So imagine how much fun I was when I started taking my daughter to classes at SweetArt Country Kitchen. For some crazy reason I thought we’d leave the class with the same adorable creations that the teacher demonstrated: rainbow cupcakes with leprechauns on top or Valentine chocolates rivaling DeBrand’s. But my daughter didn’t have the manual dexterity or the inclination to do so. Instead of just painting a smile into a bunny mold, she would squirt pink icing to fill the entire face. Then she would pick up the blue and swirl it together to make what she felt was a masterpiece. Sometimes she would eat the miniature candy meant for eyes and I would cringe. When the instructor came by, I felt the need to apologize and explain our one-eyed pink and blue bunny, but the teacher, bless her heart, would praise my daughter’s originality.
I started to wonder why I was so uptight. Who was I doing this for anyway? After more classes than I’d like to admit, I embraced a new attitude. I relaxed and accepted that my daughter would decorate in her own way. Wouldn’t you know it? The next class she studied the teacher’s example and insisted that we follow those color choices to the letter—our puppy had to have brown fur and green eyes because the teacher’s had brown fur and green eyes. My daughter had figured out that you were supposed to do what the teacher said because that was the “right way”. My heart fell. Had I already crushed my daughter’s creative spirit?
We returned in December to decorate gingerbread houses. I could see some of the other moms directing their kids on how to place the peppermints along the roofline just so. Obviously, they intended to keep this project on display for others to see and it needed to look good. I proudly leaned back in my chair and let my daughter do whatever she wanted. She made a 3-paned window out of Chiclets so she could chew the fourth piece. She assembled a pretzel fence that went nowhere. When she commented that the miniature Christmas tree in the front yard was lop-sided, I offered to get her another gummy tree. She smiled and said, “That’s OK, Mommy.”
I felt an incredible sense of pride. All of this time I had been trying to teach her how to follow directions while she had developed an equally important skill—the ability to accept life’s imperfections. In the end, I was the one who learned something from our cooking adventures. The secret ingredient to a happy childhood is to stop worrying about how it looks and just have fun.