"Not so long ago, they say, a mother lived, just like today.." So begins the book, The Seven Silly Eaters by Maryann Hoberman. It is one of our favorite picture books. I have read it so often, I can quote great chunks of it from memory. One of my favorite bits, for obvious reasons, being, "'They really are a splendid crew,' sighed Mrs. Peters, pinning pins and diapering her brand new twins: little sisters, quick and smart, impossible to tell apart;"
Thus I was pretty darn excited when a friend posted on her blog about making Mrs. Peter's birthday cake. We needed to make this cake. (Mrs. Peter's birthday cake recipe link - I've included it because it has worked before, but Ms. Hoberman's whole site seems to be down currently so the link is broken. Maybe it will be fixed and working again in the future, thus the link.) I printed out the recipe and promptly forgot about it.
Until yesterday, that is, when TM needed, needed, to bake something. We had the ingredients and he went to town. Here is the cake when it came out of the oven. (He added some sprinkles before baking, if you're wondering what those white spots are.)
So far, so good. Everyone was excited by the prospect of cake for dessert. The cake was served and everyone waited with eager anticipation to begin. And then...
"It kind of looks like Play-Doh."
"I think it kind of tastes like Play-Doh."
"What's it supposed to taste like?"
"TM, did you put any sugar in it?"
"Yeah, a tablespoon, just like it said."
A child runs to get the recipe and reads, "1 1/2 cups of sugar."
And it did kind of look and taste like Play-Doh. See?
I don't think it was the recipe. My sister-in-law made it and told me it was a great cake. Plus there are dozen and dozens of blog posts out there of responsible parents baking with their children and reporting on delicious cake outcomes. I think it was user error.
In fact, I am sure it was user error and that's OK. It was one of those brilliant, unplanned, life lessons with real-life consequences that speak louder than any words I could have ever said. You see, one of the things about a child from a hard place is the whole issue of control. Because they often feel out of control, they try to control everything and everyone around them. There is no room in their life to allow others to know what they are doing or have opinions different from the child's. This includes recipes. The child from the hard place ALWAYS knows best. Sometimes TM bakes things just fine. He will follow the directions for the most part and things will turn out edible if not exactly as the recipe had planned. And sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he thinks he knows better and we get Play-Doh on a plate for dessert.
There were some other lessons learned last night as well. He handled it with grace and good humor. There was quite a bit of ribbing from brothers and sisters over the need to actually follow directions. He was able to laugh along with them and at himself a bit for the error. If you are raising a child from a hard place, you can understand the magnitude of this small interchange. Learning that it is OK not to be in control all the time is a very difficult lesson to learn. I hope that last night we walked one more step down that path.
And at some point, I'll need to make the cake myself to see what it was really supposed to taste like.
I have a new article up. Strength for the Journey, take a look.