It was a random Friday afternoon. All of the food for Shabbat was cooked, the kids were bathed and dressed for Shabbat, and the cleaning lady had just gone, leaving the house sparkling. Shabbat wasn’t starting until close to eight pm. So when my six year old daughter, Mushka, asked me about baking some oatmeal cookies, I responded affirmatively.

I have four daughters: Mushka who is six, Shaina is four, Golda is two, and Rochel is six months. My girls have been baking with me since they’re two weeks old in the Baby Bjorn, and we all enjoy working together in the kitchen. They have their own kid-size aprons, and they know where all of the baking equipment is, although it isn’t within their reach. They like to lick the beaters, and they know they need to wash their hands again if they lick their fingers.

I made a conscious decision to stay out of the way and see what happensRecently, I had a chat with Mushka, who is now reading English, about how to read recipes. I explained the concepts of reading the entire recipe before starting, of ensuring all the ingredients are available, and of understanding the steps.

Mushka had actually prepared hamantashen dough before Purim, with minimal assistance on my part. I took out the recipe book, and we double checked that we had all the ingredients necessary. As I was taking a mixing bowl out of the cabinet, the baby woke up.

Mumbling something about coming right back, I went to get the baby. Knowing it would take a few minutes for me to nurse her; I hoped the big girls would be patient. As I sat down to feed the baby on the couch, I heard Mushka’s voice coming from the kitchen.

“Okay everyone!” she called, “If you want to bake with me, go wash your hands! Shaina did you wash you hands? Golda, go wash your hands!” Shaina and Golda ran past me to the bathroom.

I made a conscious decision to stay out of the way and see what happens. I was quite fascinated at how my six year old was now the “mommy.” She was the one in charge, and she felt comfortable in that role after six years of observing and experiencing her own mommy act the part.

I heard water running, some giggles, and then the water turned off. They ran past me again, heading the other direction this time.

Now the noise was coming from the kitchen. Some chairs dragging, the fridge opening and closing, and Mushka giving instructions. “Shaina, we need two sticks of margarine. Do you want to put it in?”

It seemed they were going ahead with the project. I went into the kitchen to take out some cookie sheets. Golda was standing on a chair leaning over the counter. Mushka and Shaina were on step stools. I didn’t pay attention to their finger licking. I didn’t comment on their forgetting to put aprons on. I quietly went back to the living room.

Then a voice was heard from Shaina, “Can I mix?” and Mushka’s reply, “But first we need to put all the stuff in.”

My husband came home as the girls were busy. I briefed him on what the girls were up to, and asked him not to interfere. As he walked by the kitchen I heard, “Ta, can you please get the flour down for us?” He was happy to oblige. I ignored the temptation to peek in on them, and waited until they needed me.

We both continued to listen to them. Their happy chatter told me that they were enjoying what they were doing, and were not particularly concerned with the outcome of their experience. They seemed to have picked up from their mommy that the important part of baking is having fun, and it isn’t crucial to have cookies that look like they are from a bakery.

“Ma! The first tray is ready to go into the oven!” This, they knew, was beyond their scope of capabilities. I walked into the kitchen. All three of them had their hands covered in cookie dough. All three of them were licking cookie dough off of their fingers. All three of them were reminding each other to go wash their hands again. And all three of them were explaining to each other why they didn’t have to.

Kids are pretty capable if you give them the opportunityI wasn’t going to mix in. After all, they were probably the only ones who were going to eat their cookies (excepting, of course, some tasting from Tatty and Mommy). Without saying a word to them, I put the tray of cookies into the oven, set the timer, and left the kitchen.

After the cookies had cooled and the kids were taste testing, words of wisdom came from four year old Shaina. “These cookies are good!” she said, “Thank you, Shaina, for making such yummy cookies!”

It’s a shame I didn’t take pictures of them. But I’ve got those pictures engraved in my head. And more importantly, my daughters do.

I learned something that afternoon: when baking oatmeal cookies, it’s not necessary to do it in steps as the recipe suggests. Putting all the ingredients in at once yields just as delicious results. I also learned that kids are pretty capable if you give them the opportunity.

And I learned that although I have my bad days and my good days as mommy, the general feeling my kids get from me is joy and positivity.