September 16, 2014

Lessons from a Cherry Pie

One of my daughters has recently become interested in baking pies.

She picked up a pie-making cookbook at the library and determined to start with cherry. She knew we could buy pre-made crust, but she was set on attempting the entire pie from scratch – with minimal input from me. I’ve never made crust from scratch myself, but I know it can be tricky. However, I chose not to plant that idea in her mind ahead of time; I wanted to let her experience the process without any preconceived notions.

She did wrestle. First, she added too much water, making it sticky. She was relieved to know she could fix that issue by adding flour, and she eventually kneaded it into a usable consistency. But when we tried the finished pie – which was beautiful and had a very yummy filling – we quickly realized the cream cheese crust was too thick and very tough.

Her face fell. At that point, my husband and I both chimed in with our knowledge of how difficult it can be to make a light, flaky crust. We assured her that her experience was very normal, and we brainstormed with her some possible reasons for the crust’s consistency.

We encouraged her to keep trying, but I wasn’t sure she would because she struggles with perfectionism. I wondered if she’d fear a second “failure” too much, but I didn’t mention my concern. I just asked what she’d try next.

A week later, she attempted a strawberry pie with an easy oatmeal crust. And it was scrumptious, through and through. I wondered if she’d only continue with that type of simple, basically foolproof crust. But she surprised me the following week by announcing her intention to make a coconut cream pie with a butter crust very similar to the cream cheese one.

I gently reminded her of the suggestions my husband and I had given her after the first crust. But I didn’t dwell on our recommendations, and I made a conscious decision to stay out of the kitchen. Reminding her of useful feedback was important, but so was giving her space to do her own thing.

And she did great! While not “flaky,” the crust was delicious and much lighter than the first. After her first bite, she beamed. We gave honest praise, and asked her to think about what she’d done differently that time, knowing how specific feedback is a key toward repeating success.

This week, she announced that she’s going to try the cherry pie again. She said, “I want to redeem myself with the crust!” But she said it with a smile, so I knew she wasn’t beating herself up for her original results.

Because I want my kids to be inoculated from the Perfection Infection, I want them to be resilient. I want them to be able to pick themselves up from a fall and try again. I want to communicate – with my words and actions – that mistakes are not failures. They are merely reasons to try again.

Of course, that’s an on-going project – something I’m responsible for nurturing through their childhood and adolescent years and something I’ll aim to reinforce even after they’ve grown to adulthood. But I’m thrilled that Abbie seems to be catching on. And I can’t wait to try her new cherry pie.


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