I struggle with perfectionism. To be fair, I’ve come a long way. Having three little kids will tend to do that to a person. Just the other day, I even put mismatched shoes on the baby and left the house like that. True story.
One way I’ve dealt with my perfectionism is learning to reframe things. Instead of cajoling the kids into cleaning up their toys because it’s making me crazy, I focus on teaching them to pick up after themselves because it’s a valuable life skill. When I make this distinction, I’m much more likely to be calm about attempting to enforce it. Because I will survive if (not if, when) the house is messy.
Before I get completely sidetracked by my philosophy on toys and mess, let me get to my point. The kitchen. The kids and me in the kitchen. Doing things together. And enjoying it.
I like baking. I find it calming, meditative. You have a list, instructions, clear starting and stopping points. Not like, say, potty training. No, baking is clear-cut, unambiguous, and at the end you can get perfectly-shaped cookies (a melon baller is great for that, btw).
When I’m in the kitchen, so are my kids. They want to be with me, almost all the time, and it’s so sweet, and I love that they want to spend time with me. Despite this love, letting them help in the kitchen has been an exercise in Herculean amounts of patience.
Inviting them to bake with me is letting them right into my zen area. My calming station. Instead of the steady rhythm of measuring and mixing, I’m facing the fidgety pace of two excited little boys.
Yes, the easy choice would be to not let them help, to just bake when they’re at school or sleeping. That would simplify things. But sometimes choosing the more difficult path leads to great rewards.
Instead of being a disaster, usually our family cooking activity ends up very sweetly, actually. In the smooth scenario, the boys both stand on the top of our step-stool while I measure out an ingredient. I’ll hand the teaspoon/cup/pitcher to whichever boy is up to bat, and he will gleefully dump it in. Ear-to-ear grins all around.
We’ve had some surprise hits, like how much they love checking eggs for blood spots (’cause there’s a Jewish thing about not eating blood). I’ll crack an egg into my clear measuring cup, and after we peek in from the top they will loudly declare, “No blood spots!” Then we lift up the cup to check the bottom and they yell out again, “No blood spots!” I don’t think they’re actually looking, but, let me tell you, they love the yelling. When we actually do find a blood spot they barely know what to do with themselves, they get so excited.
I thought they would get a kick out of the food processor, but apparently it’s too loud, and thus, terrifying. My three-year-old will get down off the step stool and exit the kitchen completely when I tell him that I’m going to use it.
When we bake, they learn about taking turns, following instructions, measuring, and organization. They learn about ingredients and they get to help make their own food. Really, how cool is that? They love it, and they usually eat whatever they help me make (unless it has something completely repellent in it, like, heaven forbid, vegetables!! The horror!!).
It’s been a process, and I’ve learned that if I’m under stress, or under the weather, or just not feeling up to it, family baking isn’t the best activity. I want to create happy memories of sticky batter, not of Mommy losing her cool because someone dumped the entire container of baking soda into the bowl.
Despite the bickering in the middle of a recipe, and even though it takes far, faaaaaaar longer to bake with my little helpers, I’m so glad that I sometimes ste outside of my comfort zone to include them. Because when it comes down to it, spending time with them and creating these memories is far more important than having perfectly shaped cookies.
Excitingly, a revised version of last week’s post is now up over at Aish.com (!!!!). If you have time, check it out.
40 thoughts on “Patience is the New Black, or, Kids in the Kitchen”
I’m looking forward to having my son “help” me cook (though that won’t be too soon, since he’s only 9 months). At the same time, though, I’m apprehensive about it because cooking is MY thing, MY space, etc. as you said. So this post was really great.
Love the bit about the blood spots especially. I get excited when I find one, too (and I think it happens once a year on average).
Finding blood spots and finding bugs. It’s like I’m hoping for them and I’m also not, you know? I’m sure you’ll find a way to include your little guy in your kitchen!
Your kids are so cute! Love the yelling “no blood spot!” and just think -your future dils will appreciate you some day for their culinary abilities!! Haha
Congrats on the Aish.com publication!! Yay!! Wow! It’s a great post and is well worth sharing with the world!
