(Image by Duncan Kidd from Unsplash Photo site)

Given a little time, there’s almost nothing more fun than baking. How grateful I am that my mom and dad both loved to bake and taught me early on the texture, the watchfulness, the smell, the delight which comes with fresh bread. This morning I’m going to try a new recipe which may be why I’ve been considering how much making bread is like raising kids.

The first lesson my mom gave to me had to do with the yeast. The essential ingredient which provides bread with its “lift”, it turns out that yeast is alive…even though it might look like dried up powder. And, because it’s alive, we have to treat it gently; heat it enough but not too much; feed it with sugar and flour but not too much; wait for it to do the job only it can do. Once the yeast is mixed into the dough, we can’t even see it any longer…we can only see its action: rising. Sometimes recipes call for us to let the dough rest, then work it down again, kneading the air bubbles out and seemingly starting all over. My dad explained that kneading it, working it, taking it back down and allowing it to rise again makes a finer texture, the hallmark of a good baker.

In raising kids, our “yeast” is hope…the essential ingredient which provides the lift. Hope has a life of its own but we have to treat it, and our kids, gently. We can’t put too much heat (demands, pressure, expectations) on it nor can we walk away and ignore it. While we can’t see hope, we’ll see its action as our kids try out new stuff, stretch for new freedom, explore independence.

A mom contacted me about her middle school son who said something like, “Mom, I don’t mean to be mean, but I don’t want you to come into basketball practice with me…” While it pricked her feelings, she was wise enough to realize that his new stretch was a good sign, a sign of yeast/hope at work.

As we gently knead our little loaves, we can call out that “lift,” inviting them to consider hopeful outcomes:

  • I see you studying for the exam. If things go as you wish, what would that mean?
  • You’ve spent a lot of time working on your free throw. How will you know you’re making progress?
  • I see the stuff out for your scout project. What will let you know you’re making good headway?

Sometimes our kids DON’T make good headway. Sometimes friendships or tests or chores or behavior don’t turn out well. Like our dough, sometimes we have to knead them back down, working the dough gently, setting it aside in a warm (but NOT hot) place, allowing it to rise once more. We shouldn’t be surprised if setbacks give our little loaves a finer texture…if they learn important lessons from “failure.”

In baking, yeast/hope can give us two excellent lessons for parenting:

  • Yeast, like hope, is a living thing with a life of its own, taking its unique shape
  • Yeast and hope require patience, waiting while invisible life-forces act, giving our kids their lift

This week, mix in a little hope, step back, wait and watch for growth!