A welcoming kitchen is better than perfect meals

Man Wearing Black Apron Near Two Silver Metal Cooking PotHave you ever wondered why there are never any smallish children lending a hand on cooking shows? Sources within the industry tell me that they would have to be taped from a padded room because you would have to be clinically insane to attempt measuring, stirring and any -ing with the little people.

Anytime you introduce highly powdery elements like flour, sticky ones like honey and slick ones like oil—exciting things are in store, my friend. So, why in the world did I allow, even welcome my children to assist me in baking and cooking when they were small? It took mucho time and deep breathing that have brought great dividends now that they are older.

I went through phases where during dinner preparation I wanted to install those large applause signs (maybe Gordon Ramsay has one I could borrow) but I would change the lettering to read, “GET OUT.” I found myself saying phrases (not always in the Mrs. Cleaver voice) such as “Go play,” “Go watch a movie,” or even just plain “Shoo, shoo, shoo!”

After being with them all day, this sanctioned solitary dinner-prep moment was my one respite before the craziness of bedtime. One night after a particularly “shooing” time had put all of us on the fast track to Prozac, I did some reflecting. At the end of the day I pray and read scripture and as I do I think about the choices I made, especially with my family. This is when I feel God helping me be a better mom by nudging me to be a smidgen better: say it this way next time, maybe not yell “shoo” five times in a row in a snarly voice—that sort of thing.

I was reading in the Bible when Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes and I realized that the Jesus’ consistent anthem is “Come.” “Come unto me…” “Come follow me…” Come. Come. Come. No shooing. Then I read what happened preceding the miracle and realized how far I have to go. Before the teaching and the miracle he is told about John the Baptist’s beheading and his disciples tell him to basically go where he can be alone, which he does. But the people follow him. Sound familiar, Moms who can’t go to the bathroom without tiny fingers sliding under the door—or even more awkward—they just open the door and stare at you? Yeah, I’m with you.

Now if this were me, I would tell these five thousand, “Listen, I am having a little ‘me time’ here. My cousin was just murdered and I need some space. Come back tomorrow and BYOFAB (Bring Your Own Fish and Bread). Don’t be early and don’t be hungry.”

Instead, he heals them, teaches them and feeds them. He welcomes them. He shows them this by allowing them to be where He is. Do you see what I am getting at here? I am not saying I want to spend every waking second with my children all velcroed to my side. I just want them to remember me enjoying their company rather than putting up huge neon signs proclaiming the “Get Out Gospel”.

Free stock photo of light, sign, typography, lightingSo, I changed. I let them in—welcomed them, even. I took down my electric sign, gritted my teeth and realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. As it often is in mothering, it all lies in my attitude how the winds of emotions blow.

Recently, I had my friend’s toddler and pre-schooler over and while I baked muffins, they had a field day with the flour. I let them scoop it into multiple bowls using measuring cups and large spoons and my kitchen floor was fit for skating. They looked like miniature Caspers and it brought back sweet memories from years ago that took me a while to get comfy with. I may or may not have vacuumed their clothing and persons before their parents showed up.

It made me realize that parenting can really change us for the better if we let it. Some of us learn to lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously. Others discover how to take life more seriously. A few learn to not be so self-centered, while many learn what is worth your sacrifice of time and what is not.

Now that our children range from first graders to an almost high-schooler, I can attest that these moments in the kitchen have been worth it. They can make their own lunches (if we don’t sleep in too long), legitimately assist with meal preparation and this past Thanksgiving for the first time ever they actually were helpful and aided in preparing delicious dishes. I’m pretty sure the universe paused for a second while I drank it all in.

I’m not trying to paint the picture that we’re a walking Hallmark channel movie filmed in the kitchen but through all the (literal) spilled milk, burnt desserts and al dente rice, our relationship has been strengthened and deepened and instead of our sign reading “Get out!” it can quite possibly read, “Come on in!” which whether you’re a religious reader or not is indisputably a message we all love to hear.

 

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