Originally published in the Miami News-Record on January 11, 2015
This past week was our first week back to school after Christmas break. To say we “eased” back into it would be an understatement. On Monday I had a medical procedure done that took longer than it would have for any normal person. Then I needed to pick up some groceries. The kids worked on school while I was gone, but by the time I got home I was exhausted and the math I had assigned kind of got … postponed. On Tuesday a homeschooling friend of mine and her kids came over for a visit. Coffee drinking and chatting was way more important (and fun) than math. On Wednesday, the youngest had an orthodontist appointment, but I declared that when I got home we WOULD do that math. Wednesday was really cold, remember? So yeah, when I got home I was chilled and grumpy, but absolutely determined to do math with both kids.
Then my son, who may have a future as a lawyer, began pleading his case about how our Christmas break was significantly shorter than many of his homeschooling compadres and how if we jumped into a full schedule so quickly there might be a fair amount of emotional trauma inflicted on their delicate psyches. His little sister was nodding her head in agreement, like a little bobble-head dog you put in the back window of your car. I wasn’t swayed even when they began batting eyelashes. But then, his next appeal hit just too close to my heart to ignore. “How about I bake that peach cobbler for you? I’ll trade you math for Home Ec!” And that’s where my walls came down. The last time he baked a cake, he was so stressed at the end he swore he’d never bake again and if that meant never eating cake ever again for the rest of his life, he was okay with that. I want all three of my kids to leave this house knowing their way around a kitchen and possessing some basic culinary skills. His offer was a breakthrough in my mind. We shook on it and I walked out of the kitchen.
He stood there with his jaw on the ground. “Uhhh…aren’t you going to like, help me?” he queried. “No. You made this deal. Happy ….uh, cobbler-ing, my little Keebler elf.” And then I went off to put my feet up and munch on some bon-bons. Actually, (after explaining what a Keebler elf was) I ran to my desk to put the final touches on my lesson for co-op class this week and thought very strongly about putting in some earbuds. Not for music, but to discourage questions and let him bake the cobbler on his own without my help. But then I remembered my first cake-baking experience at age 14 when Mom asked me to bake a cake for her to take to a church party. I had assured her I had it under control because I had like, a whole nine weeks of Home Ec I under my belt. She got home to find me bawling with a very gnarly looking cake sitting pitifully next to me. I didn’t want my 16 year old son to someday have to tell his therapist about the peach cobbler that scarred him for life.
He did ask a lot of questions, but he baked the cobbler on his own. I heard him doing a Guy Fieri impression at more than one point talking about how he pretty sure this cobbler was “gonna be off the chain” (even though he doesn’t even like cobbler). I also heard him give the baking powder a good old fashioned Emeril Lagasse “BAM!” into the bowl. He seemed to enjoy the experience this time and now I can rest easy knowing that his future therapy sessions won’t cover the topic of culinary abandonment maybe as much as the fact I likened him to a small fictional woodland creature that bakes goodies in a hollow tree.