On Anxiety Baking

I have a child with anxiety. I know this is not uncommon today. One of the small rote comforts for this child is baking, and watching baking shows and videos (favorites are Kids Baking Championship, Master Chef Junior (baking editions), and Tasty.

I prefer cooking and cocktailing to baking, but I feel similarly comforted when I am in my kitchen muddling, stirring, or chopping, as when she is measuring, sifting, creaming fats and sugars, rolling dough into balls. She has made a six-layer rainbow birthday cake for herself, many types of cookies, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, more cupcakes, truffles, and cake balls. I spend a lot of time buying eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla, and Martha Stewart’s perfect banana bread is maybe the only  recipe I know by heart because I’ve made it so many times, with daughter and my son.

Whenever anxiety or tensions get high, I find that watching cooking shows or baking with my daughter calms us both. We are both strong personalities (think LadyBird and her mother, minus eight years), are very connected, and endure much friction between us. Sometimes baking together has resulted in mid-mixing anxiety attacks over time-sensitive directions, but more often, we end up not fighting or stressed, but  laughing and eating creamed sugar and butter, and for the moment, that feels like just the right thing to be doing.

We attended the Women’s March in New York City together yesterday and that was a bit of both a parenting and an activism fail. We rode the subway home in hostile silence. When we got home, my daughter said, “Can I make chocolate chip cookies from scratch, by myself?” She’s never baked alone alone (I usually helicopter nearby with the compost bin handy to collect eggshells gone astray). This time, I left the house and let her make the cookie batter from her favorite Tasty recipe. When I returned, the batter was chilling. I surveyed it and it looked dry and crumbly, with way too many chips. I helped her roll out the cookies and baked them, and tasted one. Then two, three, and four. We gave some away to neighbors and friends, had one remaining this morning. So today we obviously had to make a second batch, this one even better than the first.

I expect that by the time middle-school admissions process is over, she’ll have added meringues and scones to her repertoire.


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