I wanted to be the mom who had warm cookies waiting on the counter when they got home from school. They would bound through the door and race into the kitchen being lured in by the chocolate and caramelized sugar perfume. I would just be finishing wiping up the last of the flour from the counter as they told me about their day. Beyond that I hadn’t thought much about life as a mom before I was one.
Then suddenly it happened. Well, after 9 months (40 weeks and 3 days but who’s counting?) of heartburn, back aches, tiredness, nausea, stretch marks and those sweet little kicks that made me teary every time, I became a mom.
I didn’t enter this role gracefully. I fought its tendencies towards monotony, the constant need to be self-less and the days on end when finding time for a shower seemed less likely than winning the lottery.
Love. That part I had down. When my first born was six weeks old I remember holding him and sobbing, fearing that he would never understand how much I love him. I thought that maybe he could see it in my eyes as we exchanged a look. He made a sort of blink and nod that assured me he felt my love until I heard a rumble and realized our moment was misinterpreted as what was now a dirty diaper.
Parenting is something that oddly elicits advice when it’s not sought after. Nearly six years into this gig I find myself freely offering up my own bits and pieces here and there to people that most likely are rolling their eyes right in front of me without my noticing because I’m quite into my own moment of reflecting on parenting. I can’t help myself. Perhaps because it has been the hardest and yet the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. Through parenting I’ve been revealed, exposed and refined. These little ones have the ability to teach me, shape me and instruct me. That’s the sort of thing that I can’t help but talk about.
As a very new mom I was doing the eye rolling at unsolicited advice. Especially the one about enjoying the time when they are so little, it goes so fast. I heard that one hundreds of times and each time I wanted to offer them my children so they could dispel their own myth about this being an enjoyable time. I wanted them to “enjoy” the sleepless nights, the insessent diapers, the endless pile of spit-up soaked laundry, the piercing whines, and the lack of quiet moments alone. I resented that comment as it immediately made me feel horribly guilty for not loving every moment of this gig. There must be something wrong with me, I thought, these days don’t feel fleeting they feel endless.
Waking in the middle of the night to soothe them back to sleep I would remind myself, “enjoy this” but I did not. I wanted to sleep. Of course there were and are thousands of moments that I wanted to seal and store up to open when they are grown. The feeling of a baby falling asleep in your arms, a three year old asking for “snuggles”, a five year old requesting a date with you and the joyful chorus of the three of them playing legos upstairs then eagerly bounding down the stairs to show me their creations. Those are the moments I will long for.
It’s not that I don’t normally heed words of wisdom. Cozying up to the words of those who have traversed these waters before me is one of my favorite places to reside but I quickly realized that they have forgotten the details. There is a sort of amnesia that happens as the young years roll into older ones. The stench of dirty diapers no longer permeate their home leaving little trace of what actually was the reality of the days of raising young children.
I fear I’m now doing that very thing. I see someone with a baby and I run to it like a mosquito to a bright light. I swoon over the inflated cheeks and squeeze the pudgy thighs taking care not to completely freak out the baby and his sleep-deprived mother. I think when I compare baby’s thighs to sausages and how much I just want to eat them up they are indeed quite scared.
I look deeply into the mother’s eyes and speak of how I miss those baby days. I urge her to cherish these days as they pass too quickly. I long for that sweet baby scent as I inhale her baby. She doesn’t run but I’m sure she wants to.
Then I realize, I’ve done it. I have offered the advice that I so often heard and despised. The truth is I’m thrilled that we are getting a full night’s sleep. I love that I can have conversations with my 5 year old. That he desires to spend time with me and that he lets me into his reality. He offers up little glimpses into how he thinks and feels and I soak those in. My husband and I are thrilled to see them becoming more independent and in the process they are becoming little people – really awesome little people. We are sneaking in more and more moments of our own time and it feels magical. I should tell that mom this rather than inducing guilt.
We are better people having had those sleepless nights and having been forced to be incredibly selfless. There isn’t anything I would change but I want to be able to remember the challenge of it all. I felt so alone as a new mom. I felt horrible for not liking this roll as much as I thought I should. I wanted to quit my job but the career path of being a mom is one that you can’t leave. Those littles need you and whether you realize it at the time, you need them. It’s my desire to not instill in young mothers the guilt I felt when I was told to cherish those days. The reality is it’s tough work and if you don’t enjoy every moment of it you are still an incredible mom. We need to be okay with admitting our own hardships share them with those that are close to you so that we can encourage and support one another.
We women try so hard to do it all and fool everyone into thinking we have it all together when we would do better to serve one another by sharing our struggles. When I’ve done this I have found great freedom and help as often I am not the only one feeling this way. Not that I want others to struggle as I do but there is comfort in not being alone and we can work together to ease the burden.
When you aren’t a parent there is no way of knowing how hard and how joyful this journey will be. Figuring that out is part of the process. So many times I sat holding a screaming baby thinking, “how did I get here?” For better or worse. I had no idea what I was in for but I did know that there would be cookies. Warm cookies heavily laden with dark chocolate and molasses scented brown sugar. There is comfort in cookies. At some point in this parenting job I released the burden of trying to be the mom that I am not and relished in the mom that I am. Offering my children a warm plate of cookies every now and again – that I can do. I may not be the most patient mother but there will be cookies.
Caramel Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This recipe is an adaptation of one found in Grandma’s box. I added chocolate as I often do. You may leave it out and replace with nuts or coconut as Grandma suggests. Once baked my version is a close relative of the classic chocolate chip cookie. A bit sweeter and softer than my normal chocolate chip cookie and a subtle caramel and toffee flavor. One really can’t have too many chocolate chip cookie recipes. Also, if raw eggs don’t scare you please do yourself a favor and taste this dough – as if I needed to even suggest that, who doesn’t eat at least SOME cookie dough? The toffee flavor is most pronounced in this state.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
6-8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
In a small saucepan add the butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Watch carefully as you don’t want to scorch the sugar.
Let this mixture cool slightly then add to a large mixing bowl and continue to cool for 20 minutes. Once cooled add the eggs and vanilla then stir to combine. Stir in the salt, flour and baking powder. With a few streaks of flour remaining add the chocolate. If the mixture is still warm some bits of the chocolate may melt. A little bit of melting is fine and sort of wonderful.
Place the bowl in the fridge and let chill for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 350*
Line a sheet tray with parchment and set aside.
Scoop the batter into tablespoon-size rounds and place on the sheet tray. Bake for 12 minutes until golden around the rims. Let the cookies cool on the tray for five minutes while they settle into themselves creating a crackly crust.
Finish cooling on a wire rack.
** I have a fun announcement for you all! I have been nominated in the Saveur.com Best Food Blog Awards for Food Photography. Oh boy, I’m excited about this. The voting has begun and I am shamelessly asking for yours if you don’t mind. Thanks to all those who nominated! You deserve a cookie.