Ainsleigh left a folder next to my desk filled with papers, labeled "Northwest Territories." Inside was the product of her social studies unit and, as I flipped through it, a bit of disappointment. When she returned from school, I asked her to tell me about the folder. She kind of shrugged and asked what I meant.
"Well," I said. "Your brochure rubric says zero out of 16. It says you had 'no brochure.' What happened?"
"Do you not like me anymore?" she asked in a small voice.
"Wait, what? No! Why would you say that?" I asked. "We're just talking, here. About your schoolwork. Duh."
"I have it, I just didn't print it out," she said, a note of despair creeping in.
This baffles me. How could you make something, and then not turn it in? Ainsleigh began to fall apart as I explained that she did all that work and then got NO credit for it because she forgot a simple step. Then I pointed out the quiz she fumbled (memorization is her strong suit, so this surprised me) and the worksheet she didn't complete.
"Well Canada is dumb!" she cried. "Why do I need to know about Canada's exports?!"
I nodded, lips pursed, eyes wide, and then said, "Canada IS dumb. Who cares about Canada! You know what you need to do?"
Miserably, she answered, "Study more and turn stuff in and write a million sentences?"
"Nope," I declared. "You're going to make cookies!"
"Wait, what?" It was her turn to be taken off-guard.
"You're going to make cookies. Start thinking about what kind."
"But why?" She wondered.
"Because I said so," I replied, relishing these four awesome mom-words.
The tension relaxed immediately. She flipped through my cookie binder (what, you don't have a cookie recipe binder? tsk tsk), settled on peanut butter cookies and proceeded to get out ingredients. We laughed and talked and ate a fair amount of cookie dough (seriously, this stuff is so delicious, I didn't really need to bake them. But it was a huge batch, so we still baked about 80).
As we were finishing up, I said, "What did I teach you today?"
"How to make cookies?" Ainsleigh replied.
"Well yes," I said. "But what else?"
"Um...Canada is dumb?"
"No," I laughed. "I'm teaching you something I didn't learn until college. It's this: When you're not feeling so great about something, do something you're good at, and you'll feel better. For me, that means baking. And cooking. For you it might be something else, but maybe it will be baking cookies. When I have a bad day, I like to cook. It makes me feel better."
At that point, Joel walked in. Nodding, he said, "Yep, and when mom is cooking a LOT, you know to just stay out of her way."
Later, before bed, Ainsleigh hugged me a little longer than usual. She squeezed at the very end and quietly said, "Thanks for teaching me the important stuff, Mom."
Days that end with knowing you reacted the right way and that you have a million peanut butter cookies are the best days.