Sunday, December 9, 2012

Risking Joy, and Cornmeal Lime Cookies

I have, for as long as I can remember, been a type-A control freak.  This will come as no surprise to those of you who know me in real life, and to be honest, it's served me well academically and professionally.  But it's also been something of a liability in parenting; if there's one thing having children proves to me, again and again, is that I can't always be in control, and sometimes that's OK.

The other day, at a park playdate with a friend, I was on the "big girl" swing with N. sitting on my lap, letting go of her just enough so that she could experience the adrenaline rush of a brief freefall, pumping us both high enough so that after she got past the initial uncertainty, her squeals were near-continuous.  As we swung into the icy breeze, I couldn't help but notice how the other mother hovered over her child, who was swinging just imperceptibly next to us, and swooped down when her small lip quivered with uncertainty, picked her up and pressed her to her chest.

There's no rulebook for potential parents, of course.  Parenting styles are as varied as the individuals who parent, no matter what path we take to achieve that role.  We know our children best, and sometimes we can avert disaster by being attentive, by responding to comfort them before they even know they need comforting.  My friend is a fabulous parent: smart, caring, nurturing, encouraging.  But I was also struck by the thought that as parents, especially as parents who have experienced loss, we have to make a deliberate choice to risk joy, and that joy sometimes requires letting go.

And then I thought, well, maybe that applies to everyone.  If you've ever known loss, it becomes hard to trust again.  Joy is a risk.  It's a risk because you might connect to something that will be taken from you, or you might never find joy at all.  But there must be something about being human that drives us to take the risk again and again, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Last week, on one unseasonably warm day, I decided to take N. for a walk before we met I. at the bus.  We locked the door and picked our way down the steps as toddlers do, and when she hit the sidewalk, N. began to run.  And run.  "RUNNNNNNNNNNNN," she chanted, punctuating her footfalls with "NNN...NNN...NNN," only to rev herself up and do it all over again, occasionally turning around and saying "Mommy's turn?"--encouraging me to run, too.  I decided to follow her, just to see where she went.  When we got to a street, I asked her to hold my hand to cross, but otherwise, I made sure she was the one in the lead.  I don't know if it was the weather, or if she loved being in front, or some of both, but she ran that way, "RUNNNNN .... RUNNNNNNNNN!" for the better part of a mile, to downtown.

I felt lucky to witness that exuberance, to be part of it.  And really, that kind of joy is worth the risk, isn't it?

Cornmeal Lime Cookies
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 
These cookies are an unexpected combination, a bit of a risk on your holiday cookie plate.  But totally worth it.

3/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 c. flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
2 t. finely shredded lime peel
1/2 t. vanilla

In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds.  Add powdered sugar and salt, and beat well to combine.  Beat in flour, cornmeal, lime peel, and vanilla.  Cover and chill at least one hour, and preferably longer.

Preheat oven to 350.  Roll dough 1/4" thick; using a 2" cookie cutter, cut dough into shapes and place onto a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Decorate with sugar if desired, and bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.
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  1. They look so crumbly and delish! I like the combo.

  2. This is so funny - I was pondering the dichotomy of joy AND loss yesterday on my long run. Not even kidding. There will be a blog post about it later this week, I promise. :)

    Yes, joy is a risk, but it's well worth it if you can let yourself go to experience it. I agree.

    And I am SO excited about this cookie recipe too. Lucky is allergic to eggs, so I am ALWAYS looking for good cookie recipes without egg. I am definitely going to make a batch next week.


  3. I too am a control freak, type A personality and parenting has definitely required I let go a bit. I still need to be reminded of this though and I've been thinking lately as we begin the process of looking at another FET in the near future that hopefully a second child would help me learn to give up a bit more control as well.
    I agree choosing joy after loss is definitely a risk but thankfully it's an option. As usual, beautiful post...thoughts & love to your family

  4. Those look yummy.

    Love this post. It's a great reminder for me, especially this week.

  5. very true joy is a risk and we all manage risks differently. Thanks for the reminder to let go occasionally.
    Take care

  6. Boyfriend and I are the worst kinda parents so we can be overly type A (no junk food, no negotiations) and then turn around and say encourage some sort of dangerous display of independence. I'm sure folks shave their heads as they walk away from us haha. Love everything lime!

  7. A lovely post with a message I needed to hear today. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Your stories about your daughter, and encouraging joy, brought back some sweet memories. I remember walking to school with my youngest when she was quite small. She was holding my hand, running along the curb. And every time the curb ended (for a driveway), she yelled "Skateboard!" and jumped into the air. Except she couldn't pronounce her s's yet, so it came out as "Gateboard!" She's now 15, so she hasn't done that in a while, but on occasion she will still hold my hand.

  9. What a lovely story, and some stunning cookies to go along with it. As our children get older and move on with their adult lives, we parents have the joy of our children sometimes reaching out to take our hands, literally or figuratively, because no matter what, we're still Mom or Dad.

  10. i love this post.. and i can't wait to make these cookies :)

  11. the post and the cookie recipe - two things I needed today!


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