Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kitchen clean-up

From upstairs, I could smell the rich sweet aroma of chocolate chips in the oven, and I was a little bit afraid to finish brushing my teeth and head down to the kitchen.

After dinner, Holly had asked me if she could make Seven-Layer Bars, and with a healthy dose of trepidation, I said yes.

Rick is always encouraging me to let the kids do more in the kitchen. His theory is that if I say yes when they want to bake cookies (Holly) or fry French fries (Tim), the same skills will eventually compel them to make their own breakfasts and lunches. And that, I sometimes imagine, could add years to my life.

But it takes a big leap of faith, because although I suspect they do have the culinary abilities to scramble eggs or make sandwiches, it’s the clean-up where they still fall short.

Still, when Holly asked to make Seven-Layer Bars last night, I couldn’t really justify turning her down. I started baking when I was just a little bit younger than she is now; I still love baking to this day.

But I also learned to clean up at around that time, and that’s a skill that seems to have eluded my kids so far. Sure, they understand the basics. They put ingredients away and stack mixing bowls in the sink. 

But they always leave copious amounts of flour drifting across the countertops, and they never remember to fill dirty bowls with hot soapy water so that they’ll be easier to wash later on.

When I finished brushing my teeth and apprehensively headed down to check Holly’s progress, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, it’s a pretty easy recipe – especially since her Seven-Layer Bars are only Five-Layer Bars because she doesn’t like nuts or butterscotch chips – but the mess I expected was absent. She’d wiped down the countertops and put away everything she’d taken out. 

No butter wrappers, stray chocolate chips, or coconut shreds remained to be seen. I was impressed.

Apparently all my pleas to clean up after herself had finally paid off, and it reminded me not to give up so easily. Sure, the kids used to be rather negligent when it came to kitchen tidiness, but as they grow older, I can expect more. If I’m patient and remember to show them how I want things done, they’ll gradually learn to do it. Holly’s Seven-Layer Bars came out of the oven looking lightly browned, bubbly, chewy and delicious – and we had a nice clean kitchen in which to savor the first warm bites.

Not that she crossed every t and dotted every i. The pan in which she’d mixed the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs was in the sink….but not soaking. At first I sighed, discouraged. But then I remember that my feeling discouraged wouldn’t help for next time. Only showing her what to do would be likely to lead to improvement.

So I reminded her to squirt some detergent into the pan and fill it with warm water, and a few minutes after that I showed her how to scrub the pan and put it in the dishwasher. Maybe next time she’ll do it herself.

And in the meantime, we have a really delicious dessert to enjoy.

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