Should I Worry?

So, Katie and I have been so excited to select a gingerbread house this year, a house that we could build together, as we have every year since she was old enough to sit upright in her high chair.

We went on a special Mommy and Katie trip to Target to choose a house.  We perused the offerings, a house, a village, a castle.  I was getting so excited that it was bordering on ridiculous.  I left the decision to Katie, who immediately chose a train.  A train, people!

So, I accepted her decision and told myself that I could make it work.  I would help her to make the best gingerbread train in the history of gingerbread trains.

Here’s the photo on the box…

We began our assembly last evening.  I carefully broke apart the premade (yes, premade!) gingerbread pieces and snipped the tip off the premade (yes, premade!) icings.

Then, out of nowhere, Katie asserted herself.  She looked at me and said, “I can do it.”


I was promptly and completely booted to the sidelines.  I was but an observer in this gingerbread extravaganza.

So, I sat back, thinking that she would surely need my help if I just waited it out.

Yeah, not so much.

She figured out how to get the pieces together and we let it sit overnight to harden and planned to decorate it this morning.  As I was falling asleep last night, I was thinking about the photo on the box that I had memorized.  I thought about lining the colors up and ever-so-carefully placing the candies on the train, exactly as the box depicted.

When we returned to the train this morning, Katie turned to me and said, “I can do it.”


Seriously.  She so didn’t need me to guide her.

So, I tried to control myself and gave her the space to figure it all out.  I expected havoc, or at least some plea for help.  I mean, she’s three, so how far could she really get on her own?

The only part she let me do was the icing application.  She told me where she needed it and I squirted and smoothed.  She chose and applied all of the candies and stopped what she was doing only long enough to tell me how much fun she was having and just how much she loved me.  I got six kisses before we were done.

She kept referring to the box, and in an attempt to push her to be more creative, I told her to use her imagination and make her train unique to her, to truly make it her own. I could see myself in her and wanted her to feel more freedom to paint outside the lines than I do.  There was an ache in my chest, a worry that I have somehow limited her.  I lack creativity and I want so badly for her to be different from me in that way.

And here’s what her train looked like when she was finished with it…

And that, my friends, is a better job than I could have done.

She’s three!

And a bit OCD, just like me.

There was a part of me that was so proud that she had observed the train so closely.  But, a bigger part of me was a bit sad that she wasn’t able to reach beyond that, to use her imagination to make the train unique.

Should I have thrown the box away before she could study it?

Should I just embrace that she has inherited my love of order and predictability?

Should I push her outside of her comfort zone?

Should I worry?


  1. Roxane

    Wow! That's WAY better than I could have done! Beautiful.

    And no. Don't worry. Let her be exactly who she is meant to be. Whether it's inside or outside the box, she's yours and she's perfect.

    You are doing a fan-friggin-tastic job.

  2. Nichole

    Thank you, Roxane…so very much.
    This parenting thing is so much more complicated than I ever imagined it would be.
    I want to do what's best for each of my kids…but how do you ever know what that is?
    And yeah, she knocked it out of the park with that train!

  3. She did an amazing job!! It’s amazing how much our kids CAN do on there own when WE let go and allow them to just be. Aiden is constantly amazing me like that. Sometimes I have to breathe and relax and think he is him and I am me, he can be the best or worst of me if I push me on him it will be the worst. I hink you are doing just fine because that train rocks!!

  4. that is amazing. Don't worry about her being creative, she is only three, at this age they often still need to mimic… the ability to create comes with time and it is different for every kid

  5. ahh, first borns…she's the first born, right? My oldest daughter at that age would have done precisely the same thing. My youngest at that age would have been wearing the icing in her hair, have it slapped together somehow, and been inordinately proud of herself. I

    I think you did great allowing her the freedom to copy the box. I'm like you and would have had to sit on my hands and put some tape over my mouth. Parenting is a learning process…mine are now 20 and 22 and I'm not done yet : ) My oldest is still super particular and my youngest is not. They are both wonderful though and its fun to see their different approaches to life.

  6. What exactly is there to worry about? I kept reading this trying to figure out where the title came from. This post tells me you have a bright, independent, self-confident little girl. Which, IMHO, is all kinds of awesome. It is what I aspire to for my own daughter. Relax, Mama! You are doing a great job!

