My 4 year old loves to cook. There have been times that I specifically plan a cooking project when I know she’ll be gone because cooking with her requires that I surrender my love of well timed and efficient cooking, precise measurements and tidiness. Most of the time, though, I am delighted to have her in the kitchen working alongside me. She is good at following my instructions, patient enough not to just dump all the ingredients into the same bowl and seeing her sniff and taste and touch tools and ingredients brings her such delight. Her delight then brings me delight. She’s pretty great.
My Aunt Tiggy gave me a cheesemaking kit for Christmas last year and Nora and I have been talking about making this cheese for the last 8 months. I think part of Nora’s enthusiasm for the project is due to clever packaging. On the yellow box, there is a bright eyed and smiling cartoon-woman wearing a crown who calls herself “Ricki, the cheese queen.” Not only is Ricki a queen, but she also appears to have the magical powers of psychokinesis. That’s right…magic. In the drawing, there are these white waves of cheese suspended vertically between Ricki’s palm and the bowl below. This is significant because in Nora’s imaginary play, she can also move things with the power of her palms and mind. This began at the same time that she and her sister started watching this Australian tv series about teen-mermaids called H2O. The mermaids can point their palms at anything liquid and make it either boil, freeze or splash, and I’m just remembering that one of the mermaids is also named “Ricki.” Whoa. Queens, magic, Rickis AND cheese? The packaging works for Nora on so many levels.
There were a few months when the bright yellow box was blocked by a bag of flour and some quinoa in the pantry. Once the box was back in front, though, we said again and again that we’d get the gallon of milk at the next grocery trip and make the cheese. A few times I “forgot” to buy the gallon of milk because we’d have too much going on, and then there was a stretch of about 4 months when I didn’t really enjoy cooking so I pushed the box behind some stale ricecakes to postpone the project. We eventually ate the stale ricecakes and I guess stars aligned because last Tuesday we decided that Saturday would be the day for cheesemaking. (!!!) There was almost a whole week of build up and on Saturday morning we discussed the plan again: I’d teach yoga, we’d eat lunch, we’d go to the grocery store for the milk, then we’d do it. Saturday came, I taught yoga, we went to the store and got the milk, and then made it back to the kitchen. It looked like cheese time was finally here. We were so excited. Then Nora decided that she’d really rather play her computer learning game.
I did my best to convince her that this was cooking time and it would be fun and didn’t she remember that we were so excited to make mozzarella?
“Yeah, but I just really want to do Starfall, Mommy.”
“But we had a plan, Nora.”
She looked over at the computer and said, “Sometimes, I change my mind.”
Just like that. She changed her mind. Her legs were tired, the grocery store was enough of an adventure, and then she imagined herself enjoying some letters dancing around the screen and cheese day was re-made. Done. I was on my own if I wanted homemade cheese or didn’t want the extra gallon of milk to take up room in my fridge and slowly go sour over the next week. She just let cheese-day go with a, “I’ll make cheese next time, Mommy. I promise.”
Now, the fact that she’s four means that this little mind-changing thing isn’t all that unusual or remarkable and yet it got me thinking. I don’t really allow myself to change my mind like that. I think changing my mind is flaky. Or maybe I just want some predictability in my life and I think that it should come from me and my ability to stick with my decisions and follow through on stuff. There are times when this really does matter, right? I don’t just change my mind about going to work when I’d rather be home blogging. There are other times when changing my mind would give me space to enjoy the present moment a little more or actually get me closer to my actual intention. I think they call this flexibility. I make a plan for a time in the future, but the present moment presents some other and better option. What do I do? Do I look at what’s actually happening in this moment OR do I push through some agenda that was developed 4 days ago but doesn’t seem all that important now? I think you know what I do. Awareness is the first step, right? Sometimes being open to change is an important part of being open to the present moment and listening to your self instead of your mind.
There is freedom that comes with clarity of understanding and flexibility to adjust to what is happening in the present moment. Once again, I have to tip my hat to Patanjli, the Sanskrit language and yoga for providing a word that encompasses this concept of freedom. Kaivalya. The entire last chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Kaivalyapadah, describes the wonderful things that we can do and that come to us when we can have a mind that is present and clear. I got a glimpse of this when Nora, quite attune to her body and mind in the moments after the grocery store, chose the activity that suited her well and brought her back into balance. I saw that post-grocery store, I was still attached to the plan I made last Tuesday about cheesemaking in the future and how that would be special and delightful. Really, though, the specialness and delight had nothing to do with cheese or magic or mermaids. My intention was to delight in my time with Nora. In a state of kaivalya one can stay clear about one’s intention and then have the freedom and flexibility to act accordingly and in the present moment. I may not be there today, but I keep reminding myself that awareness is the first step. Kaiiiivalllllyaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, get ready. Here I come.