God help me, I wish I’d never started that pie.
If I hadn’t been convinced my worth could be found and sifted together with flour and sugar, I might have avoided breaking my pie plate and my son’s heart.
One day back in those early years, I decided a pie was the ultimate way to prove my legitimacy as a wife and mama. My 4-year-old son wanted to help me with it. He loved helping me with everything. His little hands planted themselves on the pages of my open cookbook, his sweet head with its cloud of curls moving back and forth, looking at the recipe and glossy picture. Silently, he moved around the small kitchen table we’d inherited from Grammee and Grampee, picking things up and laying them back in place reverently—the rolling pin, the pastry blender, a spatula.
In theory, I loved his desire to help. On the other hand, if it meant an extra-messy kitchen, “help” gave me hives.
That pie was beautiful in its pan. Cinnamony apples peeked through strips of pie dough woven together in a crisscross pattern and bound with crimped edges. My son was beautiful too. I still see his big eyes in that sweet face with the kitchen window framing the pretty fall day behind him when he asked, “Can I put it in the oven, Mama?”
I tried to make him understand: The pie was heavy. The oven was hot.
He lifted the glass pan. His sweet little hands gripped the sides cautiously. Suddenly, it was on the floor—shards of glass, cored and sliced Granny Smith apples, brown sugar, and ruined pastry lattice mired together in one heaping wreck.
The big, brown eyes of my son looked up at me—looking for love and understanding, wanting to feel safe. All I could see was my carefully crafted ego lying there, shattered on the floor.
I lost it.
I did not kneel down and comfort my son. I yelled and broke his heart into pieces too.
I believe that event still affects him to this day, especially the way he perceives his intelligence, gifts, and interactions. I think this is where a lot of the voices in his head came from—the ones that make “I’m sorry” burst forth from his lips so often.
The opportunity I missed with my son still haunts me—waking me up in the wee hours to mourn.
I tried to treat my emotional issues like ingredients that could be baked and made palatable. In the cracked glass dish of my soul, I brought to marriage and motherhood lies, violence, omissions, and misunderstandings. As much as I tried to hide it, the distorted ways I perceived the world came oozing through my perfectly crimped crust.
Back then, a great apple pie represented my wifehood. I wanted legitimacy at any cost—so badly I could taste it. I thought “it” was about pie. I poured my identity into it along with the lemon juice and sugar and cinnamon, and I bowed to it as an idol. No amount of apples or butter can tell me who I am or who God calls me to be for my family. These days, I rely on the Bible for identity and parenting recipes.
I wish I could share a story of redemption, the kind beginning with a heartwarming anecdote: A couple of years later, when faced with another, similar situation, I handled it so much better by… I can’t. Mistakes and redemption don’t always come in equal ratios. Only God can unwind some of the trauma we impose on those we love most.
What I can say is my mentality has been redeemed: I am not a perfect apple pie; I am a child of the heavenly Father and have been blessed by Him with these children. In His eternal sight, all of us—my children and me—are worth more than any cooked or crushed apple pie.
Jay Jones is a writer, a mama, and an audio editor for Kindred Mom. God has changed each goal Jay has ever had, chiefly those concerning her relationships and writing. If it is part of her life, she wants it to please Him. Self-taught in many ways, she is always looking to make connections and find ways to improve her brain, her blog, and her brood (ages 2 to 13 years). Married since 2004 to her husband, Taylor, she’s been tied to her college sweetheart for nearly a quarter-century. Together, they raise their 4 children in the Chicago suburbs, where they enjoy pursuing creativity in the midst of the daily grind. Whether it’s writing screenplays, gardening, or gaming, Jay’s family is usually cultivating something. As a mama to both teens and toddlers, Jay is passionate about instilling deep, identity-forming truths in her children. Her other interests include: encouraging others, reading when she can, and learning what she can about where the mind-brain-body-reality intersects with Biblical perspective. You can find some of her musings on her blog and on Instagram.