German Pancake

Tears dropped into her cereal bowl as my daughter sat across the kitchen from a pan of German pancakes. She was eating Cheerios.

It might sound cruel, but inside I was doing a victory dance.

As a little girl, all it took was one sideways glance from my mom to correct my behavior immediately. Say I told my little sister something funny during church and we erupted into laughter in the middle of the meeting. Mom would direct the look at me. There was nothing more uncomfortable in the world than sitting under that gaze. I would immediately adjust my behavior. Not only that, but for the next few minutes I hoped my mom noticed how much straighter I was sitting, how much quieter I was being and felt my determination that she would never have to tell me not to disrupt church again.

The first time I directed the look at little girl (and though I hadn't looked in the mirror, I was pretty sure it was a good one), she glared back. "Hmph," I thought. "This is not how it works." And as I raised my eyebrow a little higher and angled my chin a little deeper, she matched my determination by continuing to hold her gaze and, making sure I noticed, continued the undesired behavior.

Good grief. What now?

People all the time tell me she is my mini-me, and people who knew me as a little girl confirm they are right. It created this little conflict inside that baffled me. How could someone who looks so much like me have such an entirely different temperament?

I of course love her all the same, but prayed for help. How was mild-mannered me going to raise this high-spirited, spunky child? Through a little inspiration and trial and error, I have found that taking things away is the best way to get her attention.

That is what had happened this morning.

I try to make one delicious breakfast during the school week so that my kids will have warm memories interspersed with all the cold cereal, and this Friday morning I had whipped up a batch of German pancakes. They were already in the oven when I went to get little girl up for the day. "Get your bed made and I'll have some German pancakes ready for you when you're done."

Little girl is still adjusting to the life of a school kid and sometimes the tasks that should take two minutes take twenty. By the time she arrived in the kitchen, the German pancake had lost all its puff and sat limp in the pan. No big deal. It would still taste good.

But as she came upon it, little girl's huge eyes grew huger. "You DID IT WRONG!"she accused. "It's NOT supposed to LOOK LIKE THAT! Make me ANOTHER ONE!"

Oh ho ho ho. I was going to salvage this lovely breakfast moment. We were now going to have a discussion on respectful behavior toward our moms over a German pancake breakfast. But first, I was going to need to regroup. "There's nothing wrong with it. They are only puffy for a minute when they first come out. Why don't you go get your clothes on and then come have breakfast with me?"

She stared me down. "YOU go get my clothes."

I have in reserve one look that I only use on very rare occasions that I have found does work, and this time I pulled it out. To my relief, little girl stood a little straighter.

"You will go get dressed and you will meet me here as soon as you are finished," I told her.

She knew she had gone too far and didn't delay in turning and heading toward her room.

I took the moment to have a chat with Heaven. "God, I think I'm going to take my daughter's German pancake away this morning and have her eat Cheerios. Just want to run that by you. Please stop me if it's a bad idea."

Suddenly I pictured my daughter, 13, sitting across from me at the kitchen counter, telling me stories and us laughing together. 14, 15, 16, 17, she shared her worries and fears with me.

I knew there were fun-filled, challenge-filled years ahead in my daughter's life, and I wanted to share in as many of those moments as possible. But I could only see that working well if she respected me. And we had a little work to do today.

So yes. The German pancake would be removed from the morning's equation.

No, not quite. It would sit there, cold on the stove, staring at her each time her spoon dipped into the cereal bowl.

And so that's where we were five minutes later, tears dropping into her milk.

I had gotten through.

The sniffles were plentiful. Call me mean mom, but I rejoiced with every single one. Remembering what it was like to be five, I knew she had been dealt a pretty heavy blow this morning. But in this rare moment where everything was working like I hoped it would, my heart was brimming with love for her, and I wanted to say to her, I know you can't see past this moment, but it's going to bring us closer together.

Not only that, but it was one of those moments where parenthood had taught me a little more about my Heavenly Father. That in all the moments of my life where I thought He had pulled away, was He actually reaching after me? Saying, I know it's hard to see past this moment, but it's going to bring you closer to me? The love in my heart confirmed that, of course He was. He is not happy when hard things happen to us, but He is overjoyed that it gives Him a chance to more fully reveal His character to us. What an amazing God we have, that hard things don't have to be just hard things if He is invited into the picture. They can be blessings for which we will later thank Him.

I would try to remember that the next time my world seemed uncertain and I felt like a five-year-old sniffling over a bowl of cheerios.