My family and I had a lovely Thanksgiving this past week with one small exception. I decided that I would bake with the children. Now, normally I’d gladly blame the resulting mayhem on my children, because what’s childhood without a good dose of mother guilt thrown in to build character? But no, the problem was that I don’t bake. I don’t like baking, and I’m not good at baking.
I like to cook. Now, for those of you who neither cook nor bake, you may not realize that there is a difference. Well, let me assure you there is. Some people are good at both, but some of us prefer one or the other. I’m a cooking gal.
If I have time and energy, I enjoy cooking a nice soup or casserole or sauce or saute. Anything on top of the stove is fine by me. It’s that damned oven that poses problems. Actually, that’s not true, I can bake meat in an oven just fine.
I think the problem with me and baking is the precision and measurements of it. I much prefer to throw spices together and give it a taste and adjust as needed. That’s cooking! It’s sort of the fun Uncle of the food preparation world, while baking is the nun at your boarding school with the ruler to check the length of your skirt.
But MY mother and her mother were those women who did both, cooking and baking. Of course, Grandma did both; there was not a lot of other options for getting food cooked back in her day. In fact, my grandmother was renown in the small community in Missouri where she raised my mother and her siblings for being an excellent cook and baker. Among her most popular dishes were chicken and dumplings and her pies.
Everyone loved my grandmother’s pies. My mother made lovely pies, and always from scratch, but no one could ever quite master Grandma’s pie crusts. The recipe was no secret. We all baked with her and watched her, but she just knew how much flour and how to roll the dough just right. She just knew….I don’t know what she knew, but she knew it! She knew how to make perfect pie crusts.
I had no illusions that my kids and I would make perfect pie crusts. I simply wanted to give them that experience which was as common to me growing up as it is now foreign to my children born to a baking-deficient mother.
So, I have my ingredients and one child is interested and helping and we cobble together two crusts and put them in the oven to partially bake. We move on to making the fillings. The plan was to make a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. However, the pumpkin filling ended up filling two pies.
No problem, because my son has now decided he wants in on the pie-baking action. After all, this is a rare sight in this house. My son is far more enthusiastic about rolling out the dough than my daughter. So, while I had quickly convinced my daughter to hand over the rolling pin to me the first time she started getting dough stuck to the table, my son was not so easily displaced from his job.
Now, I did realize at some point that I was being a control freak. Further, I was cognizant of the fact that it would be a more Norman Rockwell experience if I’d stop telling the boy how wrong he was doing it or sighing so loudly when I had to peel the dough off the table AGAIN to restart. But that knowledge just added to my anxiety and growing feelings of maternal inadequacies.
Then, it hit me. I had been telling the children all morning how my grandmother made pies almost every day. How there were always pies in her house, and she always made them perfectly.
Of course she was good at it, she did it every day! A cousin reminded me on my FaceBook post complaining about our pie-making endeavor, that Grandma would say practice makes perfect and a little less mess every time.
It’s like those memes where there’s a picture of how a finished project turned out on Pinterest vs. how it turned out in “real life.” Of course, our first attempts don’t look like the pretty ones that someone who has perfected the project posts!
Look, I have no inclination to become any better at making pies than I currently am, but what I’m taking away from this incident is that I’m going to stop expecting to be good at things I rarely do. Moreover, I need to stop comparing my “practices” to someone else’s “perfects.”
Social media is full of everyone’s best efforts. Their 126th selfie looks divine and you’ll never see all the hideousness that came before! I’m not knocking the fact that we all do that on social media. I’m just knocking myself a little upside the head with the reminder that life is not a string of perfected projects or sultry selfies or perfect pie crusts. Life is the messy behind the cameras part that you can’t compare to social media depictions of it.
You can’t compare your normal, every-day messy attempts at life to those perfected portrayals on social media or to the memories of pies perfected over a life time.
So, live your full-messy, not Facebook-worthy life! Post your wins, but embrace the rest of it too, because there’s a lot of good stuff to be had in the mess and imperfection.