keep trying (sols)

Hannah baked six cakes last weekend. One on Saturday and five on Sunday. They weren’t just any cakes. They were 4-H cakes. If you are familiar with 4-H, then you know there is a 4-H way to do things and the real-life way to do things. 4-H is about perfection.

Thankfully Hannah is non-competitive. In fact, I’m not sure a less competitive person exists in the world. (This must be because Stephanie got all of Hannah’s competitiveness in addition to an extra amount that is all her own.) I’m coming to believe the non-competitiveness is an asset of Hannah’s when it comes to 4-H projects. She just wanted to have fun.

The fun took a bit of a hit after cake number two exploded in the oven. It started the running joke, that by cake number six wasn’t so funny. About a month ago I said to Hannah, “Maybe you should make a cake for 4-H.”

Her response: “Mom , it’ll be stale by the fair!”

So the running joke: Maybe this is why people practice their 4-H foods projects ahead of time. Here’s a picture, just so you can sympathize with Hannah (and Andy, since he cleaned the oven — and me, since Andy said the clean oven doubled as my anniversary gift!).

As agonizing as it was to watch her return to the kitchen, yet again, we didn’t take over. We gave her the space to try and try and try again. This took a bit of self-control on our part. After all, it was getting to be close to too-far-past-bedtime and her spirit was becoming tattered. I crossed my fingers instead of entering the kitchen.

She ended up with a lopsided cake.  “I’m not sure I want to be in 4-H anymore,” she said, her eyes watery.

“I can’t imagine anything tasting better than this,” Andy assured her.  We hugged her and said we’d clean up the kitchen.

The next morning we woke up early and loaded up her lopsided cake and homemade sundress (which Hannah sewed every single stitch herself). “Remember, 4-H judges are particular,” I told her.

“That’s okay,” she said. “I know they’ll think my fabric is fantastic and the cake is delish!”

I love that her spirit is resilient.

Even better was the smile on her face when she earned blue ribbons for both projects. “And they wanted to keep my cake.”

“Did you get a blue star?” I asked.

“Yeah. Is that something different?”

“It means they’re going to taste it again to see if it should go to the state fair.”

She smiled bigger. “The judge said it was okay that my cake was lopsided because it was the oven’s fault. Next time I just have to rotate the pans every 10 minutes.”

For me, the best part was seeing the strength of her independence, while at the same time celebrating with her when she came to me to share her excitement. She depended on me for support. Learning the boundaries of independence and the importance of depending on family has been an ongoing quest since we adopted Hannah five years ago.

“Thanks for letting me make my own cake, Mom. I was kinda mad that I had to do it again, but now I’m glad I did.”

“We knew you could do it,” I said, blinking back tears. Then I hugged her and she hugged me back.

Who knew healing could happen in a show arena?

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12 Comments »

  1. Oh, the lessons learned, by Hannah and her parents, right? So hard to stand back and watch, pat on the back support, and letting go. How great for Hannah that she persisted, but even greater, actually made a tasty cake. That's not easy, tell her! I was in 4-h a long time ago, but then we moved to the city so I moved on to Girl Scouts. I've actually had students in it here, however, & they do enjoy it. One even cared for and showed a goat one year! Sweet story, happiest of endings!

  2. Hooray for Hannah! Not only that she won blue ribbons, but that she persevered! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. (How sad is it that I think a clean oven would be a great present?)

  3. I am so deeply appreciative of the life you share with us. The joys and struggles are recorded by you with such loving care. God's amazing grace in action. Thank you.

  4. Wow! So impressed with Hannah's determination and attitude. Also, with you and Andy for letting her try it out on her own when it would be easy to jump in and “fix” it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow! I'm totally in awe of your parenting skills– the way you stepped back and really let her do it herself! What great lessons she learned! And what a great attitude she has! Tell her congratulations on a job well done!

  6. What a feat as parents that you were able to step back and let Hannah try and try and try again (while keeping your fingers crossed). We knew you could do it is a powerful phrase and one that will linger and support her for many years.

  7. What a gloriously happy ending, Ruth. The whole process of creation is right here with a fireworks finish! This is a good moment for moms, and daughters and dads and judges… yes, it's oven's fault!
    Bonnie

  8. What a story! It is so hard for me to step back and watch my children struggle with something. High five to you for being able to do it well. I love reading the stories about your children…I always learn something about parenting along the way.

  9. Yeah for Hannah and her blue ribbons! Yeah for you and Andy allowing her to be independent! Now what I want to know is what kind of cake was it? It looks good even in the exploding stage.

  10. What a powerful thing for Hannah to learn: how to take risks (and even sometimes fail) in a safe, loving environment. How cool that her hard work paid off. However, I know that even if the judging had turned out differently, Hannah would've grown from the experience and been loved just the same!
    p.s. I love your line about Stephanie getting a double dose of competitiveness. You embrace ALL of who people are. It is a wonderful thing about you (as a person and especially as a mother).

  11. The most important thing we can give children is a place to fail safely and succeed spectacularly. Hurray for Hannah. And good for you and Andy for not taking over….