Baking Sugar Cookies

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to my 4-year-old daughter’s preschool class and helping 30 kids bake sugar cookies to decorate. And I loved every moment of it.

I had really missed teaching kids. It’s been almost exactly 2½ years since I quit teaching private music lessons and moved to pursue my cooking career. I had almost forgotten about the inherent excitement that kids have about life—especially preschoolers! I was so energized by their curiosity and enthusiasm about every single thing I was doing. Even as I was setting up, I had 3 girls standing around and asking me about every ingredient I was pulling out of my bag. I was mostly regaled by stories of similar things they’ve done at home with their parents.

Aside: It’s a human instinct to belong and feel connected. I was reminded of this with all of the stories the kids shared with me. If something jogged their memory, such as cracking an egg, they would immediately launch into telling me about the one time they did that too. And all of the things their parents or siblings did and said to react. As adults, we should give ourselves and each other more grace when it comes to talking about similar experiences we’ve had to someone who is sharing a story. I know I’m certainly guilty of interjecting and talking about something that reminds me of the most recent comment made. My timing isn’t always perfect. But I loved being reminded by those little kids yesterday that this is something hardwired in us. That’s how conversations are made.

Even before I got to the school, I was having fun preparing. I loved making the ingredient list, sending the list of things to buy to her teacher, and the list of equipment I needed to bring. I enjoyed packing my bag and having everything ready to go. I enjoyed putting on my apron and the character it made me become. Instantaneously I became a chef, a cook, or a baker. Kids are cool because they’ll go along with whatever story is being told. Adults are pretty much the same way. It was a good reminder that even when I’m feeling insecure, if I put on my apron and start teaching, I instantaneously become a chef, a cook, or a baker—whatever aspect of the story I want to tell.

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I loved all of the improvisation that has to take place when teaching so many kids. There are so many variables and unknowns that have to be figured out in the moment. We had decided to split the kids into groups of 6, which helped a lot. As I began the process of measuring ingredients, I decided to have each kid be in charge of a single ingredient. And that worked very well. In the moment when I saw it was taking longer than I expected, I had alternating groups work with the wet and dry ingredients.

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I loved connecting with and getting to know each kid. I’ve been dropping off my daughter at school every morning for almost 4 months, and I had only really learned 2 or 3 names of kids in her class. It’s weird that there’s a default of just thinking of kids as some other kind of being. I hadn’t ever engaged any of them in conversation or asked their name. But yesterday was different. I learned every kid’s name and got to learn a tiny bit about each one as we chatted and I assisted with measuring out a teaspoon of baking powder or weigh out the flour. It was such a good reminder to not disregard any human, no matter how young or old. It was such a joy to really engage with them.

But more than anything else, I loved just the fact that I was able to be in my daughter’s life. The path of self-employment that I have chosen has plenty of difficulties and challenges, but the single greatest benefit is the ability to be so actively involved with my family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is such a joy to be present and involved. It’s an investment whose returns I won’t fully know until years in the future, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

Mark Bjerke2 Comments