I have always had a problem with needing to make things “just so.” This condition extends into cookie making. Every year since becoming a wife, I have whipped up a batch of cut-out cookies. When I became a mom, the fun continued. Baking cookies was just our Christmas thing. I’d hover over Dane, and make sure he didn’t make a mess with the frosting or put on too many sprinkles. I’d jump in and help the second he was getting carried away or even a bit messy or “imperfect.”
For many years, we only did the frosting part together. The rolling and the cutting of the dough I did separately as Dane napped. Then I’d reset the kitchen for frosting and decorating and be at the ready to help.
When Grant was born, he was too young to help without completely wrecking the kitchen. I also had less time and to stay perfect in the pursuit of gift-worthy cookies, I got more selective on which cookies I’d make. I wouldn’t bother making them if they wouldn’t bake up correctly or if I hadn’t tried the recipe before and might make a mistake.
Heaven forbid I not master something on my first attempt!
I would even separate out those cookies that Dane had cut out from those that I had made so his imperfect child ones would not be presented to our guests or neighbors. He only got to frost his own imperfect cookies so I could continue the pursuit of cookie perfection.
Finally, Grant was deemed old enough to help with cookies last year after we lost Reece. Life was already plenty messy and making cookies was now a tradition. I was a hot emotional mess, my arms and body were empty, my heart was broken– what’s flour and frosting smeared on things?
I remember Dane got really upset when his cookie shape stuck to the counter and ripped. Like ugly meltdown upset. I tried the best I could to keep it together. Grant put the empty cookie dough bowl on his head. I just let him. This was supposed to be fun, right? Breathe in, breathe out. It was less than fun, but it was over soon enough. Cookie making was to be endured now that I had two little boys in my kitchen.
This year I had more time on my hands during the work day to browse new recipes and make my baking plans. Pintrest perfection. Little snowmen with scarves, penguins with hats. Look how lovely they fit inside a jar for gift-giving!! Dane wanted to make cut-out cookies and decorate them. I was tired of the recipe we always use since we had just had Reece’s birthday party complete with a cookie decorating station for the guests. So I pursued a new recipe. New. Never used before. I didn’t read the directions and I decided to cut the recipe in half without having tested it before.
Why? Why would I do that, Pinterest? Because in the pursuit of perfection all these years, I have caused many different things to happen. One: making cookies with me sucks. It’s not fun to have a nagging mom hover over every cut-out. Two: Dane, who is five, feels the pressure to make them perfect. This mindset has begun impacting how he handles school. He hesitates to try new things. (Hmm….seen that before.) He also doesn’t like to make mistakes and does not handle being corrected well. After a bit of reflection on my part and a short email exchange with the school counselor, I decided to try this new recipe.
Peanut butter cut outs. Just this morning, I read through the Pinterest post I had pinned. “Your butter must be cold. Your eggs MUST be cold. If it’s warm, the shapes won’t hold. Stir until just mixed, not a second longer! Roll the dough onto parchment paper and chill one hour or your shapes won’t hold…Cookies may not hold their shapes if dough is rolled again and again….Chill the cut out cookies for one hour, almost to the point of frozen cookies, or your shapes won’t hold.”
Seriously, Pintrest? I’m skipping all of that. I’ll be lucky if I still have two interested boys halfway through rolling it out the first time. We went for it. And for the first time since beginning this tradition, I didn’t feel the ridiculous weight of perfection. These cookies were just for us, after all. That’s why I cut the recipe in half. Skipping all the chilling of the dough might make crazy shapes, but I didn’t care. For the first time in over five years, I didn’t care about perfection.
Here’s what happened.
Happiness. That’s what happened, Pintrest. My boys were having fun. My two year old boldly smashed around the dough and double cut his shapes. He even included some “not shapes” on his tray. And he SMILED the whole time. I didn’t hover. I didn’t help fix any broken legs or tree stumps. The cookies went on the tray as is.
We made cookies together while making memories. We laughed. I beamed with pride, not at the result of the cookies but at their ability to try.
Cookies. I am so proud of Grant for plugging along, not a bit bothered by his “not shapes.” Dane even had some that came out less than perfect and we hummed right along and baked them as is. So, Pintrest, you can take your cold butter and your hours of chilled dough and stuff it. You can have the special #5 tip for the scarf on the penguin and keep it. I have two happy boys and a house that smells amazing. Today was a very important day of learning. For Dane and for me. Dane came up with a special name for our cookies. “Oops Cookies.” They taste awesome. Perfectly imperfect. Just like life.
A mom who realizes the gift of not being perfect.