My first daughter was born 11 years ago. I have, since that time, done a significant amount of judging; from being the new mom and thinking, "I would never do what she did" to being the not-so-new mom and tsk-tsking in my head with, "Wait until you have..." kind of one-upmanship.
I can honestly say that over the years my judgment has waned except for one mom, a woman I find it so hard to forgive or cut slack for:
The bar I set for myself as a mom is self-defeatingly high. Rationally I know that it damages not jut me, but my daughters. I am giving them their primary template for motherhood and it is chock full of an inevitability of not being good enough. It's so hard to overpower the reflex to judge myself, but the other day I found wisdom, in of all places, a bag of store bought pizza dough.
Sometimes we make pizza for dinner. I don't go so far as to make the dough, because I think, from my very non-baker vantage, that would require a level of skill far beyond what I currently have. Instead I buy these cute little bags of dough that are sold next to the refrigerated humus, salsa, and noodles at the grocery store. It is a part of my ever evolving internal battle with wholesome vs manageable and quality vs enjoyment.
The dough comes in garlic, basil, wheat, and white. I've tried them all and the girls and Sean prefer the white, rather than thinking wheat is healthier or more virtuous, I snag the white thinking, "They will enjoy this." I keep the bags in the freezer, usually taking two out per dinner. Sean and I like arugula and a bit of spicy heat, the girls tend to stick to broccoli, cheese, and a bit of ham or chicken.
I usually take the bags out around the time I come home to meet the buses, which is to say, not nearly soon enough. I plunge them in pots of hot or cold water, set them in swaths of sunlight or place them on the stove next to a warm kettle. My thinking being that I can accelerate the time it takes them to thaw. Nope.
The dough does soften, sometimes it even thaws completely, but what it never does is achieve the supple, pliable state that it needs to spread out on the pan and cook evenly. Inevitably there are very chewy parts, super thin, brittle areas in the crust, and spots where it is undercooked or overcooked. It gets eaten, enjoyed even, but it isn't as easy as I'd like.
The other day I took the dough out in the morning and forgot about it. When it came time to make dinner the girls passed on helping me roll out the dough. It might have been the movie they were watching, more likely it was that the last time we made pizza it was messy, sticky, the dough wouldn't cooperate, and I was snappish that made them decline to help.
I shrugged and let them watch their movie. I took the dough from the plastic and got ready to tug and pull to make it stretch over the pan. As I lifted the dough I felt it extend with no threat of breaking. It was like a morning stretch, long and slow, that eases you into the day and gently gets rid of aches or kinks.
I turned it in my hands once and then laid it on the sheet. The dough spanned the entire length and width of the pan. It was even and light, the sauce spilling across it evenly. As I sprinkled cheese and arugula, I marveled at how there were no bumps and the dough didn't slingshot back toward the middle in a misshapen mess.
I kneeled at the oven, my hand on the door handle, head resting on my arm. I watched it bake evenly, the cheese melting and bubbling. Instead of pooling in deep pockets, it spread in a uniform layer. The arugula leaves curled and I removed it from the oven.
The knife moved through the crust with ease. I dished two pieces per plate and sliced cucumbers to arrange on the side. I gave each girl a plate and paper towel and let them eat in front of the movie.
I sat on the counter in the kitchen watching them. They were silent, happily munching away on the pizza. The pieces didn't fall apart in their hands and they ate the crust.
It got me thinking how the simple addition of time made everything easier. No fancy ingredients, no extraordinary measures, just a little bit of time. I know this applies to more than just pizza dough. It's doing my hair, folding laundry, getting to school, bedtime. Everything just needs a little more breathing room and a little less judgment.
I realize that time is in short supply, but maybe one thing goes away and frees up twenty minutes, to make five other things incredible. Maybe by giving up the ghost of whole wheat dough and my expectation of being a perfect mom, I can embrace the sweet bite of plain white dough and being a mom who isn't brittle and tough. Oversimplifying too much? Or maybe that's everything, simplifying.