This summer my kids and I stumbled across the show Kids Baking Championship. If you haven’t seen it, it is a baking competition where kids are the contestants and adults are the judges. We loved it! My kids loved watching other kids and seeing what they could create in the kitchen. All four of my kids got the cooking bug, but I cringed at the idea of letting them loose in my own kitchen. I can barely keep on top of the clutter and the crumbs as it is, how can I encourage their interest but keep my sanity intact?
So, the day my son Michael (at 6 years old) announced that he wanted to make his own peanut butter sandwich for lunch, I was a bit thrown off. I mean, doesn’t he see that I have a system? He can’t just mess with my system! I told myself those things, but then I took a deep breath and decided I’ll let him go ahead and just try it on his own. He will probably make a mess, which I will have to clean up anyway, or he’ll get frustrated, and I’ll just take over. No worries.
I flashed back to my teen years, trying to make a blue box of macaroni and cheese for the first time. My parents were gone for the evening, and I was hungry. It was the first time I’d tried to make anything by myself in the kitchen, and I had no clue how to do it. Step one: boil water. I put the water in the pot, turned on the burner, and watched it for a minute before searching out my younger brother. “How do you know when it’s boiling?” I asked him, genuinely stupefied. “You’re kidding, right?” he burst into laughter, and I felt so embarrassed. I’d never paid much attention to how my mom got dinner on the table. I was in my late 20s before I felt comfortable in the kitchen.
I crossed my arms and leaned against the doorjamb of the kitchen. I watched my son gather his ingredients (bread and peanut butter) and supplies (plate and plastic knife). Sticking his tongue out between his lips in intense concentration, I watched him smear a few globs of peanut butter across the bread, nearly tearing it. He smiled to himself, crookedly placed the slices of bread together, and added a few carrots to his plate as his “healthy side.”
The entire process took about twice as long as it would have taken me to make lunches for all four kids. His hands had a few smears of peanut butter, which he took great care in wiping up. The countertop had some crumbs on it, and a glob of peanut butter from where he dropped the knife once. All in all though, not the end of the world, even to a control freak like me.
When I snapped his picture with his sandwich and realized how proud he was, I felt tears prickle my eyes. I realized that as my kids grow older, they will want to do more things for themselves. It’s my job to encourage, not discourage, those accomplishments. It may just be a peanut butter sandwich today, but it could give him the confidence to take on greater challenges tomorrow.