    Oh, and SB totally would have picked the train, too. She has a thing for trains right now. ;)

  7. Cate

    My mom told me recently that when my sister and I were growing up, she was always much more concerned when she saw her own traits in us, than when we developed our own. She never did say what those specific traits were, but I see this in my own daughter. I was a shy child, so I worry about her shyness. I almost never find myself worrying about facets of her personality that differ from mine.

    Katie did a great job on the gingerbread train! It looks wonderful.

  8. Sunshine

    remember – just enjoy the moment – she did it herself!! part of parenting is letting go. rejoice in her independence, regardless of what the end product was!!
    and, no, don't worry. while mine may not copy the box, things need to be in their place. there are skills in copying and skills in being creative. she'll figure out both!!

  9. Nancy MacDonald

    I see a gingerbread masterpiece, a very smart little girl to have figured it all out herself, and a priceless experience between mother and daughter. I don't see any problems :-)

  10. That is better than I could have done! Great job Katie (and mom for letting her take control). I don't think you have anything to worry about AT ALL. I think creativity comes with time. Copying is an important skill for them to learn, too. I think the important thing about creativity is to allow them the opportunity to be creative, which you did. I only think it would have been a problem if you would have forced her to follow the picture LOL!

  11. KLZ

    I'd have something constructive to say but I'm still kind of stunned that she was able to do that mostly on her own. At THREE? I'm still not sure I could do that.

  12. Sherri

    I love how hers turned out! But Nichole, you and I are so much alike….I will always follow the example or the picture to the letter, then get stressed if it's not exactly right. Anal retentive/OCD, call it what you will but it stinks!

    But I have to say that I think parenthood has helped me let go of a lot of that, just as you are finding with Katie and her train. You've already let her go on this project and have seen how happy she felt, so the next time something like this comes up it will be easier (for you!).

    But oh, I feel your pain….really, I do.

  13. She is PERFECT.

    She will become more independent, unique and creative as you encourage her to be so. But at three she's still forming her ideas of how the world works, and will actively seek information that helps her learn.

    What *I* see is a wonderfully uniquely-Katie train. There are kids – especially at age three – who would be in near tears if their train didn't look exactly like the box, because they're development doesn't yet allow for difference and variation.

    She is wonderful (and way talented!) and you are perfect.

  14. Hope

    I think you should be proud of her hand-eye coordination. She did a great job!

  15. Mom

    Very talented like her parents!

  16. ksluiter

    oh Nichole! It is so easy for me to tell you not to worry…but I really think you shouldn't! Even if it turns out that she is not the creative sort…is that so bad? We are all meant to be what we are meant to be and you are helping her find her way. You let her choose the train, remember? That is WAY different than a typical house! And the fact that she wants it to look just right? I think that shows that she has figured out what a train looks like. maybe next year she will add flare to it. Or not. But you are providing her with opportunities for her to find herself! And wow. look at that Katie Train! I love it! Good job, momma!

  17. Jennifer

    Wow that is impressive! Way better than i could do with my limited attention span. Positives… she is 3, can follow directions and understands patterns! It is all good.

  18. Mad Woman

    You are doing an amazing job. I too see an affectionate, attentive, INDEPENDENT THREE year old, with some MAD skills. I know I fear that I will see myself in my child, but if I were Kate, I would SO want to be just like my mommy!
    I know we're hardwired to worry, its our job but take it from your friends who are watching from the outside in, you are rocking the momhood.
    Now come over and rub some of those skills off on me, would you?

  19. Nichole

    Thank you so much…the train really is pretty awesome.
    Yes, it is the breathing and relaxing that I find most challenging about being a mother!

  20. Nichole

    Thank you. She is so proud of it. She had so much fun showing it to her daddy when he got home. She gave a five minute narrative. It was pretty cute.

  21. Nichole

    Yes, she is the first born. She is also the child that has been hovered over her entire life…sadly, I'm one of those helicopter moms.

    Tape is a great idea! I am so getting some super sticky tape to keep on hand! ;)

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

  22. Nichole

    Thank you, Elizabeth…your kind words make me feel so much better.
    Trains have been a hit with Katie for a long time. I should have known that she'd pick that one. :)

  23. CDG

    No worrying about clever, sweet Katie!

    You are a wonderful mother, and it shines through in every interaction I've ever had with you – impressive considering we've never, you know, met. Katie did it the way she wanted to, and if that meant taking a cue from a picture she obviously loved, that's perfect.

    Six kisses. Remember that. Six kisses.

    Also, should she want to get into pastry work down the line? I can hook her up.

