Holy crap, people are actually getting help from his blog using Google searches on things like “How long to bake a pie shell” and “strand pie weights” (which I might remind you are still useless). With that in mind, I realized that I neglected to mention in my pre-baking post that you should avoid opening the oven door too much or leaving it open for too long when performing relatively time-consuming maneuvers like removing the pie weights or stabbing the dough to dock it. I think it’s fairly well known that the oven temperature drops quite a bit when you open the door, and takes much longer to get back to the desired temperature than it does for it to drop by the same amount. Open the door and hover too much, and your pie could take much longer than anticipated to finish.
This phenomenon reminds me of one special Field Day when I was in elementary school. Back then, Field Day was a fierce battle amongst small children: a teeth-gritting, sinewy, mano-a-mano melee of little kids valiantly trying to crush each other in a variety of sporting events. There was no such thing as winning just for participating. Kids didn’t automatically win a ribbon or a certificate or whatever for showing up. You came in first, second, or third, or you lost in deepest shame and humiliation.
Somehow belying my clumsiness, I’ve been fairly athletic my entire life. But due to that clumsiness, I’ve never been particularly dexterous or agile. As such, I excelled at the track & field type events that didn’t involve racing other people and sucked miserably at anything involving grace or a deft touch. For this particular Field Day, we had time trials a day or so before, ostensibly so we wouldn’t waste much time trying to figure out what it was we were supposed to do for the event the day of. Also so they could order us from slowest to fastest to optimize the competitive drama (oh yes, even the teachers knew it was a fierce battle). We had this one event where the judge timed how fast we ran around all the bases of the softball field. I remember coming in second or third, and the class Mean Girl–we’ll call her Kristi, because that was her name–ended up getting the fastest time in the trials.
Later that day, thanks to my aforementioned clumsiness, I forgot how to walk down steps and stumbled halfway down the staircase, earning me my first of many sprained ankles (in retrospect, volleyball was an abjectly stupid sport for me to pick). I hobbled back to class and miserably noted to my classmates that my Field Day career that year was OVER. It was probably exactly what Nancy Kerrigan felt after her knee got clubbed.
As it turned out though, it was either not that bad a sprain or I had a serious boost of adrenaline because when it was my turn to to run around the bases for the actual Field Day event, I beat Kristi’s time in the time trials. I glowed. I squealed. I beamed. Then I saw Kristi’s vulpine Regina Georgian eyes narrow at me, and she accusingly spat, “I thought you had a sprained ankle.”
“I…I did. I mean I do! But not that bad. I mean it’s bad but…” I spluttered, faltering because I had no idea what response was going to get me in the least amount of trouble with her.
Ultimately it didn’t matter because Kristi just summoned her natural athleticism and crunch-time competitiveness and demolished my time anyway. I had my brief moment of glory though.
As opposed to the soccer ball dribbling event.
You were just supposed to dribble a soccer ball between a series of 10 cones and see how fast you could do it. I remember there being no trials for this event, like it was a one-off afterthought. I also remember that we didn’t do this event as a class, so there was very little dramatic competition to be had. I further remember doing this event with my best friend in elementary school,Vanessa, who didn’t play soccer and yet got an amazing 7+ second time. I told myself, “Well hey. If she can get under 8 seconds and she doesn’t play soccer, this can’t be too hard.” It was neither the first nor the last delusion I would ever sell myself.
Where Vanessa darted and weaved and gracefully tapped at the ball using efficient angles and perfect touches, I waddled and confused my feet for one beefy Trogdor arm and the soccer ball for a thatched-roof cottage intended for burnination. I could dribble neither quickly nor accurately and my touch was dramatically too heavy. I ended up with a thoroughly impressive 22-second time. The teacher judging that event stopped her stopwatch and glanced up at me. She flattened her lips and without much rancor said, “Well, that was pretty terrible.”
I admit, at the time, it stung. But I got over it fairly quickly because the fact of the matter was that it was entirely true. My life up until that moment regularly featured blunt truths like that, bludgeoned by my Tiger Parents. The only way to survive emotionally was to take their criticism for what it was worth and improve upon whatever it was they were criticizing. Could she have kept her thoughts to herself and patted me on the head for bravely putting forth the effort to finish? Possibly. But this was not an astounding effort of Olympic proportions. In my perspective, it was one event for one Field Day, and having done it once, I would either do it better the next time or never have to do it again because maybe they’d pick different events the following year. In the event of the former, I would produce a 16-second time the next time. That would show her.
Now that I have my own children though, I have to be wary of how Clarice and Dr. Lecter approach challenges. I doubt the same approach of brutalizing them with truth bombs repeatedly is very healthy, both for their psyche and our relationship. I agree with Carol Dweck’s thoughts on fostering a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset by praising the effort rather than the outcome, and part of this approach involves letting my children make mistakes and subsequently develop the tenacity to recover from them. Rather than letting them slough off whatever they’re working on with an attitude of, “Oh well, I’m just not good at that,” I want them to learn to ask themselves, “OK, well how do I get better at that?” instead.
By coddling them and telling them, “It’s ok, you did your best” instead of “You tried really hard and I think you should be proud of that,” I inadvertently create an upper limit for them and impose a belief that their current effort is the best they will ever achieve, so why should they expend more effort? Hovering around them and perpetually trying to validate them for failures in actuality only inhibits their growth and keeps them from developing into strong-willed, persistent people who believe in their own abilities. Put another way, I want to instill in them the kind of confidence that helps them decide when to speak up for themselves and others, and when it’s more appropriate to adjust their own reactions instead of policing the behavior of others. It isn’t easy coming from a results-based background where I was grounded if I didn’t get straight A’s but if I’m going to set an example, I’ll have to stare that difficulty in the face and kick it in the teeth.
Ultimately, the lesson here is to quit opening the oven to peek at the pie or pie shell unless there’s good reason to. Otherwise your pie will take forever to finish, sporting contests will stop being fun for the challenge, and you’ll end up being that parent who calls the school saying “Hi, yes, Special Snowflake’s feelings were very hurt when all the things he did wrong were marked in red. Could you stop using that color and say nice things instead and spare him his life from this monstrosity?”
Because I know you want to listen to it now.