A Child’s Perspective

Change is usually hard and requires persistent effort, often stopping and starting. There have been at least two times in my life when change has been basically immediate. One of those two times was spurred by my daughter when she was quite young. I was a single mother for most of her growing up, and being a single parent is hard. I had quickly abandoned physical punishment when I realized it simply did not work with her. But, when I really needed to get my point across, I would yell.

One day, she tearfully told me that I frightened her when I yelled. It pulled me up short. I wanted her to understand. I did not want her to be frightened. After she went to bed later that day, I went into the bathroom. I wanted to understand from her perspective, as best I could. I intentionally recalled my feelings of frustration and anger and even isolation. I recalled the details of the incident. Without vocalizing aloud, I looked into the mirror and “yelled” at her again. I was shocked. No child should see that face. I was mortified.

I never yelled at her like that again. I was still a single parent. Parenting was still hard. I still got angry and frustrated. But, I never relied on the energy in my face and voice to communicate. I was not the perfect parent. In fact, I keep realizing more and more my human shortcomings, all these years later. But, I did temper that one reactive behavior. Immediately.

I am grateful she told me how my actions made her feel. I am grateful, for some reason, the full weight of what she was saying was not lost on me.

That’s a heavy way to begin a Thanksgiving post. But, since then, I have been fairly interested in how children see the world and how we, adults, can see ourselves more objectively.

After our Thanksgiving meal this year, I let my daughter’s oldest daughter, 3-year-old E, have my phone so she could look through the photos I had taken of her helping me cook earlier in the day. She quickly transitioned to taking new photos with my phone. Lots and lots of photos (more than 50?). How lucky that digital photography, existing on our phones, means that small children can experiment and develop an eye without prohibitive film-developing costs!

Today, I looked through her photos, deleting the ones of walls, floor, slivers of the tops of heads, and ones unbearably out-of-focus even with auto-focus technology at play. And, then, I started really looking at the remaining ones. This is what I saw (no photos shared for the first three):

  1. Her mother and I having great conversations while I held her 1-year-old sister. Those were lovely pictures until I saw, the pictures of . . . .
  2. . . . her dad, making joyful smiling eye contact with her with the most obvious love and focus.
  3. Some great self-portraits, trying out different facial expressions. No duck lips and none perfectly framed from above, but all with curiosity and intrigue while looking at herself — and fun.
  4. A study of this cup of a little juice mixed in with her antibiotic that represents the negotiated peace deal for taking said hated antibiotic twice a day for her ear infection.
    Pink cup in foreground of a table with empty Thanksgiving plates, flowers, and the arms of one of the diners seen in the background. Inside of a pink cup showing a few mililiters of reddish fluid (a mixture of juice and liquid anitibiotic).
  5. Her sister’s new food tray, which she also has, that they are loving.Teal toddler's food tray with rice dish, sourdough bread, pomegranate seed, and mashed potatoes in the main largest section with cup and dishes in background and an adult arm and child's body in the background.
  6. Her beloved two-wheeler. It is just happenstance that her dad’s walker, in use after his severe leg injury, is also captured – but it, too, is a snapshot of a huge event in their lives.
    Pink and white two-wheeled child's bike with training wheels next to a walker with a black coat draped over it.

And then my photos were next (previous in time) in the sequence. Between the severe poison ivy reaction and then the allergic reaction to prednisone and only taking two days off from work, my kitchen in the background is a disaster zone. But, these are some of my favorite pictures. Do I wish the background was pristine? Sure, I guess? But, the joy on E’s face while whipping cream and mixing pumpkin pie spices into the sugar and everything else are the absolute best and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, least of all for a clean-kitchen backdrop. Life is chaotic and messy, but we find joy anyway.

Child's body wearing a "Star Wars" shirt with four spice jars built into a bridge tower. There is a metal bowl in the foreground with chopped cranberries and walnuts as well as an orange and a blue measuring cup.

Spices are sage, tarragon, basil, marjoram, and thyme.

I fear things for all the world may be getting more chaotic and difficult. Hopefully, we will still find joy while trying to mitigate the harm and improve our interactions.

The Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

My daughter’s birthday has taken on a holiday status larger than that of a simple birthday–all because of this cheesecake.

I only make it once a year, on her birthday. All year, we anticipate her birthday and this cheesecake much like any other major holiday with its accompanying signature recipes.

This year was at least my twelfth time making it.

And it was almost a disaster. I went shopping for the ingredients last night and easily found everything–until I got to the cooler that should have had whipping cream and heavy cream neatly lined up in rows upon rows.

This is what I found.

When I asked about it, I was told that they are starting to have supply chain issues again and, again, it is random in what is suddenly not available. Because it was so hot, even in the evening, I took my groceries straight home rather than check another store on the way.

I made the cake (the whipping cream was for the ganache – luckily last to be made and done separately, but not to be left out). Because I am a night owl, things got started at 8:45 pm. Hamilton was the baking soundtrack and a pretzel purchased earlier from Lidl was the accompanying dinner. I planned to search, high and low if necessary, for the whipping cream first thing in the morning.

And so it was that with fear and trepidation, I ventured down the aisle of another grocery store just as the world was getting its day underway this morning. Ahhh, plenty of whipping cream!

This has been a hard summer. It was nice to have a little sweetness connected to many other happy memories.

The grandchildren got to decorate their pieces with the hard sugar store-bought decorations and enjoy their raspberries separately. And, yes, it was simplest just to avoid chocolate-covered clothing on the youngest!

Only one tip from me:

  • I use chocolate Teddy Grahams for the cookie crust. It needs at least 2.5 cups of Teddy Grahams, perhaps even closer to 3 full cups.
  • Oh, and I start checking it at 50 minutes. If you can smell its deliciousness, you need to check it quick.

Creamy Vanilla Orange Cheesecake

This past weekend was marked by the best dance recital ever and the baking of King Arthur’s recipe for Creamy Vanilla Orange Cheesecake. This is one of my favorite cheesecakes and making it at this time of year captures the essence of spring. The scent of Fiori di Sicilia and orange zest while the cake is baking fills the kitchen, and the result is delicately delicious. It does not really need the fruit topping (but works well together).

My crust work needs continued practice!