Just the other day my daughter sent me a picture of her three-year-old son looking pretty happy with himself sitting in the middle of her kitchen floor covered in cocoa powder and his hand in the jar pulling out more. The caption under the picture announced: “Now, I’m as good as a mother as you.”
Pride swept through me. See, I have quite a few pictures of each one of my kids sitting in a chocolate mess, smeared with cocoa all over their faces also about the ages of two to three. One day I even made a poster of those pictures bearing the same theme and told them each, “this is why I’m such a great mother… instead of pulling out the broom and yelling about the mess, I first took out the camera and was able to laugh about the scene. And to have my daughter feel the same way when it was my grandson pulling the same shtick, I couldn’t help but feel I did my job right. I passed on the message that my mother had ingrained in us; enjoy the moment with your kids. The bedlam left by children when they are exploring, creating, inventing is just a small by-product of the learning and growing process. Don’t get me wrong, sometime along the way, I had taught my children the value of cleaning and order, which is part of the process. But, my mother’s message that chaos is important has officially been filtered through the generations. Since there is always the temptation to do without the creative outlet and its by-product’s mess; I realized we mothers need encouragement, hence the pictures.
I remember the egg cartons, plastic meat containers, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, my mother would save for us so we would ‘could be creative’ by making a disaster on her kitchen table. Paint would be spilled, glued paper stuck on the chairs backs, cut cardboard pieces scatter over the floor, newspaper and magazine cuttings dotted across the table. We enjoyed our handicrafts. Even my best friend’s mother encouraged her to use her creative urges only at our house, since couldn’t bear their home not clean. We would make picture frames, plant holders, mobiles and whatever else caught our fancy.
And that was when we were not trying out our baking abilities. My mother is not a baker but encouraged us to take on the challenge, which we love to do. Out would come the mixer, measuring cups and spoons, followed by the flour, sugar, cocoa, and eggs. That was after we graduated from the cake mixes and ready-pies that we first tried.
Once when my mother had some important company over for dinner, she still allowed us in the kitchen that morning to make attempts on a lemon meringue pie. As the egg whites were being beaten, my best friend mentioned that she didn’t think anything was happening. I looked inside close and suddenly felt a tug. I hadn’t realized until it was a bit too late that my long hair had gotten caught in the mixer. Panicking and imagining the beaters more like sharp twirling knives reaching closer and closer to a power of their own, I couldn’t figure out how to stop the machine. As my head was being drawn closer to the beaters, I grabbed the beaters with my hand and yanked the plug out of the wall; leaving a little blood and a lot of hair in the mixture. My friend couldn’t stop laughing as I emptied the mixture into the sink. The next time she got it right and we didn’t tell anyone of the mishap even later when my mother proudly served it for dinner that evening.
Actually, through all those trials and errors, I actually did learn how to cook and experiment with food and became a caterer; though that doesn’t stop me from encouraging my kids to try out their experimental urges in my kitchen. As of now, I let my adult son be in total charge of the cooking. He creates, spices, fries, roasts and overuses the oil. And he leaves a mess. Oh well, can’t say all lessons were absorbed.
But my mother’s message came through clear and resonates through the multiple generations; messes are just children’s way of learning and creating, even if it means they go through the pantry and help themselves to their own ingredients and leave a trail.
Just grab the camera and tell them this is the making of a great mother.