Try and try again

I see bits and pieces of both my husband and myself in our daughter.  I sometimes see bits and pieces of other family members as well.  Some of these traits are good.  Some of them are challenging.  And as I work with my daughter through some of the challenging issues, I’m finding that I’m challenged myself to heed my own advice.

For example, one thing Lexiana inherited from me was a desire to be able to do things right the first time.  And if they don’t go right from the start, we both get frustrated and discouraged.  It stinks.  My husband is pretty much the opposite.  He sees challenges and won’t stop until he figures out solutions.  I just want to give up and maybe even cry.  My daughter takes more after me in this aspect.  It’s definitely a challenge because at age 3, she’s got a whole lot to learn from pedaling a bike to opening a round doorknob to changing her own clothes.  Sometimes we almost battle because she tries to do something, can’t get it immediately and insists she needs help and can’t do it.  I feel her pain.  But, I also know she has to learn how to do things for herself. She won’t want me helping her get dressed and undressed when she’s 16.  I tell her time and again, “Mommy had to learn how to do these things, too.  And the best way to learn them is by trying them over and over.  It’s OK.”  I remind her it’s OK to try and then ask for help, because at least she tried.  Sometimes she’s OK with trying.  Other times, like if she’s tired or cranky, she’s not as interested in trying and gets frustrated even more easily.  She wants to give up and let me take over.

I can’t judge her harshly for this, because she really is my daughter.  I completely understand where she’s coming from.  Last Friday evening I decided to try a new recipe for dinner. This wasn’t just any new recipe; it was my first attempt at making dinner in the slow cooker.  We got a very nice slow cooker for our wedding way back in 1999.  I’ve used it a few times to make cheese dip, but that’s really been it.  Lately I’ve been looking into slow cooker recipes thinking they could really come in handy after the baby is born and time is even more limited.  I have visions of putting dinner together when I get a chance throughout the morning so that it’s ready when we are able to eat dinner.  I envision putting something in the slow cooker before church on Sunday mornings and coming home to a warm lunch.

I found a recipe for a puffy pizza casserole thing that sounded like something we’d like.  So many other slow cooker dinner recipes are more meat based and not of interest to my family.  I got the kiddo down for her nap, followed the recipe directions and got the slow cooker going by 2:30 p.m.  The recipe said it would cook for three hours, which was perfect since my husband gets home around 5:30 p.m.  I was feeling awfully proud of myself.  Within 10 minutes, steam was coming out from under the lid.  I figured that was normal.  What the heck did I know?  Within an hour at most, it started to smell funny.  The smell wasn’t a good funny and it wasn’t appetizing.  By the time 4:45 p.m. rolled around, I was calling my husband who was on his way home from work and asking if he was OK with frozen pizza for dinner or if he wanted to pick up cheeseburgers at McDonald’s.  The food looked good, but the smell wasn’t appetizing.  I knew if I even tried eating it, it wasn’t going to go well.  So, I turned off the slow cooker and turned on the oven to stick in a frozen pizza.  That was our dinner. Something went amiss with the recipe I had tried and the whole bottom burnt to a crisp.  Fortunately I’d at least had enough foresight to use a slow cooker liner so clean-up wasn’t too horrendous.

My first dinner with the slow cooker, which so many people have assured me is so easy and I’ll love using, was a complete failure.  It was a bust.  I was a bit discouraged.  I understand where my daughter is coming from when she wants to give up on something that doesn’t come easily to her because I come from the same place.  I could come up with lots of excuses for not trying the slow cooker again.  After all, who wants to risk wasting time and money on food for recipes they’re not sure will work.  In fact, I considered maybe nixing the slow cooker dream.  But, then I heard my own voice resounding in my head with the advice I give Lexiana: “The only way you learn how to do something is to try and try again.”  Dang.  Sometimes I’m smart.  And sometimes that smartness rubs me the wrong way!

If I’m preaching to my daughter to not give up when a task is hard, then I must preach the same to myself.  If I tell her that failure is OK sometimes as we’re learning, then I must take it easy on myself.  After all, I’ve not cooked with a slow cooker before.  There must be a bit of a learning curve for me.  I’ve learned many lessons in the kitchen.  And I’ve come a long way.  Since I was too busy in high school to take a home ec class (who the heck did I think was going to cook for me?!), I’ve picked it all up here and there along the way.  I’ve gotten some advice from my mom and mother-in-law.  But, I’ve also done a lot of trying and failing and trying again.  We no longer eat hot dogs a couple of times a week like when we were first married and that was about all I could make.  And I can now make things like Hamburger Helper, though I’ll always remember the failed first attempt and how we ate McDonald’s cheeseburgers for dinner that night.  I’ve learned lessons along the way.  I’ve learned how to cook.  And I’ve learned to always have a plan B in the back of my head when trying a new recipe (which is why my chest freezer includes things like frozen pizza and pizza rolls).

It’s taken me some time.  I’ve got three decades on my child of learning and experience.  It’s enough to know that if I persist through the frustration of learning a new task, then I come out on the other side proud of what I can do.  I come out with new skills.  Victory after a failure is so much sweeter.  I’ll try cooking in my slow cooker again.  Some of my experienced slow cooking friends say soups are a good starting point.  So, I’ll look for a cheesy potato soup recipe to try in the next couple of weeks.  I’ll hope it turns out well, but just in case it doesn’t, I’ll be sure to have a backup plan.

And I’ll keep encouraging my child to try new-to-her tasks.  I’ll celebrate her victories with her as they come.  I’ll cheer her on as she’s trying.  She’ll probably get tired of hearing me say, “I’m proud of you for trying,” but I don’t mind.  Sometimes along the way we all need the support of someone saying, “Way to go for trying!” even when we flop and fail.  I’ve learned that from my husband who’s made me smile through tears of disappointment when a new recipe fails. A little support goes a long way.  His support has led to him now having a wife who can sort of hold her own in the kitchen.  Not so bad for him either.

The kiddo and I will just keep trying and trying again until we learn what we need to.  In the meantime, if you have any tips for cooking with a slow cooker or a tried and true non-meat heavy recipe that even a novice like I can handle, send them my way!

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