I hope so! I’m trying to give them good husband skills. :) Thanks for the congrats – I’m really excited about it!
Enjoy the excitement!! Btw your comment about setting the table reminds me of my grandson (age 5) who often sets our table when he comes over and puts the napkins all fluffy into the glasses. :). He says he learned that in playgroup and his Mommy lets him do it at home!!. LOL. .
I know I’m the only grandmother lurking on this site but y’all excuse me please – you gals are great!
So cute about the napkins! You may not be the only grandmother, maybe we’ll consider you the official representative of grandmothers who read the blog. ;)
Happy to have that role – and hope many other Grandmas join me as readers of your terrific blog!
Dishes are my zen. It’s usually when I start doing dishes that the bigger mister starts chatting me up, a fact I found enormously frustrating until I realized it’s about the only uninterrupted talk time we get some days, making it very much a good thing.
Gratz on Aish!
Mmm, dishes. Yes. And way to incorporate talk time with zen time. :) And thanks for the gratz!
I do dishes as soon as we finish a meal, laundry folded and put away as soon as I its done, and the kids are at the point of cleaning toys as soon as they are done. House chores like this are not my nisayon. Actual cleaning eg vacuuming, dusting, deep cleaning, I don’t always get to. My mantra is if no one notices, it will get done when it gets done.
that’s a good mantra. I am working on the cleaning up thing. It’s a process, and hopefully we’ll get there!
My daughter is the same way, she LOVES to “help” in the kitchen, and I’m just like, “AAAAAH!” Last week I helped her make pizza, which mean that after I had the dough made and shaped, she got to put on the tofu and “cheese,” you know, because I’m vegan and keep my oven pareve. It’s nice to hear I’m not the only mother who has difficulty letting their child(ren) in the kitchen!
Haha, that’s a great visual! And you are definitely not alone. Now I have that song running through my head…
So cute! I love baking but b”H I’ve had years of practice being a Morah and learning how to cook with kids. My biggest problem is that my kids aren’t usually interested in helping in the kitchen! But they do love to help set the table, so we’re working on that instead. Love this post!
Haha, ah, that figures! Setting the table is a great activity, though. It’s also a very tangible outcome. Enjoy!
Love this. My baby is 20 months and I’ve just started having her “help” in the kitchen–it gets VERY messy but she loves it and it’s such a nice memory! I don’t like mess, so I have to push myself for it, but I’m always glad when I do:)
I think with a 20 month old *everything* gets messy! Enjoy her! <3
You are a great ima. So proud of you.
takes one to know one. ;)
I don’t like baking at all. I do it because I have to–well, and because I really like pumpkin chocolate bars. But, I don’t like it. However, I have always been fanatical about cleaning. Some would call it obsessive, even. It’s taken me the whole of my parenting years to finally come to the place where I can choose to ignore it for the greater good. I’ve actually been writing a post about this in my head. Maybe now I should actually write it! ;) Anyhow, yes I get this totally. Letting the kids help me clean feels very much the same way. Cleaning for me is *my* thing. I just want everyone to leave me alone with a closet to reorganize to perfection! And give me a warm basket of laundry to fold any day! Ah. love it. But now that I have four kids and a husband in need of clothing–laundry has become more about getting clothing on their backs as quickly as possible and less about my need to have a laundry closet filled to the brim with folded towels towering in perfect alignment.
Please do write it! And laundry. Yes. Laundry.
I liked the photo of your living room. I think we should all break through the facade of tidy houses when we have little kids. I mean, who doesn’t tidy like mad when they have friends or family coming?
I wish I knew how those mothers of massive families learnt how to just CHILL OUT and not care about the mess though. Maybe you just have to, to survive.
Love your blog Rivki!
And how! I’m getting better at chilling (and also at just having less things at hand to make a mess out of), but it’s hard sometimes. Thanks so much Lauren, always nice to hear from you. :)
I’ve had the same experience! I have a hard time letting go of my control when a meal or baked good is at stake, but the kids love to help and it always goes better than I expected.
I think the trick is to keep your expectations really, really low.
