The holidays are coming! Break out the muffin tins, the cookie sheets, the bread pans! Crack open that recipe book to make the cookies, pies, muffins, scones, and breads!
That’s what it feels like a lot of times, doesn’t it? When the holidays come, there’s this incredible pressure to start baking. Well, if you enjoy baking, that can feel like a wonderful thing! But if you’re not a baker, it can start to feel like the guilt is being piled on, can’t it?
But what if baking doesn’t have to be able the baked goods? What if baking was more about the process and less about the finished product? What if baking was a way to make memories with your children? What if baking was a time you could look back on years down the road and think, “Now that was fun!”
Redefining the Need for Baking
Years ago, baking was necessary. There was no option to run to the store and pick up cookies and pies and cakes. If you wanted baked goods on your holiday table, you had to get in the kitchen and make it yourself. On top of that, everyone had to help. If everyone in the family didn’t help, things that needed to be done were left undone. Years ago, that could potentially spell disaster.
Fast forward many years and baking became less of a necessity, but serving store-bought pies and cookies and cakes was a luxury. Many families still preferred to make them on their own.
Fast forward many more years to today and it seems things have completely flipped around. Today, it’s far easier to run to the corner store and pick up the dessert you want than to spend time in the kitchen creating baked goods yourself. And, let’s face it: Picking up a pie or some homemade bread from the market is far quicker than baking it yourself!
So why should you bother? Why should we even talk about baking? Why do we need to bake around the holidays in the first place? And why should you include your children in the process?
But Baking with my Kids is Messy!
Yup. I completely agree! Baking with kids is messy! It’s crazy. It is borderline chaotic. And there are times and recipes where you cross the line into TOTAL chaos!
Yes, you run the risk of getting eggshells in your batter and lumps of flour in your bread dough. Yes, there are many more hands that want to touch the dough and many more fingerprints in the sugar cookies before you get them in the oven. Yes, sometimes the ENTIRE bag of chocolate chips gets dumped into the batter “on accident.” (Or was that mommy’s way of coping? Extra chocolate?)
But think about it this way: Will you remember that time the entire bag of chocolate chips was dumped in the cookies dough? Yes! Will you remember the fun as you rolled out and attempted to get the sugar cookies from the counter onto the cookie sheet without breaking them? Absolutely! Will you remember the crazy mess and the giggles that happen as you decorate the cookies…or your children over-decorate the cookies? You bet!
You see, there’s a trade off to be had. On one hand, it’s nice to have a clean kitchen. Allow me to be one of the first to admit that! But on the other hand, kitchens can be cleaned. Isn’t making memories with your kids worth the mess? (By the way, if the flour explodes, the vacuum cleaner works great for getting the first layer of flour off of everything – and everyone!)
The key here is not to despise the mess. Oh, I’m not saying that you go and intentionally create as much of a mess as possible. I’m not saying you try to make snowballs out of flour to throw at one another in your kitchen. But what I am saying is to go with it. To accept the fact that baking with kids is messy. To teach them as you go. To try to prevent the messes that you can and accept the fact that there will be messes made you simply cannot prevent.
And in those moments, you laugh. You seek to see the fun side of it all. You look for the memory. And then you all work together to clean up the mess.
Perfect Pastries verses Magical Memories
I am a perfectionist. How about you? Are you with me on that one? When I bake, I like for things to not only taste delicious but to look pretty, to come out right, and to be uniform. But one thing I’ve learned through the years of baking with my children is this: I cannot hold to my perfectionist expectations and have fun baking with my children at the same time.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need to create that perfect pastry for a specific reason. That’s okay! It’s okay to want things to come out right. It’s okay to bake a recipe all by yourself. And, let’s be honest, sometimes you need that, right?
But how did you learn to create the perfect scone? How did you learn to roll the sugar cookies out to the right thickness? How did you learn to frost the cake with no lumps? How did you learn to decorate cookies with a smooth hand? My guess is that when you started baking, your creations weren’t perfect. My guess is that you had lots of tasty trial and error. Lots of delicious attempts before you got to the skill level where you are today.
Do you remember who was with you in the kitchen when you first started trying? Do you remember who helped you figure it out? Do you remember who walked you through the recipe for the first time? Who showed you how to hold the pastry bag? Who showed you how to work the electric mixer?
My guess is that you have fond memories of times spent in the kitchen learning how to do all the things you do without thinking now. Maybe it was your mom or grandma or an aunt who showed you the ins and outs of baking. Maybe it was a sweet friend or a friend’s mom who included you and made you feel special. Whoever it was, my guess is that you have some pretty magical memories of those times.
