November 2, 2015 by Dadinator
“You feel fantastic!”
“There, you like that?”
“A bit sticky, don’t worry I’ll take care of it for you”
“Here, let me rub this on you, it’ll make it a bit smoother”
It is rhythmic. Pressing. Pressing as hard as I can then pulling back again ready for the next thrust. My hands run up and down as I go, passing over the softness. Kneading and rubbing. I press in again.
It’s so nice to get some me-time.
I freeze mid thrust, as my head turns sideways. Two pairs of sparkling eyes are staring at us curiously. The children don’t understand what we’re doing, but now that they’ve seen it; they want to get involved. I sigh.
I am kneading dough. I like to think the image of me firmly, yet tenderly, working a soft, pale and yielding ball of future-bread (or dough as some would call it) is somehow alluring. Actually who am I kidding. Kneading dough is all about grunts, slapping noises and awkward (yet rhythmic) pounding as I slam it round, fold it over and lean my body weight into it to press it as flat as I can before folding and pressing it out again.
And yes, I talk to my dough. And sometimes I talk dirty to it… I take my baking seriously.
They step up to the table and eye the mound I’m working on. I see bread-dough. They see play-dough. I know the first step is to stall them. “You have to have clean hands to help daddy with the bread” I tell them both, trying to remember if I’d in fact washed my hands before I started. They both scamper at a trot off to the bathroom, struggle to turn the tap on, and then struggle to turn it off again.
There’s another patter of feet as they run back, ready to go. Hands dripping “And dry them!” I say as they return, with visible pools of water on both hands. They head back to the bathroom, I hear the flutter of a towel hitting the ground.
“Hang the towel back up!” I shout, before remembering that they cannot reach the towel rail.
I’ve held them off for as long as I can… They want to help.
I have been sculpting a wonderful ball of dough. I can’t claim perfection, but I aspire to it. My children do not aspire to perfection. My children aspire to eat as much raw dough as they can while poking fingers into my spherical cob or my cylindrical loaf. They tear globules of dough and cram them into their mouths. I don’t understand why, it tastes foul. Imagine off-tasting clag, that’s how it tastes, believe me I have tried.
I’ve asked them not to eat it. I’ve told them not to eat it. I’ve explained why eating it is a bad idea. I’ve given them other things to eat while they help make bread. I’ve told them that eating the raw makes daddy upset. I’ve contemplated banning them from it before, simply saying “No, it’s daddy’s bread, leave it alone”. I’ve also given them chunks to play with so they can make their own bread from time to time. They generally eat the dough and ask for more. I’ve also asked them to make special shapes, sung songs and made sacrifices to the gods of the underworld.
Okay, not that last one….
But nothing stops them eating the dough.
It’s frustrating and annoying.
And it makes me smile.
I love that they want to help. I love that they care. I love that they get to see the process, and that they understand what bread looks like before it cooks.
And given that we spend what feels like 80% of our conversations with the two of them telling them to pack up after themselves, when they offer to help both The Mamanator and I are loathe to turn them away – whether it’s bread making or something else.
But it is not without it’s drawbacks. It can take 25 minutes for them “clean” up a small water spill. And by “clean” i mean make it 7 times larger and about 4 times wetter than the original . You might also use 20 tea towels on a job when all you needed was a half a paper towel. Your cupcakes may end up mostly as a coat of fresh (sticky) paint on your bench top, walls and possibly ceiling. You might spread the same pile of swept dust around the house 5 times only to have the 4 year old runs a fleet of Thomas figurines through it and then complains that his trains are dirty (this happened to me).
But we find it hard to say no. We love it when our kids offer to help, we encourage them to do it. Unless the job is actually dangerous (I won’t have them “helping” me light the stove top, for example). We probably love it a bit too much, and pile on the praise a bit too thickly because helping is something we want to encourage in the long-term. We know that they’ll one day be surly teenagers who will roll eyes at us whenever they sense we are breathing the same air as us. But for now we have helpers that resemble very drunk elves.
So, for ease of reading here’s a simple list of Pros and Cons for getting help from your children:
- It helps them understand how to take care of themselves
- It illustrates that actions have consequences
- It can be enjoyable
- It builds good habits
- It helps them build self-esteem
- It’s cute
- You get to laugh at them (which is related to the cuteness of it all)
- It will drive you ****ing insane.