This I Resolved: Cooking Lessons

cookingEditor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't — and the challenges along the way.

“I don’t want to have to clean up the mess.”

Years after I asked my mom if I could bake some cookies, her response still rings. I offered to help clean up — she still said no. I felt sad not being able to create when inspired.

My mom wasn’t completely averse to my brother and me helping in the kitchen. We’d chop nuts, get pieces of dough to make pretend pies. But it had to be the right time, not any time.

Skip ahead to now, my own attempt at motherhood. Our son showed a strong interest in cooking early on. Flour + bowls = happy toddler. The gift that thrilled him most for his second birthday was a play kitchen.

But to encourage him towards real recipes, I had to encourage myself to let go of the fear of the mess. I pledged I wouldn’t say no like my mother had.

Our daughter’s arrival now means two kids wanting access to the pantry — and double the challenge to keep my pledge. When asked if they can “make a recipe,” visions of dried-flour paste or more dishes on the Sisyphean stack by the sink confront me.

But if I am cooking, I try to shift my mindset: that it's a great time, instead of an inconvenient one, to have them mixing ingredients next to me. After several rounds of dutifully eating oddly textured “cookies,” I have learned that Bisquick is a sure-bet base for kid-created combinations. And, as they get older, they are learning that a key part of cooking is cleaning up.

There have been a few times I have said “not now” – maybe finally understanding vs. abhorring my mother’s perspective. I then try to make sure they get to make something later that day, and I also try to not beat myself up too much.

Hopefully the kids will be cooking dinners in a few years. Then I’ll have to let go of any expectations for the meal, accepting if it’s Bisquick-based cookies or pancakes every time.

About the author: Kimberly Larson is a lover of cheese, communicator for climate solutions, digger of dirt (garden variety), chaser of children, and dabbler in short stories/music/adventure.

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