A mother making a cake with her two children

The Cake

Debra glanced nervously at the clock on the kitchen wall. Five minutes before midnight.

“They should be home any time now,” she thought as she put the finishing touches on the chocolate cake she was icing. It was the first time in her 12 years she had tried to make a cake from scratch, and to be honest, it wasn’t exactly an aesthetic triumph. The cake was, well lumpy. And the icing was bitter, as if she had run out of sugar or something. which, of course, she had.

And then there was the way the kitchen looked. Imagine a huge blender filled with all the fixings for chocolate cake including the requisite bowls, pans and utensils. Now imagine that the blender is turned on. High speed. With the lid off.  you get the idea?

But Debra wasn’t thinking about the mess. She had created something, a veritable phoenix of flour and sugar rising out of the kitchen clutter. She was anxious for her parents to return home from their date so she could present her anniversary gift to them. She turned off the kitchen lights and waited excitedly in the darkness. When at last she saw the flash of the car headlights, she positioned herself in the kitchen doorway. By the time she heard the key sliding into the front door, she was this close to exploding.
Her parents tried to slip in quietly, but Debra would have none of that. She flipped on the lights dramatically and trumpeted: “Ta-daaa!” She gestured grandly toward the kitchen table, where a slightly off-balance two-layer chocolate cake awaited their inspection.

But her mother’s eyes never made it all the way to the table. “Just look at this mess!” she moaned. “How many times have I talked to you about cleaning up after yourself?”
“But mam, I was only…”

“I should make you clean this up right now, but I’m too tired to stay up with you to make sure you get it done right,” her mother said. “So you’ll do it first thing in the morning.”

“Honey,” Debra’s father interjected gently, “take a look at the table.”

“I know, it’s a mess,” his wife said coldly. “The whole kitchen is a disaster. I can’t stand to look at it.” She stormed up the stairs and into her room, slamming the door shut behind her.

For a few moments Debra and her father stood silently, neither one knowing what to say. At last she looked up at him, her eyes moist and red. “She never saw the cake,” she said.


Unfortunately, Debra’s mother isn’t the only parent who suffers from the occasional inability to see the forest for the trees. From time to time we all allow ourselves to be blinded to issues of long-term significance by stuff that seems awfully important right now, but isn’t. Parenting is tough, but we are in a great position to affect a positivity into our children, if we do things the right way.

Muddy shoes, lost lunch money and messy kitchens are an inconvenience, and they deserve their place among life’s frustrations. But what’s a little dirt even on new carpet, compared to a child’s self esteem? Is a lost pound more valuable than a youngster’s emerging dignity? And while kitchen cleanliness is important, is it worth the sacrifice of tender feelings and  your relationships with your children?

I’m not saying that our children don’t need to learn responsibility, or to occasionally suffer the painful consequences of their own bad choices. Those lessons are vital, and need to be carefully taught. But as parents, we must never forget that we’re not just teaching lessons, we’re teaching children. That means there are times when we really need to see the mess in the kitchen and times when we only need to see the cake.

Paul Parkin is a qualified, experienced Counsellor and Life Coach offering affordable counselling, Confidential help and support to parents online. Paul has several years experience in the parenting and family counselling field, he understands the issues affecting his clients embroiled in deep rooted family issues.

Paul has worked with the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and has a wealth of knowledge and understanding in relation to Parenting and challenging child behaviours. Paul can advise parents on how to parent children and teens who present challenging behaviours.

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