But for today, we made cookies.
There are some go-to blogs that I love to read because they all talk about AND ACTUALLY DO cook with their kids. It seems like such a bucolic scene: mom and kids gingerly parcelling out ingredients into ceramic bowls and stirring happily with wooden spoons in light-filled kitchens with all organic ingredients. It's been enough to make me really want to try it with Little G...but I am such a perfectionist and a control freak that I have been avoiding it. I know that instead of doing anything gingerly, Little G will most likely stick his fingers in the ingredients just before throwing all of it on the floor.
Today, with my options for toddler entertainment quickly running out, I finally decided to take the plunge. So I got out the cookbook that the mothers in my nursery school co-op made way back in 1979 with the fun illustrations for kids and picked an easy-enough peanut butter cookie recipe.
Truthfully, it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. I brought Little G's play table into the kitchen so the bowls would be at his level - he has a habit of using his Tripp-Trapp chair as a ladder and trying to stand on the top level during dinner, so I didn't think encouraging him to stand on a chair in the kitchen would help our efforts to get him to NOT stand on a chair in the living room, thus the decision to bring his play table into the kitchen for this experiment - and I am proud to say that aside from his insistence that the bowl remain on the floor for the entirety of the process, and his inability to keep his play kitchen spoons out of the dough, the process of making the cookies was actually pretty fun and he did a great job.
He rather expertly dumped all of the ingredients (that I had pre-measured out) into the bowl and helped me mix them all together with determination in his eyes. Then, I rolled the dough into little balls and he put them on the cookie sheet. I moved the balls around so they weren't all right next to each other in a pile and then he helped me squish them all with a fork (although he liked squishing them with his fingers instead and then licking them and squishing the next one...note to self: the cookies w/o fork marks are totally his...second note to self: why did I not think of this myself as a kid...I would have gotten more cookies).
Finally, I had him stand in the corner of the kitchen while I opened the oven and put the tray in. He so patiently helped me clean the kitchen while we waited the 8 minutes for the cookies to bake. At last, the cookies were ready to come out of the oven and I explained to him over and over and over again as I opened the oven door that the cookies were hot, hot, hot and we were going to have to let them cool before we ate them.
He watched me put them on the cooling rack and even blew on them to cool them down and then he tried to take one. It was super hot and as I explained that we still had to wait to eat the cookies he threw himself down on the floor in protest. I couldn't really blame him...this is the first time we've ever baked together...and he's only 18 months old. How could you blame a toddler who's now heard the word cookie at least 100 times in the last 20 minutes from getting antsy at the prospect of having to wait another 10 minutes...so I did what any self-respecting, cookie-loving, toddler-meltdown-hating mother would do and I bribed him with Elmo.
Immediately the tears subsided as he walked with me to the television set and waited for me to start the DVR while I grumbled in my head that the pretty-parents-who-cook-with-their-kids blogs NEVER mention this ugly side of the story. I inwardly seethed at their perfect pictures and their cheery missives. Clearly they have perfect children who would never throw a meltdown over the logic of having to wait for cookies just out of the oven to cool.
So I wrote a post in my head a hundred times to pick on those perfect people and their perfect kitchens and their perfect photos and their cherubic children and upon my search to find a picture to attach to this very post I found myself back at the very beginning of one of those blogs...you know...the posts from the very first months.
And it turns out it wasn't so easy for them either. In fact, it was SO not easy that I felt compelled to share a quote from one of my favorites, Dash and Bella:
COOKING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN IS LIKE JUMPING ONTO A MOVING TRAIN.
I'm amazed by the amount of swearing, sweating, and yelling that is required in order to avoid burns, broken dishes, cut fingers, oversalted food, and epic messes. "Don't touch that. That's hot. Oh my god. Shit. Back away. No. No. Please. Okay. Thank you for listening. No. No. No. Shit. Are you kidding me? Please listen. You're going to hurt yourself. Great job. You did it. Thank you for listening. Now please sit down."
So it turns out I owe an apology to both my son (for expecting him to be a cooking master) and to the writer of that perfectly lovely cooking-with-kids blog. Because it turns out that it takes time to master the art of cooking with kids and I need to remember to be patient with the process and not have a meltdown as if the cookies weren't cool yet.