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Cheesecake parenting

April 15, 2013 - Betsy Bethel
I was editing a recipe for the newspapers' food pages today and noticed these instructions to avoid a cracking cheesecake, straight from the experts at Philadelphia Cream Cheese Kitchen:

Prep it Right: Set out ingredients about 10 minutes before baking to work with them at room temperature. Allow your oven to preheat while preparing your filling.

Be Gentle: Do not over-beat. Over-stirring can add too much air into the batter, which can cause cheesecake to crack. Beat in eggs, one at time, on low speed until just blended.

Practice Patience: Don't peek! Opening the oven door while cheesecake is baking causes drafts that may lead to cracking.

Loosen Up: Another way to prevent cracking is to immediately run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake after baking to loosen it from the sides of the pan.

Great tips! I definitely will remember them next time I bake a cheesecake from scratch ... when 7-year-old Emma's in college! But as I re-read the tips, looking only at the tip and not the explanation, I said, "Wow. These apply to raising kids, too!" Well, I didn't say it out loud or else my colleague Linda might think I'd lost it. What am I saying? She knows I've lost it! Last week, she watched me like I was a tennis ball being volleyed erratically as I lost and then found my camera and my cell phone twice in one day! I'm surprised I am not typing this from a padded room. But I digress.

So, looking at the tips, we start with Prep It Right. To me this has less to do with parenting books and magazines and more to do with laying down rules and being consistent. A child who knows what to expect learns to trust you, is more relaxed, better able and willing to learn.

Be Gentle. Ah yes. This one can be tricky for us over-stressed parents who are trying to complete our work inside and outside the home successfully. What happens, I have found, is we tend to expect too much too soon from our kids, leading to constant clashes, disappointments and resentments. Being gentle means not only using respectful tones with each other but also not being overly critical when your son splashes water all over the bathroom while playing pirate ship in the bath tub or when your daughter uses your lipstick to write "I love you, Mommy" on her bedroom carpet.

Practice Patience. This goes hand in hand with being gentle. My biggest difficulty with this one is during the morning and bedtime routines. On a few recent mornings, my 7-year-old has been getting herself up, getting dressed, brushing her teeth and hair, washing her face and getting herself breakfast. It's as if I died and went to Mommy Heaven. Most mornings, though, I go to wake her up and she's non-responsive the first 10 times. Then she moves like Super Sloth to get dressed. I find myself still actually HELPING her get dressed. Shaking my head. She's 7. I know. It's ridiculous. Then at night, she takes allergy medicine. She's nocturnal ("I NEVER sleep at night," she declares to anyone who will listen), so her imagination is working at full tilt at this time of day, especially if she's just had a bath, where her imagination breeds like mosquitoes in a bird bath. Her avoidance tactics include telling me about school — stories I would kill to get out of her on the way home but that she only decides to share at this moment — telling jokes, showing off her yoga or kung fu skills, singing songs, the list goes on. It almost always ends with me shouting: "Take ... Your ... Medicine ... NOW!" Her response: "OK, OK, geesh!" Last night, I stayed perfectly calm and patient and instead I ignored her little performances. I didn't say a word. Finally, she said, "OK, OK, geesh!" I prefer to avoid yelling so we'll be employing that technique again. (I'm doing a little victory dance in my head right now.)

Loosen Up. Yes. This goes along with the previous two tips. I have never had a better breakthrough when it comes to managing Emma's temper or stubbornness than when I've applied humor to the situation. It reminds me of the old V8 commercials, where they bonk themselves on the heads when they realize their mistake in not consuming said beverage. "Bonk! I could have used humor!" An example: Emma whines that she has too much to carry into the house (namely, her backpack and lunch bag) and says "You carry it, Mama! I'm tired!" Meanwhile I am lugging purse, two bags of groceries, coffee mug, lunch bag, brief case and library books. Instead of shrieking: "Are you SERIOUS!? WOULD YOU LOOK AT ME? Where do you think I'd put it, in my teeth!?" which is what I am thinking and, OK, I admit it, I have said on more than one occasion; I could instead say with a smile: "Yes, sure! Put your backpack on top of my head and your lunch bag in my teeth" and then fall over under the weight of everything, giggling. Knowing me, I'd probably hurt myself. But I know Emma would laugh, and she'd probably end up helping me carry some of my stuff. Probably with her teeth.

So there you have it. Parenting tips from a cheesecake recipe. Always be on alert, parents. You never know when an idea is going to bonk you over the head.


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