March 21st 2013
So I’m living at an altitude of 8,000 feet.. which was just a statistic about Bogota until I got here and couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air.. or walk down the hallway without feeling exhausted, ahaha it sounds so pathetic but it’s true. The second indicator of my location in relation to sea level came when I was assigned to bring a dessert for our Christmas party. I decided on carrot cupcakes.. yum! My aunt makes the best carrot cake so I got her recipe, miraculously found all of the ingredients in the supermarket, and began.
HOURS later after four attempts at modifying the recipe for the altitude all I had were these cupcakes that were black outside, raw inside, and tasted like flour. It was pretty discouraging. I think mostly so because I was confident they would turn out spectacularly, because baking is so simple: if you have a good recipe and you follow it exactly.. you’ll end up with a masterpiece.
There have been other times since I arrived here when I’ve felt that same discouragement, except instead of having to do with oven mitts and vanilla essence, they’ve been about parenting.
My earliest memory is a longing to take care of abandoned children, and right now I’m having a flashback of my eighteen-year-old self sharing my dreams of being a mom with somebody that I used to know, and him saying “I just can’t really see that happening..” I’m remembering me becoming angry, getting out of the car all sassy like and slamming the door while I was at it, but not before saying “I was born to be a mother.” ahaha.. and though I was definitely being a bit of a drama queen, that is my calling: “Madre de multitudes”… “Mother of multitudes.”
Coming to Colombia is something that I knew would be hard, but at the same time.. my attitude was: it’s parenting, I can do this! But the thing is.. just like trying a new dessert recipe was something I thought would be simple, because dude, it’s baking… parenting here is a whole lot different than what I’ve lived before. Which means there are days when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing at all.. and those days are discouraging, a lot like pulling out a failure of a cake that I was certain would be delicious. This is a good challenge, because I’m learning and growing, but it’s not easy.
Everything from the way we discipline to the hour of bedtime to the fact that there are 3 of us working together to raise these children is different to me. Having two other women to work with and to give support to and receive encouragement from is such a blessing, but something I hadn’t anticipated is something obvious: we think differently. We often have different ideas of what snack is a good idea, or how much studying time is necessary, or which activities are too dangerous, or which form of discipline is needed, and there is nothing wrong with this at all… but it does make things a little more complicated. For the first time I’ve realized that when I’m married and am parenting with a husband… we’re probably not always going to have the same ideas about how to handle things with our children! Haha I really had never thought about this, and I’m realizing that tension could easily arise if we’re not in good communication with each other.
Everyone’s house has rules, but because some of Kiwi’s rules aren’t so obvious, I’m still learning some of them. In the meantime… some of the kids know exactly how to take advantage of the fact that I’ll think something is fine for them to do that they know isn’t. Oh that coloring book wasn’t for everyone to share? Oops, my bad. Oh they’re not allowed to play in the car that’s missing a wheel? Sorry, my fault. Oh she wasn’t supposed to use the printer? Yeah.. my bad. Oh.. no soda after six? Whoops. Oh dear, and no water after dinner? I guess that means that bed-wetting would be, you guessed it, my bad. These are all little things that aren’t a big deal, but when they happen all the time… well, I start to feel a little incompetent, doing the thing in which I used to feel most competent. It can be a bit of a bummer, if I’m honest.
So today when Bibiana asked me to make a bunch of cupcakes for a workshop… I remembered the attempted carrot cupcakes and my heart sank. But the cupcakes were needed, the next day a bunch of kids’ parents from this ministry would be gathering to learn more about God and parenting, and the least I could do was try. It turns out you can modify a recipe, quite mathematically, in order to bake in this altitude. The math almost took me longer than the actual baking (not kidding.. ahaha) but I slipped the cupcakes into the oven with some prayers.. and amazingly.. it wasn’t a disaster! Actually.. they taste really good, AND they’re quite adorable. I am thrilled.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like such cause for celebration, but for me… these little chocolate desserts represent so much more than a sweet snack. Because if I can learn to bake beautifully in this altitude… I think that maybe.. I just might be able to learn to parent beautifully here as well.