"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

8 is Great

Since he was four...maybe longer...Max has known that he will be a baker when he grows up. The name of his bakery will be "With Sprinkles on Top" and he'll live in the apartment above. He'll offer daily specials, to encourage new visitors to his shop, and free coffee on Saturday mornings, to keep his regulars coming back for more. His cousins, Olivia and Lauren, will be his bakery assistants and will help, especially, with the wedding cakes...which are kind of a lot of work, if you didn't already know.

He's got it all figured out.

(Because that's what Max does. He figures things out.)

The only potential hitch in his grand life plan, it seems, is me.

I've done well enough encouraging this dream of his...in theory. I've signed him up for Cake Camp the past two summers and I even bought him his very first cookbook. I've just done a wonderfully terrible job of allowing actual Baking Practice.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm not a huge baker myself.
Maybe it's the tired trope of the "busy mom of three" that just doesn't have the time.
Maybe it's my Type-A personality.

Whatever the reason, I've been forced to acknowledge the hard truth that I'm doing a lousy job of supporting my child's bakery-owner dreams in my constant quest for a clean kitchen.

With his birthday right around the corner, I decided to give him his first 8th Birthday gift last Saturday: the gift of an open kitchen.

"Hey, Max...whaddya say we start to get ready for your birthday party by making marshmallow fondant?"

It was as though the heavens opened and the angels began to sing. His already-twinkly eyes sparkled brighter than a star as he looked up from the Harry Potter book he was reading on the couch. "Now?" he asked, incredulous. "HERE?!"

"Yup! I've got everything we need...let me just pull up a quick recipe..."

"No!" he interjected, racing over to get between me and the computer. "I've got this! I know how to do this because we did it in Cake Camp! I'm an expert!"

I quieted the dissenting voice of reason and order and logic in my head and made the decision to just let go and trust him. We were using the very simple recipe of, basically, marshmallows and powdered sugar...what could go wrong?

Three minutes later, Max was covered to his elbows in sticky marshmallow fluff, a veritable cloud of powdered sugar was raining down All. Over. the kitchen, the mixing bowl was completely devoid of anything that even partially resembled usable fondant, and I was hyperventilating over the sink.

"Hey, bud?" [careful, deep breath] "this is why I suggested looking at a recipe. See? Just to make sure we got the proportions right?" [inhale. exhale. inhale. exhale.]

Delighted by the rich sensory experience he was currently immersed in, Max smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Mom. Looks like I got a little carried away..."

He left to go clean himself up while I added a little water and a little more powdered sugar to the goopy disgusting mess left behind. A bit more melted marshmallow and a bit more powdered sugar later, the goop actually started to resemble fondant. Finally, I was able to knead the mess into a pretty neat ball, which tasted like fondant and will hopefully roll out like fondant when we attempt to put it on the cake in a few days.

I looked around at the mess while Max stole a taste and wrapped the fondant in plastic.

Counters, cabinets, the sink and a good 20 square feet of my kitchen floor were covered in varying concoctions of sugar and melted marshmallow. I had to use a spatula to scrape my countertops smooth and the floor is still a bit sticky, days and many washings later. As I cleaned, two voices argued in my head. The first, and loudest, wondered why I ever suggested this stupid messy experience in the first place. The second voice, however, is the one who had, throughout the fondant-making catastrophe, kept an eye on Max...instead of the mess.

Why can't I be more patient?
Why can't I just let go and be in-the-moment?
Why do I have to worry so much?

Why can't I be more like Max?

He's so amazing, this, as of today, EIGHT year old child of mine.

He's brave and confident and imaginative. He's creative and adventurous and FUN.

He's everything I'm not and, when I look at him and watch him do his thing, I'm equal parts mesmerized and bursting with pride.

Especially when that "thing" is belting Miley Cyrus while busting some serious moves.

There have been many times over the past few years when I've wanted a crystal ball...to peek, just for a second, into Max's future...to see where/how/who he becomes as he finds his way. I don't want that anymore. I want, now, to just enjoy this ride because I think he actually already has it all figured out.

Max is Max....and that's all you need to know.

How is it that my 8-year old has it more figured out than I do?

When in doubt, eat cake.

The other day, Max told me that a classmate, who is new to the school this year, asked whether he is a boy or a girl.

"How did you answer the question?" I asked.
"Well, I told her I'm neutral; not your average boy or girl."
"Yeah? Good for you buddy. How did she respond?"
"She said, 'Really?! You're my very first one I've ever met!' And now we're friends."

So that's that.

He's a good friend, that Max.

Max with the good hair.

Max with the good ideas.

Max with the good soul.

Max with the sensitive heart.

Max, my one in a million.

On this, your 8th birthday, my love, I wish for you a world in which you are always be greeted with the the same joyful enthusiasm your new classmate showed you. I wish for you a world in which you are given the freedom to express each and every magical, creative, messy, beautiful whim you dream up.

And I wish for you a more patient mama....

Lesson Learned:
This wasn't the first time I've indulged Max in his culinary whims. There was this time during Winter Break last year....

I was able to steer him away from the Steak-and-Kidney Pie and towards the cinnamon rolls, which was a win. After two days of mixing, rising, more mixing, rolling, topping, more rolling, more rising, baking, and finally...eating...I sold that stand mixer and decided that cinnamon rolls from a pop can are just fine, thankyouverymuch.

I can't wait until you're a baker. I can't wait until you have your own kitchen to play in (instead of mine). I'll be first in line for your daily specials and, baby, you know I'll be camping out all day on free coffee Saturdays.

BUT....I can wait until you're grown. Over the past year I've learned that I don't want to wish the time away and I don't even need to peek inside that crystal ball. It doesn't matter to me where/how/who you grow to be because I already know YOU. I know your heart and your soul and your spirit. You are Max...and Max is Max is Max. And Max is awesome.

Happy Birthday, to my very best Maxwell. We love you, kiddo.


  1. I missed this post...

    Happy birthday, Max, from the UK. You are an inspiration to me and, especially, to my D. You do you, kid. You are awesome.

    EtF & family.

  2. D asked me to let you know that he wants to be a cosmologist. :-)

  3. Thanks for the Birthday Wishes, EtF and family! And D...reach for the stars!! :)