What happens when we give kids more control?
By Dulce Zamora
My daughter, Jasmine, organized her 10th birthday party. She planned the theme and menu, and baked her own cake. I was worried her plans were too ambitious, and she’d have a meltdown because of it.
For the cake, she combined three different recipes to realize her vision. She made a devil’s food cake. She whipped up a marshmallow meringue frosting and dyed it with raspberry juice (pressed from fresh fruit). And, she made toasted mini-meringue buttons, which, to my surprise, were so easy to make, and, so cute!
The result was a moist and fluffy chocolate confection enveloped in creamy sweetness. The cake itself was not cloying as she used coconut palm sugar (which is slightly lower in the glycemic index compared to cane sugar), and we always decrease the amount of sugar indicated in recipes. The silky soft meringue contrasted nicely with the crisp meringue. The buttons dissolved in our mouths while the raspberries squirted out just the right amount of tartness. It was like a sophisticated sweet and sour candy.
I was amazed by the complexity of this cake. I was worried that my 10 year old daughter was biting off more than she could chew, but she actually made me eat my doubts. Things did go relatively well with the cake making. It wasn’t perfect, but there were no major disasters. If there were, I was ready. I had asked a behavioral therapist friend for advice, and she said to name the emotion (“I see you’re really frustrated about that”) and give her space to calm.
“Don’t rush to offer solutions,” she said. I followed her advice on some small hiccups during the preparations, and things didn’t escalate into full tantrums. I baked chocolate chip cookies. If the cake didn’t turn out, we could drown our sorrows in cookies.
Another item on Jasmine’s party list was the menu. She wanted a rice bowl with steamed rice, diced teriyaki chicken, and broccoli and spinach sautéed with garlic. In previous children’s birthday parties, I noticed kids did not eat that much so we made sure to only serve small quantities. However, everyone loved the meal so much that they kept asking for more. They even asked for chopsticks. I was surprised by this since these kids were all from different continents — Asia, North America, and Europe.
“Of course we want chopsticks!” the little expats said when I remarked how funny it was they asked for chopsticks. “We’re in Asia!”
After the meal, we served a fruit platter with strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and pineapples. I also made chocolate fondue. Jasmine told me that the trick to a good fondue was to add at least a quarter white chocolate into the dark chocolate. I did so because, frankly, I didn’t have enough brown chocolate chips. Also, I didn’t have regular milk handy so I used almond milk, and I didn’t have any heavy cream so I replaced it with buttermilk.
The result? Well, I’ve never seen kids eat fruit so fast. They also asked if they could try the broccoli with the fondue. So I brought back the sautéed broccoli to the table, and they had another serving of it with chocolate! They said it was so yummy.
The one thing the guests didn’t care for on the menu was the peppermint iced tea, although my girls liked it. We often make our own tisane with fresh mint leaves, but for the party, we used Twinings sachets and added some honey.
“It’s gross,” said the kids. “We don’t like it.”
Well, at least I know they’re honest.
For the party, Jasmine envisioned putting on a play with her friends. She wanted to use her box full of costumes and decorative cloths, and asked her friends to bring their make-believe apparel. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: They’re 10 years old and they still want to play dress up? The answer is, yes. Yes, they do.
A couple of the kids snapped photos for their Instagram accounts. They laughed at each other’s silliness when they got into their characters. And, instead of putting together a play, they decided to film a mini-movie. They shot five to six scenes. They even asked my husband, Noel, and me to act as bride and groom in a wedding. Noel was only too happy to oblige. He even dug up an outfit he wore for his bachelor party many, many moons ago.
When the kids’ parents picked them up, there was no theatrical play to present, as promised. They had fun, though, despite not having a structured activity, and they resolved that my daughters would edit the scenes they produced together.
Before the party, I had suggested that Jasmine come up with a couple of pre-set themes for the production to ward off possible infighting, but she refused. She said she and her guests would all decide on what to do together. And they did. No, they didn’t always agree on what to do, and it got a little bit loud and crazy at times, but, in the end, no one looked unhappy.
So, the lesson for this mama was this: The kids are fine. They are perfectly capable of planning, baking, and organizing themselves. Perhaps I can pat myself on the back for all those years invested in theatre, science, and innovation camps, many lectures from me about working as a team, and cooking/baking together at home. Next, I’m looking at having the kids wash dishes and doing do laundry. Even mamas can have great ideas. 🙂
© 2019 Windswept Wildflower