Why I Hate Baking with my Daughter
From the moment I knew I was having a girl, there was one thing I was most excited for: I was going to teach my daughter how to bake.
While I was determined to let my girl have a variety of gender-neutral toys to choose from, baking was the one sweet, stereotypical role I was planning on thoroughly embracing from my 1970s childhood.
After all, my own mother loved to bake with me, right? I have wonderful memories of being a young girl, standing on our kitchen chairs, my bare feet sticking to the shiny yellow vinyl seats. I watched how butter, sugar, flour, and eggs became magic under my mother’s care. Rolling, kneading, sprinkling. Licking the beaters and my fingers. But what I treasured most of all was the time with my mother, just the two of us, in our cozy, warm kitchen.
“Your mom probably didn’t love it,” said my friend while I recounted the latest baking-with-my-daughter disaster. “You just think she did because she was a great mom, and that’s what great moms do.”
Her words stunned me. Of course my mother loved baking with me. After all, we had baking traditions! Apple pie at Thanksgiving, hamantaschen at Purim, glittery yellow and blue cookies during Hanukkah, and claufoutis, a French baked custard studded with blueberries, and dusted with a sweet cloud of powdered sugar in the summer.
She was always patient. She was full of praise and hugs for my lopsided and overly-sprinkled creations. She proclaimed everything delicious; the best cookie she’d ever eaten. And maybe that was all mostly true. As a parent, I now realize my mother had a lot of zen.These experiences ended up being more than just warm and tender family memories. They would, in fact, guide me toward a profession as a pastry chef and custom cake designer.
“Can I help?” my daughter asks, her blue eyes and adorable freckles staring up at me.
“Of course! Pull up a stool,” I answer, injecting perhaps a tad too much manufactured excitement.
“Can I mix it?” she asks.
I can feel my anxiety rising. You don’t mix it, you fold it, I inwardly chant. All I can think about are the delicate egg whites about to be crushed by the weight of a rubber spatula wielded by an enthusiastic six year old.
I’ve realized that my problem is actually quite simple. When it comes to baking, I’m a perfectionist. I want my clients to be thrilled when they see their cakes for the first time. I want them to know that these creations taste and look better than they’d even imagined.
In culinary school, there were no second chances. Broken hollandaise? Into the trash it went, along with a heavily French-accented stern warning to not let it happen again. I learned to do it right, and I have a hard time straying from the script. If I’ve learned anything about having children for the past dozen or so years, it’s that life never follows the script.
And let’s be honest. Kids ruin baking. They drip frosting everywhere. They break eggs, leaving tiny shards of shell in the dough and runny yolks dripping off the counter edge. They pick their noses and then stick their fingers in the batter.
Try as I may to quash it, my perfectionism seeps into everything I bake—from loaves of bread and chocolate chip cookies to the ornately adorned bake sale table I was charged with setting up at our elementary school’s Fall Festival.
And, of course, baking with a six year old.
Does she sense that I’m dreading the whole experience? That I’m waiting for her to get distracted by her little brother or the half-built Lego creation on the floor? Can’t I just suck it up and try be that great mom my friend spoke of, building the same wonderful memories for her that my own mother created for me?
Recently, we attended a holiday gingerbread house making party. Every family was given one home to decorate with an amazing array of candy and frosting. For more days than I care to admit, I’d told myself that this party was for the kids—and I was going to leave my perfectionist, Type A, professional pastry chef persona at home.
I watched as my daughter carefully planned her design, arranging each piece of candy just so—until her three-year-old brother “ruined it” by disrupting the green-green-red-green-green gumdrop pattern she’d so carefully manufactured. After a brief outburst, she agreed to let him decorate his side, the back of the house to be exact, as he pleased. Eventually, when we got home, she praised him with a “good job, buddy,” along with a few suggestions for next time.
Her words echoed in my head. Yes, I reflected, my six-year-old daughter had shown the greater maturity, kinder spirit, and sweet generosity that has alluded me for all these years. Perfection comes in many forms.
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This post was written by Lauren Cooper exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.