Monday, December 13, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture

Ah yes, the classic debate. Made far more interesting when raising children whose nature comes from a completely different source.
My husband often accuses me of being just like my mother, which is in many ways a good thing, but in some not so much. Take for example our need to hover in the kitchen. When I was growing up I wanted to learn how to cook and would spend time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers. Both grandmothers were fantastic bakers and I have strong memories of watching them at their art. Equally strong are the memories of my maternal grandmother hovering over me and loudly instructing on the proper way to dust sphinges. Really? Does it matter how one distributes powdered sugar onto a ball of deep fried dough? Heaven forbid anyone tried to whip meringue under her watch. No one could ever master her technique of using a fork to transform egg whites into the fluffiest, most amazing topping imaginable. I used to think she should have her own cooking show. Although she would probably end up telling the audience, "Never mind. I'll come over there and do it myself."
Whether it be nature or nurture, my mother behaves the very same way when it comes to baking. I will never forget when my now 15 year old nephew helped make traditional Italian cookies for the first time. My mother's endless taunts of "That's too big. Stop playing with the dough!" almost brought him to tears. And my sister and I threw in the towel one year after she mocked our ability to properly roll the sesame seed cookies.
Sadly, I find myself acting the same way with my son. Every Sunday morning we make chocolate chip pancakes together. And I'll admit, I am a bit particular when it comes to the distribution of the chips. They really should be spread out nicely and not all clumped in one part of the pancake. I tell myself every week that it really doesn't matter where Paul puts the chips, but every week I end up micro-managing the chip distribution. I'm sure it's a control thing. I have no idea if I come by it genetically or it is a learned behavior. Was I unconsciously planning these moments in my head each time an elder chastised the way I did something in the kitchen? The bigger question of course: will it end with Paul? Or will he, in 30 years, be standing in his kitchen telling his children how to do things "just right"?
In the meantime, here is a lovely photo of Paul making cutouts. And Grandma trying not to hover.