We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

Peaceful coexistence through soda-bread

Bulls and China shopThe boys limbered up with mild conflict. You know, the usual: he said … no I didn’t … he pushed me … I hate you … sort of stuff, accompanied by the occasional bustle of physical engagement.

And there I stood, ready to go. My ingredients lined up, scales at the ready. The lads came through, one nine and the other a big six, just as well I’d positioned myself in the middle.

To conflict or not to conflict?

A year or so back the boys and I started a conversation about cooperation. This happened during an escalating conflict over who got to do what with a domino tipping project: where you line them up in interesting shapes and tip them over.

I persuaded them to cooperate, full of praise when they achieved harmony and a great result.

I reminded them about cooperation and how we couldn’t do our baking without it. ‘You sure you want to make soda-bread?’ The bellowed ‘yeses’ overwhelmed. You sure? ‘I don’t want to interrupt your conflict.’ My eyes bulged with feisty challenge. Uncomfortable mischievous shuffles of feet, pleading eyes and smirks rewarded me. ‘Okay then. Go wash your hands.’

The rush to the washroom thundered like a heard of stampeding Wildebeest on the Serengeti. ‘Make sure your hands are really dry.’ Dryness is achievable (I’ve given up on total cleanliness although towels seem to do a pretty good job of rubbing muck off).

First the dry-mix

The first part involved measuring out the dry ingredients. My job: to show how it was done. My youngest grandson got to do the dry mixing: attentive, engaged and happy. He achieved the best dry-mix ever made in the history of humankind.

The rub

The interest remained as my task came up—rub in the butter. We all agreed it looked pretty boring and, I suppose, that’s what granddads are for. The butter was a bit cold and the task took longer than expected. Still, they were engaged and talking (not always politely) about my technique. Fifteen minutes in and they’re experts … I ask you.

Then the wet

In with the butter milk, and a truly happy older boy enjoyed squidging (our term for squeezing and working) the gloopy mix. His sibling watched. I could see envy and his, my-turn, demand to squidge next time. Scraping the mix from his fingers provided an opportunity for some hilarity.

You may, dear reader, criticise me for not using a fork to speed up the mixing … that isn’t the point, of course.

Bake away

We divided the mixture between two cake tins and, hey presto, an hour later we were slicing hot soda-bread and buttering it. Yum. And a loaf for mum.

Downside?

As the tins rattled into the oven my helpers vanished. Guess who landed the cleaning up? I didn’t make anything of it because …

Upside

They forgot about fighting over things and settled into a comfortable way of playing and being together for quite a while. And that, my friends, offers a moral to my story:

cooperative kids can live in peace and harmony for tens of minutes after doing something useful together (snooze time for granddads)

Might such cooperation work for politicians?

by Mac Logan
©

Want the recipe for a Scots/Irish soda-bread? Contact me.