Yesterday was the perfect sort of lazy day. Overcast, cool, as though it were already fall. I cozied up in one of my favorite oversized sweatshirts, sweatpants, a cup of chai. Though it’s hard to be completely lazy with small children around. They still want things like attention and regular mealtimes. Gone are the days of snuggling under a blanket for hours of reading and Netflix binge-watching, unless it’s a marathon of Super Why. It would be the perfect day for baking, the oven running all day long, full of breads and muffins and cookies. It was also hard to be completely lazy with the grim news splashed across my newsfeed and on the TV.
We talked about visiting the library in the afternoon. It sounded good earlier in the day, but when the time came I felt like tackling some of that baking. Tyson packed up Brooklyn, Nolan, and the diaper bag while Caden stayed behind. We set to work.
I told Caden I was sad because there were mean people in our country, mean people who had done bad things over the weekend. I told him I was glad that he stayed home to bake with me because it made me feel better. I got the ingredients ready. M&M cookies, his choice.
The hopeful pastel colors (*ahem* Easter leftovers) seemed out-of-place given the weight and heaviness of the news, still on my mind. Maybe out-of-place, but also totally and completely right. Baking with a three-year old took over my concentration, just as I hoped it would, removing me for an hour or two from an otherwise awful weekend. A step back and away from the news, away from the terrible, terrible pain and anger in our country.
“I’ll do one and you do one,” Caden told me, as we poured ingredients together. Three-years old and well aware of the rules regarding taking turns and sharing, of basic respect. I still felt sad, my heart heavy, as I thought of someone else’s child, suddenly taken away this weekend for standing up against hatred. My heart felt equally sad over the thought of another child causing this disaster, and I’m not sure which pain is the more difficult to bear. Caden and I watched as the mixer ran, combining the ingredients together into one homogenous, gooey mass. We stirred in the M&Ms and ate a few, straight out of the bag.
He sat in front of the oven to watch the cookies bake while I cleaned up, and as the water ran in the sink I overheard him, in a sing-song voice, “Mommy’s sad because people were mean...and she doesn’t like that...and I don’t like that ei-ther…”
It’s hard to tell him much, at three-years old. As much as I’d like to shelter him from terrible things, I also want him to know at least a little of the evil in the world, so his heart burns to stand up for what is right. It looks small, right now. We talk about bad people going to jail, that there are mean people in this country who don’t like other people. We talk about helping people on the playground, at school, in our neighborhood. We cook meals for friends who have new babies, shop for school supplies for kids who don’t have any.
We bake cookies.
It would have been easy in a way to ignore him this weekend, to get caught up in the swirl of yet another awful news cycle: more devastation, anger, hate, death, hurt, sadness. And it is very, very worthy of my attention. But to regard my own son as an interruption only means that I’m getting caught up in the hatred. It lets the bad guys win.
So we let the butter soften, use our fingers to get the grains of sugar that have scattered on the counter, dump in the flour and the vanilla, and you better believe that we lick the beaters. I put aside my phone and the news and choose to create joy for a little while.
After all, as Caden said, “Mommy, we make really good M&M cookies.”
If you are interested, here are a few of the most thoughtful pieces I read regarding the tragedy in Charlottesville this weekend.