The Sweet Stuff

The Sweet Stuff

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress

 

The Sweet Stuff

I stood beside the snack table that displayed the various holiday treats for my daughter’s pre-kindergarten class. Cupcakes with thick frosting, cookies with colorful sprinkles, cakes of every shape and flavor. Balancing my two-year-old son on my hip, I added my bottle of apple juice to the array of items. Suddenly, I felt inadequate. Was I a bad mom for bringing the apple juice instead of baking? I promised myself, the next party, I would be like the other proud moms who stood closely beside their baked items as if to say, “See me? I baked. I’m a good mom.”

The next party came before I knew it. As a working mom, I tried my best to squeeze in everything — quality time, play time, laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking — with work. Now I added cookies. I managed to bake some from a mix and brought them in proudly. I placed them on the table among the other baked goods. Immediately, someone turned to me. “Oh, cookies. Are they homemade?” It was then, I realized, there was a rating on the bake scale. From a box, low score. From a mix, just passing. From scratch… now that’s topnotch. The same rule applied for church functions as well as large family gatherings.

Trying to keep up with the other moms with my family and my schedule was added stress I didn’t need.

“Could you bring the cookies?”

I’d be baking at midnight.

“Could you bring potato salad?”

I’d be peeling those potatoes for hours.

For years I added more and more to my plate, excuse the pun. One Sunday morning, while preparing my meal for an after-church dinner, I found myself running behind. My daughter couldn’t find her school shoes and her dress shoes were too tight. Now an unexpected run to the store was needed to avoid the embarrassment of wearing dirty sneakers with a dress. My mind raced. Would we be late? Would the food stay warm? Would it taste bad if it had to be reheated? I grumbled all the way, sighing as we hastily tried on shoes and raced to the checkout.

Eventually arriving at church, I smiled and handed my well-made dinner to the ladies in the kitchen. Then I glanced at my daughter, standing there quietly, teary-eyed with shiny shoes. What was I doing? I realized my homemade dinner was not worth what I gave up to make it. It was then I decided to destress my obligations.

The following week I received a phone call. “We’re having a family picnic tomorrow. I forgot to call in advance. You are down for macaroni or potato salad.”

I glanced at the clock: 6:30 p.m. Right then, my kids called from the other room where they were sitting, popcorn in hand.

“Mommy… the movie’s coming on!”

I hung up the phone, snuggled next to my kids and grabbed a handful of popcorn.

The next day, the kids and I took our time as we got ready for the picnic. I helped them find their shoes, and I braided my daughter’s hair. We sang silly songs in the car. On the way, I detoured and swung into the grocery store. I quickly bought two pounds of macaroni salad from their fantastic deli, dumped it into my yellow bowl, sprinkled it with paprika and covered it with plastic wrap. Done. We continued on, singing all the way.

I have continued this easy, no-stress way of cooking for every event since. Pre-made cupcakes from Sam’s Club. Holiday pies from a bakery. It freed up my time, was stress-free, delicious and easy! Baking with the kids was fun and done more often due to the miracle of tub cookies, slice and bake, and pre-sliced in a tray. My kids loved how easily we baked and how good those warm cookies tasted.

My kids are now in college. They can recall childhood things such as movie nights, silly songs, and games at the fair. But honestly, they can’t remember one cupcake or cookie from a school party.

Today my son called from his apartment. We only talked briefly before he announced, “I have to go now Mom. I’m baking.”

“Really?” I asked, rather surprised, but happy. “What are you baking?”

“Cookies.”

I smiled. I was a good mom.

~ Judy A. Weist ~

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