Kids in the kitchen: the battle and the blessing

kitchen picBy Casey Bradshaw

Cooking and spending time in the kitchen is a passion of mine.  I love to hunt out new recipes, trying out new ingredients and techniques.  I don’t mind the time and effort that goes into preparing a delicious meal. In fact, I kind of love it!  If I have learned anything as a mother, it is that our children love to imitate us in the things we do that make us happy.  Mine have learned that Momma loves to cook and bake and create things in the kitchen, so most often when I set to work, my crew is right there beside me.  They want to join in the fun that Momma is having!

 

To be honest, I have struggled with this sometimes because having my children in the kitchen is not always the easiest way to be productive.  Kids in the kitchen usually means that whatever I am working on will take longer.  Inevitably, the kitchen will be messier.  A recipe may be ruined or batter may be spewed all over the walls and cabinets.  I find myself struggling inside, fighting an inner battle as I desire to include my little ones in cooking because it is so much fun and it is something I love.  But, my flesh prefers ease and comfort and doing things my way.  In my selfishness, I want the freedom and flow of cooking at my leisure, without interruptions, without messing up my floors or spilling things all over my counters.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my patience when trying to let my son and daughter “help” me make some muffins.

My daughter, Nora, is four years old and is now finally at the age where she can follow instructions pretty well,  and is competent at doing a few things that are really helpful when cooking.  My sweet Liam, however, isn’t quite there.  Let me put it to you this way: he’s two and a half and he is all boy!  He doesn’t have it in him yet to slowly dump a cup of flour into a bowl.  He just has to fling it in there.  It’s nearly impossible for him to keep his hands to himself when there are all kinds of kitchen gadgets just inches within reach. When I turn my back to get an egg out of the fridge or search in a drawer for that hidden measuring spoon, Liam seems to always get into something he shouldn’t.  My temptation in those moments is to say, “Game over,” and send them out of the kitchen to do something else.

God, in his kindness, has brought conviction to me in those moments.  Not only am I being impatient with my children, but when I push the kids out of the room or tell them they cannot help me, I am missing out on such valuable time with them.  Having my children active in the kitchen with me provides many opportunities for me to teach them.  We learn to work together.  They can be trained to follow instructions, keep their little hands out of trouble, and be taught to do simple things like measuring and pouring which will be useful to them (and me) in the future.  In order for these things to take place, however, my children need to be in the kitchen with me, and I need the help of the Holy Spirit to work in me, enabling me to show them patience and kindness as I interact with them.

I used to find myself frustrated when I would hear the sound of my Nora sliding that large wooden chair from the kitchen table to the kitchen counter.  I knew it was only a matter of seconds before Liam would figure out there was something going on in the kitchen which meant he would be sliding his own wooden chair into the kitchen to join in.  When I feel that sinful fire rising up within me to tell them “No, no, no,”  I am so thankful for that gentle nudge from the Spirit that reminds me what precious gifts are in my care, what priceless moments I have when my children and I spend quality time together doing something that we all enjoy.  It may mean that I have to die to myself, putting to death my selfishness and my desires for a clean kitchen, but by the grace of God, I am slowly learning to cherish these messy moments and pouring myself and my love for cooking into my children.

 

 

Upcoming: Practically, I like to try to do things occasionally that are kid-focused, so it’s more about them and not so much about what I have in mind when cooking together.  We try to do seasonal baking projects together, and I always love to throw together some cookies or muffins where they can easily help out. Look for more fun ways to include your kids in the kitchen in future articles!

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