When You're Supposed to Be Teaching, But You're Actually Learning

My nine-year-old daughter is in Stepping Stones this year.
It's like "church Girl Scouts".  That's the easiest way to describe it.
The girls get a binder filled with pages full of badge requirements.
Fulfill the requirements, earn the badge.
Every mother's dream of bonding, teaching, training the next generation, right?
Personally, I think the mothers should earn badges.
The Gentleness Badge
The I-Cleaned-Up-The-Kitchen-After-My-Daughter-Destroyed-It Badge.
The I-Took-Three-Hours-To-Help-My-Daughter-Cook-A-Meal-That-Takes-Me-Thirty-Minutes Badge.

I'm thankful for Stepping Stones.
Please don't get me wrong.
I love the ladies that take time out of their Sunday afternoons to teach and train my daughter...
while I'm at home napping.
That's dedication, and I appreciate them immensely for it.

Hey, I was even in Stepping Stones myself for a year.
I won the Miss Enthusiasm award.
I had earned 12 badges in one year--the record at that time.
A record which my daughter was more-than-thrilled to let me know has already been broken.
Some little twerp girl earned sixteen badges last year.
I digress...

While the spoken mission of Stepping Stones may be to train our girls in the domestic arts,
I maintain that somewhere, buried deep in the back of the handbook, there should be a page or two addressed to the mothers.
Pages that tell you how to bite your tongue.
Pages that tell you how the best way to bond with your daughter might just be with both of you elbow-deep in vegetable shortening.
Pages that tell you how much you'll learn about yourself,
even though you think it's your daughter who's doing the learning.

Austyn's only in her first year of Stepping Stones.
She still has two years left.
But she's already learned a lot.
And me?
Well, I just may have learned more...

◆I've learned that I can act more patient than I really am.
And for the most part, no one knows the difference.

◆Did you know that while nine-year-old girls can do a lot of things,
they cannot rinse out the sink after doing the dishes?
Just like they can't put the bottle of Windex away after cleaning the bathroom.
They can't.
It's like saying a sentence without the word "like".
It's, like, totally impossible.
Like, totally.
{{And for the record, it's killing me to leave those sentences there.
I'm forcing myself to do so.}}

◆The temperature of a bread-baking oven is hot.  
Very hot.
Slightly hotter than Hell, in fact. 
If you lean in too far, or get too very close to it,
you'll spontaneously combust.
Just ask Austyn.

◆While I may be older and wiser enough to realize that the oven isn't really that hot,
I can tell you that the milk glass loaf pan you see really is that hot.
I have the blister on my inner forearm to prove it.

◆I've learned that flour can spill on the kitchen floor...
and nothing happens.
Nothing explodes.
No one dies.
It's not the end of the world.
Who knew?

◆...and messes are just that--messes.
Flour vacuums up.
Water mops up.
Honey and molasses can be wiped up.
It's not an emergency.
It's just a mess.
{{I'm saying this to myself.}}

◆I found out that my mother was a saint.
I went through a phase when I was a teenager when I baked every day.  
I can remember baking quadruple batches of chocolate chip cookies.
Yah, she was a saint.
I've learned that.

◆And if the quadruple batches of cookies weren't enough to convince you...
When I was a teen, my parents would let me bake multiple batches of whole wheat, 7-grain bread.
To take to church.
To sell.
To keep the money.
For myself.
Can you imagine?
You know how much healthy, whole-grain ingredients cost?!?
I remember having a conversation with Mom about this a few years ago, before she went to Heaven.
"How much did that cost you guys?  And you let me keep all the money!  Why'd you do that?"
It's one of the few times that I remember my mom's only response to me being a smile.
She didn't say a thing.
Just smiled.
And now that I'm getting close to that stage with my own daughter,
I think I know why she didn't say anything.
I think I know why she smiled.
Because in that moment...
in that moment it was suddenly worth every penny they had ever spent.

◆I've learned that when you bake bread with a nine-year-old,
you have to melt a pat of butter on top of each loaf.
Healthy is not the primary concern here.
The primary concern is that those loaves looked dry.
They needed butter.
End of story.

◆...and time isn't always of the essence.
The bread rises just fine
even if it does take Austyn a bit longer to put the yeast and honey into the warm water.
Hurrying is not a necessity.

◆I've learned that there's something strangely warm and comforting about putting on an apron at 9:30a.m. right before you bake bread...
And forgetting all about that apron...
And then sitting down at 11:00p.m. to type out a blog post, 
only to look down and realize you've still got your apron on.
I'm going to wear aprons more often.
I am.

◆I've found that a clean bathroom that I didn't have to clean myself
is actually worth more to me than a streak-free mirror.
{{Although a hair-free sink?
That is still a must.}}

◆I've learned that vacuuming is more fun when you're singing at the top of your lungs.

◆And if your mom forgets to take her apron off,
it's kind of fun to pretend that you forgot, too.  


  1. This is fabulous.
    I am having to let go of some of my control freakishness.
    It's hard.
    You can teach me.
    steph @homeiswhatyoumakeit

  2. Erin, i love this post! I love it for today's stories of you and Austyn, and i love it for yesterday's stories of you and your mom. I love the sentimental value in here and i love that i can picture Dee only smiling in response...made me cry actually. You taught me stuff today. :) Now i want you to teach me bread baking too :) can we pick a day? And you have to promise to pretend to be patient with me as well. :) love you. Beck

  3. This is so close to where I am in life right now. I'm calling it my "mama learns to chill out" life lessons. More relationally focused than task focused. Also, I love your sense of humor. ;)


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