One of my kids is in love with baking, the other just really, really likes it. Or, perhaps, they like the idea of baking: creating something beautiful that taste delicious out of simple ingredients. We’ve watched the Great British Bake-Off, usually with a chorus of “oh, make that” for each challenge. They both pour over baking cookbooks and bring me ideas for new projects. And finally, they have plans for a gluten-free bakery of their own.
I’m of two minds about the obsession. On the one hand, baking is an excellent skill to have, both for personal development as well as something that can become a career. But we are following (albeit somewhat loosely) the GAPS diet, which strongly de-emphasizes all starches and sweeteners. Most of the things, if not about 99% of the things, that they see and want to create are just not foods that are available to us.
So there’s a certain amount of push and pull going on around baking. I do my best to find acceptable alternatives; sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. Almond flour pain au chocolat? Um, no. Sorry. The kids get frustrated with our inability to bake “normal” items, even though we are studying nutrition together and they understand why we are strictly avoiding unhealthy foods for a time. I get frustrated by the need to always say ‘no’ to their desire to create things.
Yesterday, I got to say ‘yes’ to my baker. Just not for baking. She decided to make a bag, and wanted to use my sewing machine. The schedule yesterday was tight, we only had a little time between finishing up their school work and leaving to run errands, and needed to eat lunch as well. At first I said no, the schedule wouldn’t allow it. I didn’t want to fuss with the machine, because while she could run it, she couldn’t thread it and troubleshoot some of its idiosyncracies.
And then I realized that this was something I needed to encourage, something she really wanted to to, something she was passionate about. And it wasn’t baking. So I took a deep breath and told her to go for it.
She completely finished her bag, and ate her lunch, in the time she had available. She was able to bring her bag with as we ran errands, much to her delight and pride.
At bedtime, while her sister was moving slowly, she asked if she could work on her next bag project. I told her no, it was too late.
Then I remembered her work earlier in the day, and changed my mind. So she got to work again and made an enormous amount of progress.
Granted, it required some time and attention from me, because there were a few thread emergencies that she couldn’t deal with. But she was excited to work on her project, happy to be creating something that would exist in real life.
Saying ‘yes’ to projects, to things that I haven’t scheduled, to activities that sound messy and time-consuming is incredibly difficult for me to do. The specter of a huge mess seems to loom over me every time they ask to start something new. I want to refuse—why can’t they find something else to do?
But they’re old enough now that they can do much of the cleanup themselves. In fact, they are old enough that the cleanup is much less to begin with. I just forget that fact, in my constant panic about my own inadequacies about housekeeping.
Embracing projects like this has the benefit of taking the focus away from food as entertainment. Trying to change the way we eat is easier when we have other activities to do that don’t involve food, or cooking. Food preparation is important, of course, but having other rewarding activities to do, other absorbing projects, means that there is less of a pull between our way of eating, and the way of eating that our culture regards as normal.
We’ll still do grain-free baking together, and we’ll still cook together, because food is a big part of our everyday life. But I will nurture their interests beyond the kitchen as well.
Even when it might get messy. Or inconvenient.