So, how is it when it comes to baking with your own children that the perfectionist tries to take over and squelch the memory-making before it even starts? Now, don’t think I’m trying to condemn you here because I’m guilty of this one myself! I have to remind myself all the time that the kitchen can be cleaned and memories are more important than perfectly shaped cookies! But why is this such a struggle?
The Struggle is Real
I tell you what, it is a struggle! And the struggle is real! Maybe it’s all those Normal Rockwell Christmas paintings that depict the perfect family Christmas that sets our expectations. Maybe it’s all the holiday movies where families are baking in the kitchen, having wonderful conversations, and turning out incredible looking baked goods while not making a mess the entire time that sets our expectations. Maybe it’s an image you’ve created in your own head. Maybe it’s being scared of losing control of your kitchen or giving up control of the situation. Maybe you just don’t want to deal with yet another mess.
Can I tell you a secret? A painting, beautiful and magical as it is, is just a painting. A movie is a movie – and those actors and actresses are probably not actually baking while filming the scene! In fact, they have a whole catering crew backing them up and swapping out their attempts with incredible professionally decorated baked goods!
You know something else? Even thought it can feel scary to let go of control. Even though it can feel like you’re taking a giant leap into the unknown inviting your children to bake with you, it’s worth it. Go ahead, let go of the tight control you’re holding onto. Let go of the perfect image you have in your head and embrace the magic of ordinary moments.
You see, sometimes it’s when you let your guard down, let someone else into your kitchen, invite your children in to spend time with you – even though there might be a major mess! – that’s where the real memories are made. That is where the magic happens.
The Magic of Ordinary Moments
When it comes down to it, as much as you talk about the cookies and the pies and the breads and the scones, it’s really not about them. It’s about the memories. It’s about the magic in the ordinary moments. It’s about the conversations that happen while you mix the batter. It’s about the giggles when you realize you have flour on the tip of your nose. It’s about the squeals and the laughter when you turn the blender on too soon and half the flour poofs out of the mixing bowl.
It’s about the food coloring stained fingertips as you decorate the sugar cookies or the gingerbread house. It’s about the chocolate chips you sneak as you mix them into the cookie dough. It’s about encouraging your budding artist as they create an edible work of art on their cookie.
It’s about learning, growing, spending time together, and enjoying the time you have with each other. That’s the magic of ordinary moments. And that is why baking around the holidays becomes so important. It gives you time to slow down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and carve out some time for those silly moments, those memories to happen.
A Reminder to Slow Down
You see, so often the holidays can be a time of rushing and running from one place to another. To get to the next party. To shop for the perfect presents. To attend all of the Christmas concerts. To not miss a thing that’s going on!
Instead of looking at baking as just another task to be done. Or another chore to check off your to-do list, this holiday season let baking be a reminder to slow down. To enjoy the sweet moments. To wait patiently for the batter to rise or the bread to bake. To enjoy a cup of hot cocoa as you wait for the cookies to cool before you start decorating them.
Let these tasty kitchen creations be a reminder. A reminder that life is not found in the rushing and hurrying. In the busyness and hustle but in the sweet, simple, sometimes messy moments where memories are made and the ones we love are cherished.
What’s Holding You Back?
So what are you waiting for? Are you ready to take on the challenge – even the potentially messy challenge of baking with your children?
Now, it’s one thing to make the decision to bake something with your children and it’s a whole other thing to actually do it, right? Making a decision is only the first step. You have to put that decision into action for it to become reality.
But there’s one other step that comes into play when you’re talking about baking…What do you bake? Now, if you love baking and have lots of recipes your challenge is probably going to be picking which one of your recipes to start with. But if you’re not a baker by nature, it can be really confusing trying to figure out a starting point, right? C’mon, when you type in ‘chocolate chip cookie recipe’ into Google you’re going to get a few thousand results and then you get stuck trying to figure out which one to use!
I don’t want to leave you hanging on where to start, so I want to introduce you to my friend Brittany over at Faith Fun Food. She’s a young momma who has a gift for creating simple and yummy recipes. You can jump over to her selection of Sweets Recipes by clicking this link. It’ll give you a tasty and not overwhelming place to start. You can also check out her blog at www.FaithFunFood.com.
Not Just Baking
As you walk into the holiday season this year, I challenge you to look at baking in a new light. Don’t look at it as being trapped in the kitchen, slaving away attempting to make the perfect dessert for others.
Instead, look at it as an incredible opportunity to connect with your children. To make sweet treats and even sweeter memories. And to find magic in the seemingly ordinary moments.
Happy baking, my Friend!
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.