Yet another post that makes me realize we are kindred spirits :) There is so much to love about kids baking and cooking with you – including the personal growth part. it is even better as they get older. Often on erev shabbos i’ll have a few kids in the kitchen with me and everyone is helping me and each other, most of my kids make entire recipes completely on their own, even doing the math for doubling or quadrupling.
My 7 year old made blueberry muffins for pesach. I left the room for a moment and when I came back in she said she was ready to put them into the muffin tin. I looked around and said “What did you use to measure the salt?” and she proudly held up the measuring cup! Those were some pretty salty muffins :) but she learned from her mistake and now is a perfect little baker.
So cute! We have the Rivka connection going. :). Your comment makes me look forward to when my kids are bigger and seeing what they come up with!
Those two faces are so edible! (No pun intended on the cooking part of this post.) This post made me nod a lot. I will let the kids help bake sometimes, but it is very hard for me to not scream, “careful with the flour!!” etc.
Congrats again on the Aish piece. That’s awesome. I’m a big Aish fan. I love their site, and we’re involved here.
They are, aren’t they? I love that picture. It is such a challenge to let them do it, isn’t it? Yet again, we’re on the same page parenting-wise! And thanks for the congrats on the Aish piece. Aish has made a huge impact on my life, really happy to be able to contribute!
“Someone dumped the entire container of baking soda into the bowl.” Lol. I bake with Chava Lea, and while baking is not my zen zone, she definitely sticks her fingers in the batter all the time.
They really love the full sensory experience, don’t they?
I go through the SAME EXACT thing with my two girls. SO FUN! It’s definitely been a learning process (challah time used to be stress time if they were around) but I’ve definitely grown to love it in the same way. Now they each get their own pieces of dough and make interesting “challah” they can call their own and watch “grow” in the oven…really fun times. Good stuff!
Aw, I love letting the kids do their own thing with the challah! I still have to work on challah time not being quite as stressful. I usually do it on Fridays, and that’s just a day in general that I work on not being stressed on, you know?
Tell me about it. I actually broke down and cried last Friday thinking “I’ll never get it together on time! Ever!”.. Haha (it’s funny now) I’m currently working too so it’s become a Thursday/Friday COMBO that I have to work on not being stressed! Kids really help, though, in bringing in the peace :) We have to appreciate that!
Oh yeah, that’s tricky. Have you tried making extra and freezing it (a chicken dish, soup or kugel etc.)? Sometimes when I can just pull something out of the freezer it really takes the edge off. Wishing you a lot of hatzlacha!
yes! i am JUST getting into the freezing thing. My cousin who also works (and lives in Jerusalem) has been raving about how much this helps. So I’m just starting but I do freeze half my challah dough for the following week…been freezing the starters like hummus, dips, etc Soups and sauces too. working my way into a system. Good to know we all need to freeze! :) thank you for the well wishes
This is so great! Sure, it takes so much longer to bake with little kids around but you create warm memories of spending quality time as a family and teach your kids so many things (like you mentioned-turn taking, patience, measurements, names of ingredients) in a fun and exciting way!
It’s funny that your kids are afraid of the mixer! But there are some nice things to bake that can be done by hand. My favorite recipes (for kids to help with) are the ones with the least ingredients and the least mess (think-no rolling each cookie into a separate shape) so that as soon as it’s out of the mixer and in the pan, it goes into the oven while the kids play and when the timer rings they wait for it to cool off (another lesson in patience :) ) and then they get a taste!
So glad you enjoyed! We also gravitate towards recipes with the least ingredients and shortest cooking time. Pancakes are a favorite for this, too (less waiting). :)
Reading this made me sad at first, because I realized that a certain 9-year-old girl I love wanted to help me make pancakes for dinner last night – but because it was so late after a soccer game on a school night, I turned her down.
I will make it up – by calling her after school today and telling her to pick a recipe for us to make together for Saturday dinner.
Thanks for your awesome post – and great timing for me.
We all have those moments when we regret saying no to something (even when we have a good reason!). I really like your idea for making it up to her. Kudos!