There’s no doubt about it that this Autumn has seen a real shift in the dynamic of our household. With the Mouse having started a new five mornings pre school in September, and most of her friends starting school, our cold and often wet weather afternoons have all too often resulted in ‘chilling out’ indoors. Which I can’t lie, is often two hours spent cuddled up with the Mouse happily watching kids TV or playing with her toys and telling me to go away.
Initially I was more than happy to be taking a slower pace of life and realising very quickly she didn’t seem to want to do much else, took the easy route; as the late summer park afternoons faded away we blissfully revelled in the ability to enjoy being at home just us two.
The thing is, the novelty wore off pretty quickly and seeing her zone out day after day in front of the box made me realise I needed to up my game in savouring this last year before school. After all, memories aren’t made by another episode of Peppa Pig or sitting in the kitchen scrolling through my phone.
Of course I am not the TV police and I realise down time is healthy for a child, especially after a full on morning in a busy nursery. I guess I just felt we had lost a little balance and with a bit of boredom had also come a bit of bad behaviour – despite believing it wasn’t what she wanted, I couldn’t help feeling a bit more one to one attention was in order.
Feeling brave I even faced a toddler group for the first time in a good couple of years. The tatty toddler toys however didn’t do much for my (how did this happen) big four year old who narrowly missed being at school by a matter of weeks. All the faces we knew had moved on and not feeling the connection with any other Mums bouncing babies and toddlers on their hips, I realise that the toddler group phase probably belongs in the past for us now.
We’ve dug out the jigsaws, the games, the cars and mats, the kerjillions of toys all over our house, but I found that each single activity seemed to hold her attention for minutes, leaving the clock ticking away at a snail’s pace. And so, eager to find something to ignite her passion, I asked her what she would like to do, and she didn’t hesitate – bake a cake.
I have to start by saying that despite being a bit of a ‘have a go’ baker, past experiences have always told me to leave the baking to someone else. Nanny’s rainbow cake for her 60th was, frankly, inedible. And even our go to chocolate cake family recipe has of late been coming out a rubbery frisbee (although I blame my Mums recipe which details tablespoons instead of weights and she has since told me the secret is level spoons of sugar, heaped of flour…or was it the other way round?).
Regardless, we have conquered the basic cupcake and even the gingerbread biscuit, and I’m determined that the whole baking thing will be mastered – after all it’s science right?
Despite having a whole cupboard dedicated to recipe books, we still hadn’t found the perfect recipe, so our dear 82 year old friend passed on a well trusted book of classic cake recipes.
Armed with the bible (and actual weights in grams) we tackled our first ever Victoria Sponge together, the Mouse and I. The result was a incredible cake and an afternoon together that literally warmed my cockles. Her little face was a picture and she got properly stuck in with cracking the eggs, mixing up the bowl and of course, licking the spoon at every opportunity. The cake made a starring role at a family get together the following day and she was bursting with pride as everyone complimented her on how fantastic her creation was. We were hooked.
Since that first success we have gone on to make our first ever Carrot Cake (which I had wrongly believed could only be created by the most master bakers), a chocolate courgette cake (allotment probs), gingerbread mice, cupcakes, bread rolls and even an incredible Vanilla cake.
It’s so lovely to see the mouse find something she enjoys so much, and I’ve even grown in confidence too. For her birthday she was showered with a collection of baking gifts and now is kitted out in all the gear – she has her own recipe books, wooden spoon ‘Baked with love by XXX’, apron and hat and has been choosing what to make next for herself.
I guess with Tigs we dabbled in baking, but her passion was always painting and that was her go to activity request. It’s amazing how their two different personalities are shining through and I wonder how much of these basic activities will stay with them in their journey through life.
I guess sometimes you just have to go for it and mix things up a little. Get stuck in and encourage them out of their comfort zone. For us, the heart of our home is becoming the kitchen and I can’t wait to see what we create together next.