I like having the house all to myself. It soothes me to get it straightened up and, for some hours of the day, to know that the state of order won’t be constantly eroded. I wasn’t home alone this past weekend. And I hit a mothering breaking point. It kind of embarrasses me, but I’m hoping that some commiseration and like-mindedness will improve my sense of self worth. You see, unlike the mothers in those commercials for paper towels, I just can’t handle out of control messes–AT ALL.
You know the ads. The kids are baking and, OOPS!, they spill a bag of flour all over. Hahaha, no problem! Let’s dab it on eachother’s noses and throw in some eggs for good measure! I have some awesome paper towels that will make it all better instantly! Oh you kids, nothing you do can make me lose my temper!
I hate that prototype.
I know that patience is a virtue and I try, really I do. I’m patient about other things–listening to music lessons, reading long books. That’s really about it, I guess. But something about in-your-face messes just gets to me. This is why I often suggest that to keep mom in a good mood, having the area just inside the garage door neat and tidy will go a long way. Create a jumbled heap of shoes and bags and coats and papers and rocks for me to step over–I’m going to be surly. I just am. So to actually stand by and WATCH such a gory mess accumulate? Not in my skill set.
Now, baking with the girls? Love it. I control the counter top and we stay ahead of the mess. But lately they’ve wanted to bake all on their own. Again, I know in my brain that this is a good thing, but my symmetry-loving, clear-countertop-relishing gut refuses to fall in line. This weekend’s bake-a-thon was extra special as the baking happened while I was attempting to cook some dishes to take to a neighbors informal pot luck later that night. Where’s my counter space, huh? To gild the guilt lily, it actually involved a moment that should have made me proud. Natalie invited the five-year-old neighbor to come and bake with her, a lovely, heart warming, mature gesture. But. Not only did Natalie have to get the baking completed from start to finish, but she had to shepherd a preschooler at the same time.
Natalie is an enthusiastic, exuberant, terribly unfocused baker. I frequently find myself intervening before a teaspoon of baking soda becomes a tablespoon, or she forgets something like flour altogether. And the mess, oh sweet Jesus the mess. There is no attempt to keep one’s work space clean as is extolled on those TV cooking competitions. Lids are left off of all ingredients, measurements routinely overflow and pool around the mixer. Eggshells drip their contents over the counter and onto the floor, where they are mashed into a slurry along with spilled dry ingredients and then crushed underfoot and spread throughout the kitchen and the rest of the house. But she got the job done, and sort of even cleaned up the dishes after herself.
That’s when Evie announced that she too wanted to bake something. I was already at the end of my proverbial rope, so she really bore the brunt of frustrated mommy. Oh well, she got her No Talent Cake (actual name as written on the recipe from my mother. Self esteem issues anyone?) in the oven, and I hightailed it out to take a drive to the grocery store. My car was an oasis of calm, and I left vague yet threatening instructions about getting the kitchen back in order before I got back. Those poor kids. But I just can’t believe that every other house is inoculated against the panic that child-led cooking brings about, just because they own brand name paper towels. It can’t just be me, can it????