Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Trouble With Pancakes
The other day I was speaking to a neighbor about my oldest son entering high school next year. Just as in middle school, I know he will enter as one person, and come out as someone else. There’s a part of me that wants to say to him, “Can you just go shoot heroin and impregnate a minor and get it over with, so I don’t have to sit around worrying about it all the time?”
This neighbor has an older boy – a high school junior who is her oldest child – and she talked about the ups and downs he’s experienced over the past three years. She talked about his struggle to find himself and define himself. And her own struggle to recalibrate her expectations accordingly.
She said something like, “You know what they say about pancakes? You always end up throwing the first one away.”
Well, I make pancakes every weekend. Not just for Sunday breakfast, either. I make a big batch that goes in the freezer and I use them all week. (I put vanilla flavored soy protein in the batter so my kids are eating something a little more nutritious than maple-covered cake, although that fact is not at all germane to the story.) The point is, I know the oldest child is "the experiment." The one you learn on and with whom you work out the kinks. But my pancakes are actually pretty good – golden and fluffy – right from the get go. If anything, it’s the later ones that I have to toss. The ones that I’ve stopped paying attention to as I go quickly to check my email while they’re on the griddle. It happens almost every weekend. Three mid-batter pancakes become black and charred and I have to let the griddle cool down and start all over again.
And every weekend, as I toss the burnt discs into the trash, I vow I will pay closer attention next week. I will get through my whole bowl of batter without losing a single pancake to distraction or ennui. How hard could that be, really?
I don’t want parenting to be at all like making pancakes. Or muffins. Or any delicate little breakfast food.
I want it to be like soup. Where you can just throw everything you’ve got into it and, with enough salt and garlic, it will turn out simply amazing.