I am always re-evaluating my mothering. Am I doing enough for my children? Am I providing a good example for them? Am I cooking healthy food? Am I adaquately stimulating their minds? Am I letting them watch too much TV?
These kinds of questions occur on a regular basis, and, of course, there’s always room for improvement in my mothering. But I recently read something in a magazine that got me to think about my mothering in a new way. Rather than focusing on what I don’t want to be as a mother, perhaps it would be better to focus on what I do want to be as a mother. In other words, focus on positive goals, not negative outcomes.
I was proud of myself for putting that adjusted perspective into practice earlier this week. With Lyd’s birthday coming up, she needed some kind of birthday treat to take to school. In trying to come up with a special treat idea, I suggested making cut-out cookies. Lyd was instantly excited and enthusiastic about this idea, even as I quickly calculated the amount of work this idea would involve. But, then also I realized that this would provide some good momma-daughter bonding time in the kitchen, and really, isn’t it a classic epitome of motherhood – to bake and decorate cookies with your child?
So, I found a good cut-out sugar cookie recipe (thank you, Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookbook!), and on Monday night we made cookies. Both of my girls helped me mix up the cookie dough. I even silenced my objections and told Lyd, “Yes, you can measure the flour out all by yourself.” (And I forced myself not to mention the flour that ended on the counter and on the floor and on my brown shoes.) Lyd measured the flour, and Curious J happily dumped it in. (We’re working on taking turns right now; this provided a good opportunity to practice this necessary skill.) They alternated adding the other ingredients in, and after mixing it all together (during which time Lyd taught Curious J to cover her ears when I was using the electric hand mixer – thanks, kid), I gave each kid a beater to lick off. A classic mother-daughter(s) moment in the kitchen – helping Mom mix up a batch of cookies and then licking off the beaters afterwards.
(I should note that the mixing of the dough occured whilst the soundtrack to the movie “The Sound of Music” was blaring in the living room. About a month ago, I introduced that movie to Lyd, and she has completely fallen in love with it. She’s already knows “Do-Re-Mi” by heart – all five minutes of it. Like grandmother, like mother, like daughter.)
Later on, after the dough had cooled a bit in the fridge and Curious J had been put to bed, Lyd and I cleaned off the counter, brought out the rolling pin and more flour, and proceeded to roll and cut out cookies. It was actually kind of fun to work with Lyd, to teach her how to position the cookies as close together as possible so as to roll out the dough as few times as possible. It created quite a good memory, and Lyd was delighted to have some one-on-one time with her momma rolling out and cutting out cookies.
The next night, we put a tired and cranky Curious J to bed early again, and Lyd and I iced and decorated the cookies we had made the previous night. All we had for non-Christmas sprinkles were pink, yellow, and some kind of small pastel-colored flowers, and we made liberal use of them all. When her Kindergarten teacher saw the cookies the next day, she said, “Those are very Lydia-ish cookies.” And they were! We had so much fun decorating them, spending time together, and enjoying being together.
(Of course, Lyd especially didn’t mind when, for her bedtime story that night, I told her the story of her birth. She absolutely loved hearing it, and she was still talking about it the next day. I sense the beginning of a tradition…)
It was not my first choice to make such labor-intensive cookies with my daughter for her birthday. It would have been easier to just whip up some basic chocolate chip cookies, and frankly, she probably would have been content with those. But, I’m glad that I suggested doing something special. I’m glad I put forth the effort to be the mom I would like to be, rather than taking the simpler route. Because the fact is, I do take the simpler route frequently, and most of the time I’m completely content and pleased with myself for doing that. (ie. I rarely make our beds, I use boxed mac & cheese, I use store-bought bread (although I buy quality bread), I don’t clean my floors as often as they could stand to be cleaned). However, this time was special. This wasn’t just a hum-drum ordinary task, one that if I cut corners on, no one would even notice. This was my daughter’s birthday, and I feel certain that she will remember these cookies, and definitely remember this experience. Plus, I’ve created a template in her mind for what Making Cookies With Momma should be like. That’s a good thing, and worth taking time for.
She was so happy to pass out her cookies to her schoolmates on her birthday! I know, because I was there. And they were delicious cookies, too. (Thank you, Betty Crocker!) I’m glad I put forth the extra effort to make the experience memorable for Lyd.
Her delight over the experience made it truly worthwhile.