A Want versus A Need 

Economics, baking and trying my darndest not to eat my words. 

I was recently at the household section of a department store picking up a gift for a friend. As it was during the half term holidays, I had my children with me.  One of them is a keen baker and has often lamented that she wished we had a stand mixer rather than just the handheld machine to work with.  I would dismiss the request and reply that our trusty handheld has served me well for over 20 years and does all that we need to cater for their lunch box treats, celebration and tea cakes.  This afternoon we walked by the Kitchen Aid counter and she noticed the machine she coveted in the exact Ice Blue colour was discounted. Her eyes opened almost as widely as her mouth! I just shook my head and kept our group walking.

Early the next morning, I found her clicking away on the computer. She had decided to start a pop up baking business during her half term holidays to save for a Kitchen Aid. It was a cleverly designed flyer that featured her baked goods, taglines, a blurb “About me”, menu and an assurance that any other proceeds collected would go to charity.  I left her alone for a few hours.  She then approached me to help her with marketing her flyer naming some specific individuals she would like me to message with her advertisement. And so I did.

For the next few hours I fueled messages from some excited friends complimenting her on this enterprising initiative and enthusiastically placing their orders. I also received calls from curious friends asking why I wouldn’t just buy the machine for her or offer a loan, which she could pay back with an installment plan from pocket money.

Our family has always tried to differentiate between “wants and needs”. This was a perfect opportunity for us as parents to walk the talk and stay true to this principle. It would have been much easier to just swipe the credit card and taken full credit for being a generous “you’re the best !” parent and bathe in the short-lived gratitude from our child. Instead I took on the role as her cheerleader, consultant, kitchen assistant, call centre operator and driver. In five full baking days she worked like no one has ever seen her do, she persisted with a vengeance we never believed she had and with such energy and passion that awed us. It was a wonderful opportunity for her to learn simple product costing, production planning, bookkeeping and more, apart from an improved level of baking as she had paying customers this time.  She did reach her goal and we were thrilled for her.

I will be forever changed and eternally grateful. Not because she is kindly sharing her shiny wonderful kitchen appliance with us but for what I observed and learnt about my child and the human spirit.  Some of these more meaningful observations were: she remains calm under pressure, she’s much quicker in arithmetic when it’s contextual, her passion for baking gives her great courage to “just try”, she’s a perfectionist for things she truly cares about and is able to commit to a structured thinking approach not usually seen in her academic projects.  I learnt that as a parent, it was terribly difficult to resist the temptation to overprotect, bail my child out financially, hand hold every step or even take over completely, make excuses for a poor quality product being delivered.

Children are innocently optimistic.  While I found myself anticipating every possible pitfall and quietly preparing Plan Bs, she just worked to her plan. It was refreshing to be reminded of such simple resolve. It was inspiring.

She’s ten years old, I would remind myself while I put one foot in front of the other, dragging my spirit along with my body away from the kitchen. A voice in my heart urged me to leave her to this privilege to learn, grow and discover. And allowed myself that too. I want to continue being an observant guardian.

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