This morning at 10am I dropped Claire off at a kids’ baking school. She’s my only child without a regular activity, and since soccer and ballet and gymnastics were all a bust, I figured it was a good time to listen to her and let her pursue her current interest, no matter how fleeting it may be.
I signed her up weeks ago, but as the date neared, I started to panic. This wasn’t just a 60-minute cookie decorating workshop. This was a four-hour baking class where, while she’d be with other kids her age, she’d be pretty much on her own, without her sisters or friends.
“What the hell was I thinking?” I asked Christian a few days before the class. “How could I have signed her up for this without thinking about how it would impact her to be alone?” Claire is Alpha Sister at home, but in new situations, she’s quite shy and unsure of herself. Growing up an intensely shy child myself, I get this. Which is probably why I panicked. There’s nothing quite like projecting your own insecurities on your children.
She was so quiet in the car, and when we pulled up to the school, a cute, eclectic little house in central Austin that serves as both the baking school and the owner’s residence, I knew she felt the impending doom of the unknown. A man came out of the house and said hi, and I mistook him for the owner (because with a name like Pascal, I had no idea if I should expect a man or a woman) and introduced myself. I may not be shy anymore, but I will forever be awkward! Luckily he was friendly, like most Austinites, and didn’t miss a beat.
I saw her trying. She found out where to put her lunch and asked the instructor about an antique whisk hanging on the wall. Pascal (who is a she, by the way!) explained what it is and showed her how to use it. She found a seat across from a boy about her age and told me she wanted me to stay. I gave her a huge hug and headed to a coffee shop a block away to spend the next four hours writing, something I don’t do nearly enough of these days. We both got something we wanted out of today, even if we were both feeling a little lonely.
I knew she’d be fine. Her shyness is not crippling. Looking back into my own childhood, I wonder how I would have handled it. I recall the sickness in the pit of my stomach when I was dropped off at an camp or an activity that was new to me, with kids I didn’t know.
Despite my reservations, I know this is good for her, but maybe I shouldn’t have expected this from her at age 8? Maybe age 9 or 10 or 11 is more appropriate for being dropped off at a four-hour baking school with no sisters or parents or friends. Maybe this is just the kind of thing she needs to acquire self confidence and a bit of individuality. As much as I try to emphasize to others that my twins are two different people, I haven’t really made it a point to emphasize it to them. Just when I think I’ve got this parenting thing nailed down, I realize I’ve missed another important step.
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UPDATE: It’s 1:03pm and these 4 hours are flying by. I can’t wait to pick her up. I’m also starving, but the counter at this coffee shop has a constant line that I don’t want to stand in.
UPDATE, PART TWO: I stood in line. It wasn’t nearly as long as I feared, and now I have a delicious egg, bacon, avocado, and cheese taco in my hands.
UPDATE NUMBER THREE: I’m still hungry. And extremely caffeinated.
UPDATE, RESULTS EDITION: When I walked in to pick her up, she was filled with the excitement of a kid who had just had the time of her life. She diligently diligently copied the recipes for fondant, icing, and cupcakes into her little recipe card, while interrupting herself to tell me about the graveyard and the spider and monster cupcakes she’d made.
The instructor told me she was so helpful and took charge when it came to assisting others. This made my heart swell, not because I love hearing great things about my kids (I do), but because I know how nervous she was. Not just about being without her sisters, but about whether or not she could DO it. And she did.