I am not going to with a Mother of the Year award by admitting this, but there are a number of activities that I just didn’t enjoy when my children were small. These are probably the top three from my not-exhaustive list…
You get all the painting kit out, they daub for approximately 30 seconds and then lose interest. Enough said.
Having had 4 children in 5 years, this was a minefield. One mother does not equal a child on the swings, one at the top of the slide, another hanging from the monkey bars and the fourth whizzing around on the roundabout. Accordingly the playpark was a no go zone for years. I feel no guilt.
This has all the makings of a charming activity of the type you might have seen on the cover of a 1950’s cookbook. Smiling mother, happy children, perfectly baked goods. Errrr, need I really explain that the reality is somewhat different? The kitchen becomes coated with a fine film of flour, sugar crunches underfoot and there is so much spoon licking that all the cake mix is covered with saliva and, worst case scenario, snot. Runny noses do seem to run far in small people I always found. Result, everything is inedible. Case closed.
Now that I have four teens, things have changed significantly and their burgeoning independence means that they seldom look to me for entertainment, yet alone for participation. This is a rite of passage of course and I am not complaining; I am happy that they have their own interests and friends and are mostly enjoying their teenage years. No mean feat with the pressure put upon today’s youth although that’s a discussion for another time.
In fact, now that there is no expectation of creativity, I can relax and delight in the company of my offspring in a very different way although I have observed that if I suggest things to do “en famille” too often, they exchange glances and roll their eyes whilst smiling wryly.
Consequently when my elder son suggested that the making of a Christmas cake would be a good idea, I rushed off to the supermarket immediately to buy the requisite ingredients. What could possibly be more wonderful than spending time with my mid-teen boy as we baked a cake together? And not just any old cake, oh no, it would be the King of Cakes, a rich fruit Christmas cake that would be enjoyed by all the family as we sit fireside together over the festive period.
My well-thumbed copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course was brought down from its shelf and following her instructions, I seeped my fruit in brandy overnight. It smelt delicious, full of Christmas spirit (ha ha) and seemed to mock all those who say that Christmas is only for the very young. Not at all, shrieked every fibre in my body, as I basked in the abundance of Christmas joy enveloping our family home, smugly aware that it is only November.
The next morning I arranged all the paraphernalia required for our cooking fest on the worktop. When said son appeared, bleary eyed and hair on end, I smiled enthusiastically and asked him when he might be ready to get started, bearing in mind the four hours baking time. Oh for a camera at that moment. His look was one of withering disdain, “I don’t want to make it,” he told me, “just eat it”.
Suffice to say, I made the cake alone and now it is sitting in its tin. Each week I shall feed it with brandy until it is so sozzled it will need patching up with marzipan. And finally I shall seal it up, along with the shame of my presumption, with royal icing.
As for our baking bash, I am not defeated. There is always next year. Or perhaps, I could take my chances a little sooner by suggesting the creation of a Bûche de Noël. The possibility of a little chocolate could be my trump card. What boy could say no to that?