When I buy blackberries I usually 3 baskets at once. Most vendors will sell one basket for $3 or $3.50 and three baskets for $7 or $8. Blackberries don't last long though, so usually the next day I find myself making a single jar of jam or something like that. That's what happened this weekend.
I went into the kitchen, put the smaller of my two dutch ovens on the stove, rinsed two baskets of blackberries and poured them in. I pulled the sugar canister out of the cupboard and Grace, who was coloring at the kitchen table, started lecturing me, "Mom, what are you doing?! You only ever make things that you like. You're taking all the blackberries! That's not fair. I hardly got any."
I plucked a small handful out of the pot and put them in a bowl for her.
Now some people are probably offended that this was my response to her lecture. And that's what it was, a lecture, not whining, but a statement that I was being unfair. Here's what I've found out about parenting my kid: if, in your discipline strategy, you're doing something to your kid that you would not want them to do to you, you might be headed for trouble. Don't take that personally. I know lots of parents who spank, and it apparently works for them, but Grace and I have spent nearly eight years getting to know each other and for us that doesn't work. Time outs work sometimes, and they go both ways. Certainly she's been sent to her room for a time out many times, but I've had meltdowns of my own that have required--and been remedied by--a time out of my own.
We've also tried Love & Logic, but we've had the same problem. I like the premise that consequences should be logical, but in practice, it was a struggle, because the curriculum suggests that when your kid argues with you, you go "brain dead" and just keep repeating a simple phrase such as, "I know.... I know... I know." Their video clips are pretty funny, but in our household things never turn out that way. And guess what, when you say to your kid, "I asked you five minutes ago to set the table," and she responds by not looking up from what she's doing and saying with a pleasant smile on her face, "I know." it's backfired on you. Somebody's got Love & Logic down pat and it's not me.
I must insert that I did really appreciate the "Loving Your Kids on Purpose" series in which Danny Silk puts Love & Logic in biblical context. I'd appreciate the opportunity to watch those videos again.
Grace is the kind of kid who likes to be in charge, and appreciates having a handle on what's going on, so I have to plan ahead. "Your friends are coming over in half an hour. Would you like for them to play in your room or not?... No, ok, then please bring out five toys you'd like to play with together." I guess that's kind of a Love & Logic technique, so I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But problems arise when we don't dialogue through things, which brings us to last Monday when I had the audacity to start a quick batch of jam without her permission.
"...That's not fair. I hardly got any."
"Well, berries don't last long. We need to use them or preserve them." I handed her the small bowl of berries and went back to add some sugar to the pot.
"This isn't enough. This is like nothing! Why do you only think of yourself?"
Now I realize that she had a poor attitude, and many of you think I should have kicked into "discipline mode" right then, but I'd rather teach her how to communicate more respectfully by talking about why she felt that way. Because the kid had a point. When I have leftover produce I just make what seems logical to me, and often it's not necessarily something the rest of the family will be interested in eating.
"Grace, those are all the berries I can spare right now. I'm sorry. What would you suggest I make next time?"
"Just keep the berries plain, Mom. That's how I like them." she whined.
"We can't, sweetie, they'll go bad." I said, stirring the melting sugar into the berries. "We have to preserve them somehow."
She was busy coloring for a few minutes, huffing and puffing a little, while I poured and pressed the hot, softened berries through a sieve and back into the cooking pot. I put the pot back on the heat and dug around in the pantry to find a little pink box of Sure Jell Pectin. Since I was only working with a few cups of berries, I didn't need the whole packet. I mixed about a tablespoon of pectin into about two tablespoons of sugar while the berries and sugar came to a boil on the stove.
She finished the picture she was working on and said with an air of exasperation, "How about smoothies? Could you just freeze the berries whole and then we could make smoothies for Abby and me?"
What a great idea! I individually-froze many pints of strawberries last summer, why not blackberries? I stirred the pectin-sugar mixture into the bubbling blackberry juice and said, "That's a great idea. Next time we can do that."
A minute later the jam was ready to be poured into a clean one-pint mason jar. And Grace was ready to show me the pictures she'd been drawing. The tantrum was over, a battle not chosen, an opinion heard and an argument avoided. I'm happy with that.
Plus, I had a fresh jar of jam in the fridge. (It looks runny after a minute of boiling, but it jells in the fridge overnight.)
Tuesday evening when I decided to make Lemongrass Ice Cream again, I decided on a new variation: Blackberry jam. Sandwiched between Cats Tongues cookies. Crumbled into Lemongrass ice cream. With a caramel swirl. (I know that's some weird punctuation placement, but I want you to get the full effect of each element.)
Jason doesn't like Lemongrass ice cream, but Grace and Abby and I do, so guess what, Grace, that blackberry jam wasn't just for me after all, was it? ...I'll pick my battles and leave that unsaid.
Grace, by the way, stated that she would prefer the ice cream without the caramel sauce. Which got us thinking, maybe next time we'll figure out how to do some kind of cream cheese swirl instead of caramel. Oh wouldn't that be good?