Ugly cookies of Christmas past still make sweet memories

by Jen Rouse
The Short Years

It’s the mess, messiest daaaaaay….of the year, here at the Rouse House. Yes, it is the day once again when Mama chucks her sanity to the wind and invites the children to participate in a little tradition called “frosting Christmas cookies.”

This is a beloved  yearly ritual dating back to the ancient times of my own childhood, when my mother and sister and I put on our matching aprons and cluttered up my mother’s kitchen. However, when I think back to those days, I recall much less mess. Whether this is because my daughters are more exuberant with the sprinkles than I was as a child, or because children in general don’t notice messes and therefore my child-eyes were categorically blind to the frosting-hurricane we created, or because my mom was better at keeping things sane than I am, I don’t know.

I can tell you that my cleaning-up this year involved not only bathing all three children and vacuuming the floors, but also vacuuming the countertops. Don’t ask. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Really, anyone who has ever spent time around children has got to know that frosting + children = mess. What I didn’t realize when I started doing this with my kids was just how much opportunity for lying it would give me. Because I am sorry, but my children do not generally make attractive cookies.

Their cookies do not reach out and appeal to a potential diner’s aesthetic sensibilities, saying, “Look how pretty I am. You want to eat me, don’t you?” No, my children’s cookies say, “I am the product of a horrible nuclear accident and now half my face is melting off. Will you put me out of my misery?” and the diner runs away and averts his eyes and never eats cookies again.

Yes, I’m looking at you, orange-and-green snowman with the frowny mouth.

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little. The older the kids get, the more conventionally attractive their cookies get. But they still operate under the “more is more” method of cookie-decorating–slathering the frosting on in inch-thick increments, adorning each little cookie with as many sprinkles and candy pieces as its weight can possibly support. To them, the more loaded up a cookie is, the more delicious it looks…not having come to the realization yet that amounts of sugar that massive are more likely to make people gag than anything else.

Which comes to the lying. Because my children firmly believe that each and every cookie they make is a work of art, destined for greatness.  And while I do, on one level, appreciate the creativity and passion that they bring to their work, I do NOT actually think their cookies look good.

And yet…when my three-year-old holds out to me a cookie that is covered in orange frosting, lavished with green sprinkles, and spotted with chocolate chips–this cookie looks more moldy, than anything else–and says, “Isn’t it *lovely*, Mama?”…I do the same thing that all mothers before me have always done.

I lie to her face.

“Yes, sweetie, that is lovely,” I say.

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