During the first week of pastry school, we were given our knife kits. I remember standing in one of the teaching kitchens and unpacking the nylon bag like it was a Christmas present. Inside I found just the right spatulas, thermometers, piping tips, and knives (although I still covet the meat fabrication knives that my culinary counterparts received), needed to be a successful pastry student. That kit saw me through school and out into the world as a professional.

Isn’t it nice to feel prepared? To feel like you have all the tools you need at your disposal to do the job well?

Wouldn’t it be nice if parenthood were like that?

Every parent learns a painful lesson—some sooner than others—that they can read all of the books and blogs, take all of the classes, ask all of the questions, and do all of the research on the safest, cheapest and best, and still come up short in the parenting department. No matter how many parenting tools we think we have at our disposal, there comes a time when we have to improvise a solution. Sometimes we borrow ideas from other parents, sometimes we think outside of the toolbox, and sometimes we just make it up as we go along. And all of that is okay. If nothing else, I’ve learned as a mom that I have to use the tools that work for me, and not always what I am “supposed” to use.

To look at my pastry knife kit today, now many years after graduation, it actually looks much different than it did during that first week of class. I’ve added spatulas in sizes that work best for how I ice a cake. Guards carefully protect the blades of my knives. In fact, some of my best pastry tools are not culinary supplies at all; I decorate using items from a home improvement store, frost a cake using something from the sewing department of the craft store, and work with gum paste and fondant with the aid of women’s hosiery. My experience as a pastry chef has taught me to use the tools that work for me, not simply what everyone else is using, or even because they are what someone instructed me to use—a lesson I also try to remember as a mom.

Using the tools that work for us, and I think we're doing pretty well.  Photo credit Gena Golas.

Using the tools that work for us, and I think we’re doing pretty well.                                                       Photo credit Gena Golas.