bring your own cookies

February 25th, 2014

img_5702-1I’ve been a mother now for nearly 15 years. This is the sum total of my parenting advice: bring your own cookies.

When my daughter was in kindergarten she had a big, easy smile. She smiled all the time to everyone. Another mother asked what I had done to make my daughter like that. Her comment sent me over the moon with self-satisfaction.

I told her what Maya Angelou had said to Oprah. Angelou said always greet your child with a smile so they can see how much they are loved. A smile for a child is like handing them a cookie. Right out of the blue! This cookie is for you!

Whenever I stepped into the Kindergarten classroom at the end of the day I stood with the other parents at the back of the room and beamed. Smiling was pretty easy for me in those days. Kindergarteners are adorable. I had no expectations of performance or achievement. I wasn’t anxious about tests or grades or homework or arriving anywhere on time.

I just smiled, and the smile gave her everything and took nothing away.

Then things changed. Then I changed.

Things change all the time but they change in a big way come sixth grade, the beginning (in our school system) of letter grades, major homework and crowded, smelly classrooms of alarmingly overgrown kids who suffer daily insults that have nothing to do with their mother. There is no pack of parents at the back of the classroom, thank god, but emphatic instructions to stay far, far away and by all means stop embarrassing me!

A block up the street, she would get into my waiting car and I would ask how she was, and she would mumble something that didn’t tell me enough so I would ask again in rapid fire so that by the end of the four-minute ride home I would have pummeled her with all this and more:

How was lunch?
How was the test?
What was your grade?
What did the teacher say?
Was anyone nice to you?
Was anyone mean to you?
What’s the homework situation?
When will you start?
When will you finish?
How will you get it all done?

To my ear it was innocent enough: I was involved; I was attentive; I cared. But there was never going to be an answer that would make me feel secure with a reality that was out of my hands. I was giving her nothing but my own anxiety, as if her 25-lb. backpack weren’t enough.

It’s taken me awhile to realize what I’m really asking for as my daughter crumples into the car after a long school day. I’m asking for a cookie. Right out of the blue! Give me a cookie!

The thing is, she doesn’t carry the cookies. That’s not her job. If you want to share cookies with your kid, you’d better be the one to bring them.

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14 Comments »

  1. I love you, Karen, and am grateful for this reminder. My oldest is in 6th grade, and it is so easy to offer just more anxiety rather than a face full of cookies when he walks in the door.
    I’ve carried your daughter’s words “encourage me” in my pocket and my heart all school year. Thank her for me.

    Comment by Deirdre — February 25, 2014 @ 8:34 am

  2. I love you, Deirdre. You encourage me.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — February 25, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

  3. Thank you Karen, I can so much make good use of this today! Just on time, thanks again.

    Comment by florencia — February 26, 2014 @ 2:51 am

  4. Beautiful Karen, thank you again.
    A while ago something was going on at school with our eldest. I asked about it and tried to talk about it on the way home, slightly worried (I mean she is only 10 years old). She said: “This is not your problem to solve mom.”
    Boom right in my face. Made me proud though.
    Have a wonderful day.

    Comment by SImone — February 26, 2014 @ 7:24 am

  5. Beautifully said. My two (now grown but still live with me) daughters have told me every single detail of every single minute of their days since birth right through school. Most people think this is soooo fabulous (and it is), but an ear is all they are interested in … not advice. I think I’ll sit right down with a plateful of cookies and a tall glass of milk (that I bring myself).

    Comment by Kim — February 26, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

  6. Tears…always the tears. My 14-and-a-half year old went out the door an hour ago this morning unhappy, with me trying to fix it all, all worked up…time to make some cookies. Karen, you always remind me that there are more cookies to give. Thank you so much.

    Comment by Kirsten — February 27, 2014 @ 5:22 am

  7. Thankfully, the teacher offers a cookie when I am unable.

    Comment by MJ — March 1, 2014 @ 8:49 am

  8. Thank you Karen, a beautiful reminder.

    Comment by Kerstin — March 9, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

  9. Such an important reminder. Thank you.

    Comment by Kris — March 9, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

  10. Fabulous. I am so thankful for you and the wisdom you share.

    Comment by Colleen — March 9, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

  11. Just what I needed to hear and at just the right time! Have been struggling with this issue recently though my offspring are all in their 20s. I want to help but they ignore all my ( amazing!) advice. I get hurt that they don’t seem to value my experience ( they say they do of course) and don’t seem to remember anything going on in my life. As a single parent I guess I have unknowingly relied too much on the idea that when they became adults they might bring me a Cookie or two sometimes. I guess my problem now is where do I get my cookies from! Thanks so much – you have helped me today ( a bit of a cookie I suppose)

    Comment by Shelagh Ludbrook — March 12, 2014 @ 1:47 am

  12. A cookie to you, Karen! My kindergartener is now gearing up to apply to college and my anxiety is seeping through in every question and conversation. A cookie is just what this chef needs to offer him.

    Comment by Pamela — April 4, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

  13. When I was a teenager I was taken in by the most caring, loving foster mother in the world. We used to go pick up one of
    My foster siblings from preschool and while we were waiting she would hand me a Pepperidge Farm Sausalito Cookie and we would chat. She listened to me like no other adult had. I still buy her a package of those cookies every now and then to remind her how much those chats meant to me. I am proud to have her in my life so many years later….a truly great mom!! She brought real cookies and so much more!!

    Comment by Sherry — September 16, 2014 @ 10:12 am

  14. Simple and profound, Maezen — that’s two cookies you’ve given us, your readers, today! Like the others, I needed this today, too. I want cookies from my children, my husband, my clients. . . the list is long and the haul disappointing. Yeah. I’ll bring my own!

    Comment by Allison — September 16, 2014 @ 11:23 am

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