The cake and the kitchen
The cake and the kitchen
CINDY GLANCED nervously at the clock on the
kitchen wall. "They should be home any time now,"
she thought as she put the finishing touches on
the chocolate cake. It was the first time in her 12
years she had tried to make a cake, and it wasn't
exactly an aesthetic triumph.
The cake was . . .
well, lumpy. And the frosting was bitter, as if she
had run out of sugar. Which, of course, she had.
And then there was the way the kitchen looked.
But Cindy wasn't thinking about the mess. She
had created something, a veritable phoenix of
flour and sugar rising out of the kitchen clutter
She was anxious for her parents to return home
so she could present her anniversary gift. She
turned off the lights and waited excitedly in the
darkness. Her parents tried to slip in quietly, but
Cindy flipped on the lights and gestured grandly
toward the kitchen table, where a slightly off-
balanced two-layer chocolate cake awaited.
But her mother's eyes never made it all the
way to the table. "Just look at this mess!"
she moaned. "How many times have I talked
to you about cleaning up after yourself?"
"But Mom, I was only..."
"I should make you clean this up right now, but
I'm too tired to stay up with you to make sure
you get it done right," her mother said. "So
you'll do it first thing in the morning."
"Honey," Cindy's father interjected gently, "take a
look at the table." "I know-- it's a mess," his wife
said coldly. She stormed up the stairs and into her
room, slamming the door shut behind her.
For a few moments Cindy and her father stood
silently. At last she looked up at him, her eyes moist
and red. "She never saw the cake," she said.
Unfortunately, Cindy's mother isn't the only parent
who suffers from Situational Timbercular Glaucoma
-- the occasional inability to see the forest for the trees.
From time to time we all allow ourselves to
be blinded to issues of long-term significance by
stuff that seems awfully important right now-but
sn't. Muddy shoes, lost lunch money and messy
kitchens are troublesome. But what's a little mud-
even on new carpet- - compared to a child's self-
esteem? And while kitchen sanitation is important,
is it worth the sacrifice of tender feelings and
relationships? I'm not saying that our children don't
need to learn responsibility, or to occasionally
suffer the painful consequences of their own bad
choices. Those lessons are vital, and need to be
carefully taught. But as parents, we must never
forget that we're not just teaching lessons-we're
teaching children. That means there are times
when we really need to see the mess in the kitchen.
And times when we only need to see the cake.