My older daughter, Brianna, started helping me with Christmas cookies last year (she was not quite four). Her job was the sprinkles, and she did a great job. In fact, she did something that never occurred to me to do. I usually have about three different kinds of sprinkles at Christmas--red sugar, green sugar, and multicolored nonpareils. I alternate between them (one type per cookie) to end up with pretty much an even distribution. Not Brianna. She mixes them together on the individual cookies, in different combinations.
So this year when we started to make cookies, she asked about making cutout cookies, and wanted to know if she could help with the rolling and cutting as well as the decorating. It seems like there's never enough time to do everything these days, and we never got around to it. About a week ago, she reminded me that we never got to make them. So I told her we still could, even though it was after Christmas. I even went to Michael's and picked up a couple more cookie cutters and some different sprinkles (since when does the Valentine's stuff show up the day after Christmas?!)
Now the reason why I don't usually make cutout cookies any time but Christmas is that I find them a pain to do. First you make the dough. Then it has to chill. Invariably, I forget about it and then it's too hard to roll. So I leave it out to soften up a bit and it gets too soft. It cracks when I try to roll it out. I roll it too thick or too thin. The cookies break. And this is all before we even get to the perils of decorating. Of course, pretty much all of the above happened on Sunday when we were trying to make the cookies. Plus I got a late start, so there was no way we were going to finish all in one evening. I'm sure it didn't help that I'd spent way too much time that afternoon telling Brianna to please leave her sister alone. Plus getting all the Christmas stuff put away. Argh.
At the time I was rolling out the cookie dough, I was convinced that there was something wrong with it. It was cracking like crazy. It kept sticking to the rolling pin. I'd made a couple modifications to the dough, but nothing big--adjusting the salt and vanilla to make the flavor more to my liking. Nothing that should have caused a big problem. But it just wouldn't cooperate. I didn't let Brianna roll out any dough, though she did get to cut out some shapes. We got cookies baked, but Brianna and I were both pretty much in tears by the end. In fact, we only baked half the dough. And we didn't get to decorate.
There just hasn't been time the past few evenings to do anything, much to Brianna's disappointment. I have the day off today, so I told her that I'd pick her up early from daycare so that we'll be sure to have time for decorating today. I decided to go ahead and bake cookies from the other half of the dough so we can have all the cookies ready to decorate at once. I learned something. The problem wasn't the dough. It was me. With the relative peace and quiet (Gillian's home sick, but can occupy herself for a bit), I was able to get the dough rolled out and the cookies cut out and baked with no trouble.
Being a mom is definitely a learning experience. Yes, Brianna wanted to help with the whole process, but sometimes that's just not practical. The decorating is her favorite part anyway, and we'll both enjoy it much more if that's all we have to focus on. There will be more chances as she gets older for her to help with the rest. Of course, by then, I'll be listening to her fight with Gillian over who gets to do the sprinkles. =)