Of course this gives me a lot of mama-guilt. I feel like my children's meals should be my greatest inspiration, and I should love cooking for them more than anything. I tell myself frequently that I'm failing them. And I feel like they don't see how much I love them, because I know I'm not expressing it as much as I should be in the food I present to them.
I have to create a lot of recipes to create allergen-free versions of the foods my kids like, so I print a lot of recipes off my computer word-processor. Consequently I have a big sloppy stack of stained, crumpled, disorderly 8-1/2 x 11" sheets which I have to pick through every time I need a recipe. I have some multiples printed, only because I reprinted after being unable to find what I was looking for.
On my fortieth birthday this past November, I received one of the greatest gifts of my life.
My children made me a recipe book. They got a big red binder (my favourite colour!) and a bunch of plastic page-protectors. They searched through about ten years of files on my hard drive and found a selection of food-related photos, which they printed and used to decorate both the binder and the beautiful divider pages they created. And of course they stuck it all together with specially-chosen sparkly duct tape.
Then they carefully sorted all of my many pages into the book, and presented it to me with cards that said they love me, and a coupon for more divider pages or page protectors, whenever I need them. The first picture I saw on the cover of the binder was my 2 and 5-year-old children having a little picnic under a tree. I remember that day so well.
I remember how I helped them put the food together and then left them to go out and picnic on their own, and how proud they felt as they did it themselves. They included photos of their older selves making cookies, of a wedding cake I made, of some special family meals we had...
...and I cried. I sobbed and sobbed as I looked through the book and felt all the stress of not-good-enough just fall away. I felt suddenly like my children saw me. They see how I struggle to be enthusiastic about cooking. They see how much it matters to me to make good food. They see the effort I put into their lives, and mostly they see how much I love them. They see me.
I've already redeemed my coupon once for a section of my Indian recipes. I use my book all the time, and I tell everybody about it. They've seen me cry about the beautiful book on more than one occasion. It is a good and wonderful thing not only to be acknowledged by my children, but for them to see how great is the gift of that acknowledgement.