I looked up from my laptop and noticed quite a lot of smoke in the house. That sounds like a moment to panic, but it wasn’t quite THAT kind of smoke, and I’d been in this same spot just about 10 days ago.
You see my daughter likes to cook. She’s 11. She’s got a few things down. She REALLY REALLY wants to master pancakes. She wants to make light, fluffy, perfectly brown pancakes in her mother’s cast iron pans.
She objects to some of my methods. And that’s okay because if she wants to learn it for herself I am down with that, until it sets off the smoke alarms, which it has twice now.
You see pancakes require at least two things to work reasonably well: a pan that is actually hot all the way through AND just the right amount of fat on that pan.
There’s a lot of room for error in that sentence, like a lot. How hot? How much fat? What KIND of fat?
I didn’t realize how many variations there were because I automatically made some choices that I knew would work well.
She needed to experiment.
And that’s when the pan heat being too high and the choice of butter as the fat combined to make for a smoky mess.
Now I don’t want to go all Alton Brown on you, but I will share the short version that different kinds of fats respond differently to different temperatures. It’s called “smoke point.” Each kind of fat has a different temperature at which it just creates nasty smoke and gets spread all over the house and wakes everyone up and gives the aging dog anxiety.
Once I realized what was happening (again), I quickly intervened: helped her cool the pans down a little with some water, gave her two better options for greasing the pan, and assured her (she was drowning us in apologies) that everything was okay. It was just something she needed to learn. It was okay. A little noise wouldn’t kill us. It was okay. She got to see the lesson in action instead of just listening to me spout on about it. I’m pretty sure she’ll make different choices next time. In fact, in true Life Coach kid fashion, she wrapped up our conversation by saying: “Next time I will not heat the pans so much and I will use coconut oil instead of butter.”
Awesome. The dog may live a while longer just because of that.
What I found interesting later in the day, when looking back on the incident was that nobody got upset with her. And once she had apologized a few times, she was completely open to the information about what would help next time. She was an active participant in learning a better way to do it next time. She just wanted to get the lesson – well, and eat her pancakes.
Once she had apologized she didn’t beat herself up profusely for “doing it wrong.” She didn’t rehash and revisit the great pancake debacle for hours or days, although I imagine there is the possibility of some teasing in her future on this front. She didn’t just collapse and cry about what a terrible cook she is. All of those options were available to her.
What she chose to do was to figure out what the lesson was and to get the people around her to help her learn it and to clean up the mess learning it made, something we did without complaint or even a heavy sigh.
How much easier would things be if we treated all of our mistakes this way?
How much more quickly would we learn?
How much more willing would we be to take risks?
How much more connected would we be to others?
How much more full and delicious would life be if we could treat the hard stuff like a failed batch of pancakes?