Do you ever find that you sort of forget the age of your oldest child? I don’t mean that I literally forget, I promise you I have very strong recollections of the day that Kitty was born, I know she’s five. It’s more a case of having to adjust my expectations of what she can and can’t do.
It’s easier with Elma and Pip; they benefit from Kitty having forged a path for them and I can be fairly accurate with what they can and can’t do, because I’ve walked this way before. The challenge, the blessing, and the curse of being the eldest is that where Kitty is concerned, we’re all still figuring it out.
And with Kity in particular it’s very easy to have expectations beyond her age. We see it when we’re out and about; she’s the height of an eight year old (she came home this week saying “Mummy! I did measuring at playtime and I’m taller than M in Year 5!”) and what is developmentally appropriate for a five year old is, according to random strangers, not appropriate in this apparent eight year old. But somehow that’s the easier one to correct in my head, to remind myself that she’s only five so we’re good.
The challenge I think comes in making sure that I’m not underestimating her either, especially when, with two younger siblings, it’s so much easier for us to choose to pitch activities or chores at a level that they can all do.
So coming up to this weekend I set myself a challenge. Well really I suppose I set Kitty a challenge. Kitty was going to make a cake. All by herself, start to finish. And by all by herself we do mean Mummy doing the hot oven bits but it still counts in my book.
She wasn’t entirely abandoned to it, I set everything up on the dinner table, and told her how many cups to measure out and what to stir in when and then mostly tried to keep Pip and Elma out of the flour and from climbing on the table to join in. When I’d planned it out in my head it was going to be a chance for the two of us to have a little one on one time together, and possibly for me to knit while she cooked, but life is what it is, and when you’re five and have a busy social life that involves not one but two parties this weekend you have to cook when you get your chance.
And I’m so glad she got her chance. Perhaps it’s not that easy to tell from the photos because she’s concentrating, but Kitty was just about bursting with pride at making a cake. She measured carefully, stirred so gently for fear of making it wrong that I had to encourage her to give it some welly to get it all combined, scraped it neatly into the cake tin, inspected it when it came out of the oven, poured over a little orange juice syrup, and set out each and every flower on top.
We sat down to tea while it was still just the right amount of warm; the whole house smelling of newly baked cake in the way that instantly says “weekend” and “home”, and I handed Kit one of our sharper table knives with which to slice out portions for everyone.
“Mama,” she said seriously, “would you like a slice of my cake?”
I would, because it was delicious.
Edible proof that she can do more than she thinks she can, and more than I sometimes remember that she can, and that she’s growing up and getting older – and that whether she keeps up with the cake making or not, that’s going to be a wonderful thing.
Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments