Making Pizza with Children

The experience of Saturday perfectly illustrates how different my two girls are. A lot of people tell me that raising a boy will be different, and I believe them, but as I mentioned before: raising Flora and Kate has by no means been a cookie cutter experience.

Since I was going out of town, I wanted to have dough for pizzas ready for dinner with my in-laws on Sunday. I figured it was something that the girls and I could do Saturday. There would be plenty of time for me to make the dough, clean up, and head to Erie at a reasonable hour. (I cut the shower time a little close.)

Making dough with Flora

F: “What’s that?”
M: “That’s yeast.”
F: What’s yeast?
M: Yeast helps the dough grow.
F: What’s that? Honey?
M: No, this is olive oil.
F: When do we add more honey?
M: We don’t need to add any more honey. Can you stir it a little more, please?
F: Why does it need honey?
M: Honey is for the yeast. No don’t touch that.
F: Why does the yeast need honey?
M: Because honey helps the yeast make the dough grow. Can you put that down?
F: Why is the flour two different colors?
M: Because one is whole wheat flour.
F: Why is it whole wheat flour?
M: Because mommy likes to use whole wheat flour.
F: Can I stir it?
M: Yes, just —
F: Ooops!
M (exhaling through nose): It’s okay, let’s just — hold on. Okay, never mind. Let’s use our hands to make a ball.
F (plunging hands into dough)
M: Don’t pull it apart, push it together.
F (still pulling dough)
M: Like, hold on, let’s just get it out of the bowl. No, not…
F and I wrestle with the dough — let’s call it kneading — and I finally get it shaped into a ball. I plop it into an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and set the timer for two hours.

Making dough with Kate

M: Okay, first we add water, then the wine. Here’s the yeast. Go ahead and stir.
Kate slowly drags the whisk through the milky liquid, around and around.
M: Here’s the honey. I really like the way you’re stirring that, Kate.
Kate and I watch the whisk. ‘Round and ’round.
Flora takes the silence as an opportunity to say something.
F: When it is my turn?
M: You already had a turn, sweetie.
F: When is it my turn again?
M: You already made your dough. It’s Kate’s turn now.
F: I want another turn!
M: It’s Kate’s turn now.
Flora stomps once, and pouts. When I don’t respond, she wanders over to the kitchen table to occupy herself with some spin art.
I keep adding the ingredients to Kate’s bowl. I help her stir a little faster.
K: Why we stirring faster, mama?
M: We can stir faster now because we’re adding more stuff. Okay, it’s time to add the flour now.
I add the flour, and help Kate stir it into the liquid. She is so focused, so quiet. After a bit, I encourage her to use her hands, but she doesn’t like the stickiness too much. As it gets less sticky, she squeezes it more. I rinse out her bowl so we can put the dough in it to let it rise. She pounds gamely on her lump. Again, call it kneading. We shape the dough into a ball. Kate asks to wash her hands.

I love Flora’s inquisitiveness. I love Kate’s focus. I admire their ways of being in the world — it just strikes me, in instances like this experience of making dough with them, how dissimilar they are. It happens, too, when they bend their heads together over a shared task or book: my brunette, my blonde. How two such different girls came from the same place is wondrous to me. And it makes me want to meet Le Bud even more, to revel in the ways he will be different, too, yet again.