The Cake Theory

We’re pleased to welcome back our guest blogger, Linda Stroud, who is a mother of six, grandmother of 12 and retired Professor, Child Development, Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. This month she shares a unique perspective on the similarities between cake baking and raising great kids!

I’ve baked a lot of cakes in my life, and found that even when using the same recipe each one turned out differently. Although I stirred in the identical ingredients, used the same pan, followed the same directions, and used the recommended cooking time and temperature, as much as I tried my cakes didn’t turn out the same.

What does this have to do with children? Let me explain my theory about why raising a child is often like baking a cake.

As I raised my six children, I discovered that they were a lot like those cakes. I believe I started with the same ingredients - values, experiences, discipline, love, and support - but they all turned out differently. This is why I created my “cake theory”, which helps me appreciate my children for how they turned out, just as I do with the cakes I bake.

Once a cake is baked it can’t be changed. If it’s underdone, you usually can’t put it back in the oven and if it’s overdone it is burnt. Chocolate, vanilla, carrot, marble, red velvet - a cake is what it is. The only “do over” is to start from scratch. It’s the same with children, except there is no “do over.”

I explained to my children that they are all like “baked cakes”. They did not get to select their ingredients, flavors, or shapes. However, they can choose their frosting and decorate their cake anyway they want. It was my job to bake their cake, and now it is their job to put on their frosting. This helps me accept them for who they are and acknowledge their important role in their own personal development as individuals.

Usually frosting is the sweetest part of the cake. The frosting can cover up many imperfections - the dips, the rough edges, and the bumps. It can be any color or flavor and stiff, smooth or fluffy. Frosting can be enhanced with sprinkles, candy flowers, fresh flowers, or almost anything.

To continue the metaphor, if the most important elements of a cake are the basic ingredients - sugar, flour, eggs - then the most important parts of a child are the values, experiences, love, discipline, and support that represent the foundation of baking their cake. However, it is the frosting that shows their uniqueness and individuality in their interests, abilities, talent, passion and effort.

The frosting they each design fills me with delight and wonder. I take a deep breath, sit back, and wait. Sometimes I have to wait awhile for their frosting to appear, because frosting a cake can take time, skill and patience.

The original ingredients are my contribution, but the frosting is theirs and – forgive me – is truly the icing on the cake!

Linda Stroud is wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and retired Professor, Child Development, Pasadena City College.

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