I sighed. I hadn't had any of that cake and I really had a sweet tooth at the moment. But as a mom (and a woman who's always thinking about whether I really need the calories), I thought, just give it to him.
Suddenly I was struck with inspiration. We had another cake mix in the cupboard--carrot cake, my favorite. "I'll make you a deal," I told him. "You can have this piece of cake if you mix up the carrot cake and put it in the oven."
He agreed readily. Only AFTER agreeing did he seem to realize what he had agreed to. He tried to talk his sister into doing it, spent some time arguing with his dad, then stormed off to his room. I was so confused...what was so hard about mixing up some cake batter?
I called through his door. "Hey, it's kind of uncool to agree to make a cake and then not do it!" After a couple of moments he appeared and began to dig around in the kitchen. He had trouble finding the correct measuring cups, then trouble finding the right sized bowl to use. He struggled with finding the right sized pan. As I watched him, I bit my tongue, and began to realize that the more he struggled the more he doubted his ability to do anything with this cake. I couldn't watch him struggle any more.
"Hey," I said, "I think we probably need a bigger bowl for all of this...why don't we try this really big one?" He took to bowl from me readily. I started to read the directions out loud and he went to get the eggs. I poured in the mix and he began to crack the eggs. Hard, on the side of the bowl, with egg whites on the table and shell in the bowl. It's incredibly hard for my son to take direction from anyone, but I dove in anyway. "I think you may want to try doing that a little differently, because some of the egg is falling on the table," I told him. He responded, "Maybe more gentle?" "Yeah," I said, and he cracked the last one beautifully. "Look at that," I said, "you did it perfectly!" He proceeded to mix the ingredients in the bowl, and together we poured them in the cake pan. He put the cake pans in the oven, and we were done.
After we finished, he hugged me. He's developed a habit of half-hugging, like he wants to hug but can't quite bring himself to hug firmly. "Give me a real hug," I told him, and he did.
My son does NOT take instruction from me without huge disruptions, blowups, arguments, or resistance. Yet he used the bowl, cracked the egg, stirred the mix, helped to pour the batter. His ability to take direction through this task was nothing short of miraculous.
And the fact that together, we made a cake without pain or suffering, was a gift. Just a mom and a kid, making a cake, like any other mom and kid. What a blessing.