“Dad, wake up! Time to get up!” I woke up with a little hand shaking my shoulder. “I’m hungry for pancakes,” said my five-year-old son. “I want a stack of pancakes!” My son has had another one of his growth spurts. Usually he asks for a pancake, but this time it’s a “stack.”
I stumbled into the kitchen, ground up some fresh coffee beans, filled the chamber of the coffeemaker with water, and put in an aromatic drip. I mixed some dry ingredients with water, added a mashed ripe banana, and a little vanilla. Within minutes I had several pancakes ready and an anxious son at the table. When I flipped a couple on his plate, he said, “I can cut them myself, Dad.” He seemed very proud of his effort for a new independence as he picked up his knife and fork and began to cut. He paused, thought for a moment, and then said, “I really can’t do it with two pancakes.”
I finished cutting his pancakes for him and sat down to enjoy my coffee while he ate. I was getting ready to write my (almost) daily blog post, and as I’m always looking for inspiration, I knew there had to be a story and analogy here in the morning pancake stack somewhere. Several things started to come to mind, so I sat down with my laptop while my son was eating and the following principles came to mind. Call them “The Pancake Principles” if you like, but be amazed at how we can really learn some important life lessons from a stack of pancakes!
When it comes to pancake stacks, our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs. My son could only eat half of the pile. He really wanted all that pile, but when it came down to that, he really couldn’t finish what he started. When it comes to life and what I want to achieve, I generally want to digest more than I can handle. I often think I have more time than I actually have, enough money when it will cost me more, or more energy than I can sustain for a marathon project. If I keep doing that, I will never reach the goal. The side effect of that is a feeling of failure. I have this “I never achieve anything” feeling.
I am learning to break my goals down into smaller pieces so that goals can be achieved successfully. I used to work on bigger tasks and was overwhelmed when all the smaller parts involved exploded in my face. I called them obstacles because they were holding me back. Now when I analyze things and think about the parts, I can see those “obstacles” as elements of the project and I can plan them. When I do this, things go much calmer and no indigestion!
Instant is not always the best. In pancake mixes, the “just add water” type are usually easy to make, but never taste as good as the “made from scratch” type in which fluffy egg whites are added, real buttermilk is added , etc. How often do I choose ready-made solutions in life and relationships instead of taking the extra time to design and tailor things to meet the exact needs of my co-workers, my family, and myself in my personal life? I’m learning to slow down and take the extra time to pay attention to detail, so I get a sense of satisfaction knowing that I’ve gone the extra mile. This sends the message to my family, friends and colleagues that they are important and that everyone ends up being a winner!
If you’re concerned, the pancakes can burn. How many times did I make my son the first pancake and then pour the batter for the next into the hot skillet, only to get caught in his butter, syrup, cut, and pour the milk? Amid the distraction, I smell something starting to burn and find the first side of my chocolate brown pancake. I worry at work and things can stay on the burner too long and start to burn. I can think of a project at home, trying to work it out in my mind until it is perfect and is never put into practice, or takes too long. If we stray from the path of goals, focusing on the secondary things (or striving for an unattainable standard of perfection) can cause the main things to start to “burn in the pan.” Let’s try to stop getting caught in that cycle.
Pancakes taste best when you add fun things to the batter. I like to add applesauce to my batter. Sometimes I add a very ripe banana, a little vanilla and salt. I personally don’t mind, but some people like chocolate chips in theirs. My wife has a waffle recipe that has part of a can of pumpkin and pumpkin pie seasoning. It is very satisfying. At some point, try to live life the way you would make some pancakes. What could you do in a relationship or task that would be equivalent to adding chopped pecans to banana pancakes or peach and walnut chunks to buttermilk pancakes? I saw a recipe for New Orleans style praline pancakes the other day that would carry over into an interesting work ethic or relationship building with a spouse or children! The sky is the limit and I guarantee that everything will be much more fun.
When it comes to cutting piles, kids may think they can, but they need guidance to learn how to do it. I was glad to see that my son had the confidence to try and cut his own food. Do you know how long we have been cutting their food into small pieces? This was a milestone for me! But when he said he really couldn’t make it with two pancakes, it should have helped him. Instead, I took the utensils and did it for him. I had the confidence to try, but I didn’t follow up. It was quicker to do it for him. If possible, we need to help our kids (and adults for that matter) “cut the pancake stack” instead of doing it for them because it’s faster. I have been more aware that time is a good that children tend to have a lot of. Why not allow them to use it by doing something for themselves, even if we have to endure watching it take 5 times longer than it would take us to do it?
Ok, I could go on, but I’ll stop. I think you get the point. Hope your next lazy Saturday morning is a good one. Take time to reflect on relationships with your children, coworkers, partner, and friends. Find out where you meet these “pancake principles.” And while you’re at it, come up with an exotic pancake combo and share it with someone special.