Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lessons from Bread Making

I made 4 different types of breads in the past two days for orders.  I decided to start taking bread orders at the shop rather than just make a number of loaves and bring them.  This way I'm assured they are being purchased.  Because it's not full of chemicals and preservatives, I want to sell it as fresh as possible.  Taking orders prevents wasted time and ingredients.

But as I was kneading bread this morning for a loaf of whole wheat I began reflecting that raising children is a lot like bread making.  There are some parenting lessons we can learn from making bread.

When I bake bread, I notice on the days when it is rainy and overcast the dough is easier to work with.  It's soft and subtle and comes together nicely.  On the sunny, beautiful days the dough can actually feel tough.  You have to know the atmospheric pressure to anticipate the best time to make bread because a low or high pressure system will make a difference. 

The same is true of children.  It helps to know their temperament and what things affect them.  What inspires and motivates your child?  I have one that if I raise my voice even the tiniest bit they shut down and think I'm yelling.  I have another one that I could practically screech at and it doesn't seem to phase them.  One of my kids is motivated by praise and another by rewards.  You have to know what makes your child tick.

One of the loaves of bread I make is a cinnamon swirl bread.  You roll the dough out, cover it with cinnamon sugar and then tightly roll it up.  The problem with it is that you never know what's going on inside the bread.  I cut into one of the loaves to find out there was a big hole in the middle where the dough rose in the middle and separated the seams.  It looked absolutely beautiful on the outside and tasted delicious, but was air in the middle.

The same is true of our children.  We don't always know what's going on inside of them.  Often they can look perfect on the outside.  They can say and do all the right things, but we don't know what's going on in their hearts.  The only way we can hope to know is to try and keep the lines of communication open.  We've always tried to let our children know that they can tell us anything even if we didn't agree with them.  We let them share things without necessarily having to try and fix it or correct it right away.  If they think we are going to scold them or correct them each time they share, they will shut down.  I'm not always successful and I've often had to apologize to them for my reaction. 

No matter how many times I make bread, I find that no two loaves are exactly the same.  As it rises, it sometimes has a mind of it's own.  If there is some little variation in how I formed the loaf, it will look a bit different.  The same is true of our children.  They are different.  Stop comparing them.  They have their own thoughts, attitudes, reactions and personalities.  The biggest mistake we make as parents is in expecting to raise our children according to a formula.  Treat your children as individuals.  Their interests may not be your interests and that's okay. 

Baking bread takes time and care and it always turns out well when I take my time and go slowly.  I notice that making loaves for orders goes so much better because I'm only making one or two loaves at a time.  When I was making bread for the farmer's market, I was churning out 15-20 loaves in one day.  There was a time limit and I was rushing through each loaf.  I noticed that while they still tasted good, there was a difference in the quality.  Bread making takes time and care.  Kneading the bread for the right amount of time releases the gluten which helps it rise better.  A good rise on bread takes a while and creates a light, airy loaf of bread.

Raising children takes time and care too.  You cannot multi-task when raising kids because ultimately the quality will suffer.  Too many parents are trying to jam a million things into a day and are not spending quality time with their children.  They also have their children in so many different activities that their children are missing out on a relationship with their parents.  I would encourage parents to evaluate what their children are involved in and pare it down to just a few things.  Realize that just as you need time to make bread, raising children takes an incredible amount of time and patience.  But if you can do that, you'll find that your children will grow into wonderful adults.

So as I was making the bread today, these small lessons came to me.  Bread making can be satisfying when your loaf comes out of the oven brown and crusty on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside.  The same is true of our children.  Parenting is hard work but when you see your child become a responsible adult, you discover the hard work was worth the effort.