far away from the action and causes tears. What do all of these have in common? Let’s shout it altogether now: INCONVENIENCE!!
3. They then all begin to argue over who gets to pour what. News flash! If it’s just muffins or mac ‘n cheese or other common items, there are only like three ingredients anyways! That equals one item per kid. Was the arguing and crying and pulling chairs and stubbing toes worth that two second pour?! And don’t even get me started on what happens when the number of ingredients is not divisible by three.
4. Ingredients. Go. Everywhere. Now don’t get me wrong; I can handle some tiny piles of flour or salt on the counter. I can wipe down the countertops easy-peasy. I can even drag those crumbs directly into the open trash drawer (once the two-year old moves). What gives me heart palpitations are the piles of sugar on the floor which scream ants or dumping bouncy circular sprinkles on the counter resulting in a chasing match. Runaway ingredients admittedly raise my blood pressure way more than they should.
5. If we’re using the stove, someone is going to get burned. It doesn’t matter if I’m holding them, have my arms wrapped around them or helping them stir. Somebody’s little finger touches the side of a hot pan or pot and it results in more crying. And then the food gets neglected while I’m tending to the child.
6. At the completion of the culinary creation my oldest brags about how she made it, which I get it…she’s eight. She wants the credit. But no sweetie, you barely did anything except aggravate me. (I don’t actually say this.)
7. Universally, we know that if we make a mess in the kitchen, there is cleanup afterwards. I can remind my kids of this. I can even make my kids do this. But will it be cleaned to my satisfaction? No, which means I’m still left cleaning up the half-clean kitchen. And most likely, I’ll find more sprinkles or sugar or dry noodles on my floor, probably by stepping on them, which inevitably crushes them into even tinier pieces.
You know why I have no pictures to show of my own family for this post? It’s because I’ve never taken any. If I spend 15 seconds grabbing my phone and opening the camera, I can promise you a bowl of ingredients will be dumped out or a finger will get chopped off in a mixer or someone will get burned or more sprinkles and sugar will find their way scattered across the floor. I just can’t handle it. Maybe one day I’ll reach a point when my kids are older, and I can better interact with them in the kitchen. I truly look forward to that day.
My husband is an amazing cook and I know my kids could learn so much about cooking from him and they can continue learning how to make lopsided cakes and flat cookies from me. One day we will get there. One day I’ll be able to pull out my camera and show genuine smiles from our culinary adventures. Until then, I’ll either secretly bake when they’re not looking or grudgingly let them participate while I OCDingly try to prevent messes and injuries and chase runaway ingredients around the kitchen.