Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"I didn't know vanilla made such a difference."

Every Monday night, my family meets together in a planning meeting where we review the calendar to plan for upcoming events, come up with ideas for dinner the coming week, make a personal goal for self-improvement for the next week, have a spiritual lesson, read the scriptures, sing and pray. For our lesson one night in May 2008, I decided to put the KitchenAid mixer on the table and all the different ingredients for cookie dough out too. We all took turns putting in the appropriate amount of flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, etc. True to their nature, some of my children complained that they only had "a small ingredient" like 1 little teaspoon of salt to put in whereas others got to put in 3 cups of flour, etc. Our lesson that night was on how we each contribute to our family and that no matter how big or little we are, we contribute to make up the end product - a yummy dough that makes yummy cookies.

I don't remember who had what ingredient but to this day, I thank the heavens that my 10-year old daughter was the one who put in 1 little teaspoon of vanilla. We ran out of vanilla shortly thereafter and the store where we usually shopped didn't have imitation vanilla but rather the real stuff - which is flavored so very differently. My children didn't like the next batches of cookies we made and so when we went to the store next, we found the re-stocked imitation vanilla, bought it and threw the other stuff away. My daughter's comment the next time we made cookies was "I didn't know vanilla made such a difference. It's just a little ingredient but the cookies taste wrong if you don't have the right stuff."

At the time, we lived in a semi-scary neighborhood (16 miles from the Washington Monument) in Maryland/DC. It wasn't NYC nor it's surrounding neighborhoods nor was it Inglewood, CA, but nonetheless it was scary to a mom of 4 young kids. I wouldn't allow my children to play outside without supervision. I bought two secure-locks for each of the windows. And I would lock my door before going next door to do laundry.

One morning, a month after the cookie dough lesson, my daughter and I got into an arguement about what she was wearing to school that day. I made a stupid comment to terminate the discussion, "Well if you don't like it, find somewhere else to live," and walked into the kitchen to get breakfast on the table and sack lunches made for school. While my back was turned, my daughter - that 10-year old beautiful but willful child - ran out of our apartment home. I was shell-shocked. What would she do? Where would she go? We were still new enough in the neighborhood that I didn't really know anyone she could run to nor anyone who could help me find her. In retrospect, it seems to have taken me forever to run after her. I had to put shoes on. And then I ran to the parking lot. I yelled for her. No answer. I ran farther toward the street and yelled again. Nothing. Complete silence. She was gone.

I was scared. She had taken me seriously and had left. But she had no where to go. What 10-year old plans her departure? I ran back to the apartment, threw a hurried breakfast on the table for my other children - to ease their bellies and distract their minds, left them with strict instructions to keep the door locked, tied my shoelaces, said a quick prayer, locked the door behind me and left to go find my child.

I had no idea where to start except that I knew that she was responsible and loved school. Hopefully she would go there. The only way she knew how to do that was to get on the bus. The bus stop was to my right but I felt/knew to head left - it was the bus stop that her friends used but I never allowed her to use because I couldn't watch her while she waited. I had to walk up a hill to get there and the sun was shining directly in my eyes. Although trying to blind the direct light by using my hand, I could not see her at the stop, only the silhouettes of 4 young girls. I kept walking quickly toward them. I reminded myself to get in shape so I could run the next time. Who plans for a next time? What kind of mother am I? If the girls hadn't seen my daughter, at least I could question them. The world around me seemed scary and silent in my quest, yet I could hear all around me the normalcy of an everyday morning. As I approached the stop, one of the silhouettes left the group and began to run toward me. I still can feel her arms wrap around me and remember her sobs as she ran into me. I was still sickened by the stupidity of my comment but so very relieved to feel her in my arms. I knew I had been blessed. I knew I had been told to turn left.

She stayed home from school that day. (So did my traumatized seven-year old.) We talked about my stupid comment and her stupid actions. She spent the morning cleaning baseboards, sweeping, cleaning anything I could think of that needed cleaning - the only consequences I could think of at the time to let her/make her know she had done wrong. And we talked about it again and again the next month so that she would know - and everyone in our family would know too - that running away from problems is never ever, never ever, never ever an option. And particularly because vanilla makes all the difference in how the cookies turn out.


Ursula said...

Well I am shocked that you would throw away REAL vanilla in place of the imitation. Our family must have the expensive stuff as you know. But I suppose your point is that each family has its members and all of them are important. Although some days I wish we could trade your oldest for mine...

Layne said...

Great story Katie...very thought provoking. Thank you for your beautiful example...I have a lot to work on as a parent.