The thing about parenting is that you’re always in a position of teaching, learning, and growing. You could say the same thing about life in general. I was really reminded of my important role as a teacher and student when I was in the process of cooking with Caleb on Saturday morning. He had this great idea to make ice cream sandwiches (for dessert later), which I ran with.
We embarked on the cooking project by making a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but we made them larger so they could hold a fair amount of ice cream between two. As the baking cookies filled our house with delightful fragrance, we got started on our homemade chocolate ice cream. Using our fabulous ice cream maker, we whipped up a batch of bittersweet chocolate ice cream in no time.
Here’s where my lesson comes in. I had never made ice cream sandwiches before, but had mastered coq au van, so how hard could they be!? The cookies had cooled off (mostly) and the ice cream was close to normal texture. With Caleb’s help, I started to spread the ice cream quickly onto one cookie, and then placed the second cookie on top. As we completed a few of these, I started to notice the ice cream begin to melt and the cookies started to slip and slide around the tray.
My breath began to shorten, my shoulders became tense, and I started to lose my cool. Mateo came into the kitchen with reassurances that we could fix the problem of the messy, melting, slippery, ice cream cookies, but I was too immersed in flogging myself aloud for the cooking project gone wrong. I then thought about all the times I say to Caleb, “sweetie, please be easier on yourself”, when he’s in the middle of berating his attempt at homework or an art project he’s working on. He doesn’t do this all the time, but often enough to cause us concern. I clearly see how our struggle (Mateo and I both) to be easier on ourselves has played out in our children’s development.
As much as I can possibly help it, I want both Sadie and Caleb to be free of the ‘Samsonite’ that we have carried around for so many years, and have worked hard to lighten ourselves of. It’s disheartening when I see Caleb not taking a lighter approach to the things he is just learning for the first time; projects that should be fun and engaging.
So, in the middle of the kitchen, I started to inhale and exhale. It felt good to take an “oh well!” approach to my first attempt at a project that seemed so simple in theory. The truth is, I had never made ice cream sandwiches, and I deserved some room for trial and error! In that moment, I made the decision to be lighter; to act the way I wanted to feel (happier and open to the adventure – after all, I was spending precious time with my kid doing what we love most); and to not take this first attempt at ice cream cookies so seriously. We cleaned the messy cookies up, scraped off the ice cream, and let it all freeze a little while longer. About an hour later, the assembly process was seamless, and we quickly produced a batch of delicious treats to be enjoyed at dessert.
Lesson learned: our children are always watching us and the way we treat ourselves, is the way they’re going to learn to be in the world. The easier I am on myself; the easier my kiddos will be. If I learn to laugh at what I perceive to be a screw-up, the more likely they are to adopt a similar approach when things get challenging.
The long and short of it? The ice cream sandwiches were excellent. They were fun to eat after a delicious home-cooked meal. We enjoyed them with a sense of lightness and really felt proud of our accomplishment. I felt good about myself for turning my hard time around, and for modeling being easier on myself. After all, two sets of beautiful and impressionable eyes are watching me at all times. This is important work.