This isn’t the kind of mom I want to be.
The realization hit me hard as I balanced uncomfortably on my hands and knees, scrubbing the last remnants of sticky goo from our tiled kitchen floor.
My 4-year-old son had found me in the kitchen earlier that afternoon when he was supposed to be having quiet time, and his eyes lit up when he noticed the mixer on the counter.
“Oh, mama! What are you making?! Can I please help you?!”
I often let Silas help me cook (well, as much as a 4-year-old “helps” in the kitchen), but we were having some new friends over for dinner that evening, and I was dead set on baking an amazing dessert—my first attempt at a tres leches cake akin to the famous one at our neighborhood joint, Kuba Kuba Dos. I wanted this cake to be perfect and baked without making a mess on my freshly mopped floors.
After looking into his pleading eyes and weighing the price of his disappointment, I sighed with acceptance.
“Ok buddy, you can help me. But you must listen really well, and you CAN’T MAKE A MESS,” I told him sternly. He nodded solemnly and promised to “not EVER EVER make a mess, not even EVER ONE TIME.” But of course, that’s exactly what happened—within about five minutes no less.
With one accidental swipe of an elbow, he managed to knock over the entire can of condensed milk—the only one I had, of course, and absolutely critical to the cake. And I watched with silent horror as it dripped over the counters, down the cabinet doors, and pooled in a beige, sticky mess under the dishwasher.
“No!” I cried out, and Silas quickly apologized. But it wasn’t enough.
“See?!” I fussed at him. “That’s why mommy wanted to cook alone! Now I have to clean it all up! Please just go play downstairs. I’ll do this myself.”
And my sweet, sad little guy stepped quietly off his stool and left the room, completely chastened.
As soon as I saw him walk away, I knew I screwed up. But I tried to justify my overreaction to myself as I grabbed my cleaning supplies.
I should be allowed to have a clean house! He wasn’t paying attention! He shouldn’t have been bothering me in the kitchen to begin with! He knows better!
Of course, despite my excuses, I knew within my heart that this was not how I wanted to parent my child. A mother who demands perfection and shames her child for making mistakes? A mother who makes no allowances for mistakes? A mother who chooses a clean floor over a happy kid?
This isn’t the kind of mom I want to be.
And that was the thought that flashed through my head as I finished wiping up the milk instead of going to comfort my upset child. The moment I realized this, I dropped the dishcloth and went to find Silas.
I had to make things right.
“Honey,” I said, kneeling in front of him, “I need to apologize to you. I completely overreacted and lost my temper when you were just trying to help mama and learn how to do something new. It’s hard learning something new, and accidents are just part of the process. I am so proud of you for wanting to try new things, and I promise that if you come back up and help me bake a new dessert, I’ll do better. I would love to have you join me, and we’ll start fresh. Do you forgive me?”
After listening carefully, he nodded, and I hugged him hard while fighting back a few tears and thanking him for his kindness. What an amazing lesson in patience and understanding for this imperfect mama!
Back in the kitchen, we poked around the pantry and found the ingredients for a simple and delicious banana bread. Silas participated in every step, and yes, we made quite a mess. But he helped me clean up afterward while the loaf baked.
As soon as it was cool enough to slice, we cut off the ends, slathered on extra butter, and ate in companionable silence until Silas turned to me and declared that the banana bread was “the most best thing we’ve EVER EVER eaten!”
And he was absolutely right.
Here’s my recipe for Bad Mama Banana Bread. The name is, of course, tongue-in-cheek, for there are no bad mamas! Only bad moments. And even those can be tempered with a little sweetness, so don’t hold back on those chocolate chips! This recipe was modified from a version found on allrecipes.com.
Bad Mama Banana Bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bananas, finely smashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous handful of chocolate chips
Generous handful of walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9×5 inch pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, then bananas and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring just until combined.
3. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 1 hour (or until toothpick comes out clean). Remove from pan, and let cool. Store covered (keeps well in the refrigerator) or freeze if desired.