  24. Oh how I love this post! My DH worries about our DD because she's very tentative. She's not shy – she just needs time to observe and decide how she wants to jump in. DH is the same way, but he's so introverted and he worries for her that she won't make many friends. But once she warms up, she's a little chatterbox like her mama! I'm so thrilled she's got the balance of our personalities. It's wonderful that you were able to refrain from jumping in. And I'm so impressed that she did such a great job at such a young age! (S is also 3 but I don't imagine she would have done quite such a lovely job.) Great post!

  25. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I'm glad you let her do her own thing. That's fabulous. It came out just the way SHE wanted it, right?

    BTW, have I shown you the pictures of my kids' gingerbread house?

  26. Nichole

    That's such an interesting thought…that we are more aware of/ concerned by the presence of our own treats in our children. I had never really thought about it, but that is so true. Your mother is a wise woman. ;)

    Thanks for the compliment on the train. I really was so stunned that she was able to do that without help. Go figure!

  27. Nichole

    Thank you, Sunshine.
    You are such a calm mother. I could truly learn a lot from you.
    One of the things that we've always known and loved about Katie is that she is super observant. It only makes sense that she would pick up on the tiniest details in the photo and want to recreate them.

  28. Nichole

    Thank you, Nancy.
    When I look at how creative Janelle is, I often wonder if she was always so. Did you see signs of it early on?

    And the experience was indeed priceless. She was blissful and I loved seeing her so joyous. These are the moments that I hope to always remember.

  29. Nichole

    That is better than I could do, too!
    She's such a particular child, with ideas of just how things should go. And while I worry about creativity, I do love that she is focused and meticulous.
    Maybe I just need to find other avenues for creativity.

  30. Nichole

    I know! Seriously, it freaks me out that she did such an amazing job.
    She did stray from the box on the caboose, where she used tiny M&Ms to line the top perimeter. She did, however, make certain that all of the M's were facing up and in the same direction. ;)

  31. 2old2tap

    She did a wonderful job. You have no worries.
    Maybe next year? Instead of a boxed kit, have her design her own.

  32. Mari

    Short answer: No. You should not worry.

    Long answer: One form of learning is imitation, followed by experimentation. Give her another gingerbread train, and my bet would be on her changing it up a bit. I think it's amazing that you listened to her request to do it herself. That's a fabulous trait to encourage as she grows. The fact that you show you trust her will allow her to develop the confidence from achieving something, and each time she does that, she will develop the kid of confidence that comes from tangible accomplishments. Kudos!

  33. Great job, Katie. I am very impressed. I couldn't have done that. I have zero patience for crafts.

  34. Rachel

    OMG!!!!!!!!! That is awesome!!! I have been putting off doing a gingerbread house with Sadie. But maybe she can do it? She will be 4 in Feb. I should let go of my analness and try it!

  35. Alexandra174

    It is wonderful. I'm a lot like your daughter, I do need to see a sample first.

    I'm just like that, it comforts me.

  36. worry? absolutely not. she sounds like a very careful, deliberate and creative young lady with an eye for something tasty!

  37. Nichole

    I totally thought of you when I was writing this post, Sherri. I almost emailed you to ask what you thought.
    Thank you so much for your kind words and reassurance. :)

  38. Nichole

    Thank you, my beautiful friend.
    You always know just what to say to soothe me.
    How exactly is it that you do that? Magic?

  39. Nichole

    I really am so proud of her. :)

  40. Nichole

    Thank you, Mom. But you'd say that anyway! ;)

  41. Nichole

    Thank you, my wise friend.
    You're so right, though. Creativity isn't paramount. There are so many other lovely, priceless traits that she already has that make her unique and wonderful.
    I had to giggle when you said that maybe she'd add flare next year…all I could picture were flames on the sides of the engine. Hee hee.

  42. Nichole

    Thanks, Jennifer.
    Looking back on this, perhaps I was seeing the glass as half empty.

  43. Nichole

    You have no idea how much your compliments mean to me. It is so tough to be on the inside…sometimes I feel like I lack perspective. (I would tell you the same thing…you have no idea what a great job *you're* doing.)
    I'm still convinced that parenting should come with a manual. ;)

  44. Nichole

    Yes, now that a few days have passed, all I can think of are those six magical kisses.
    Happy sighs.

    Pastry work = college money? ;)

  45. Nichole

    Thank you, Jennifer.
    Our Katie is a bit reserved when she meets new people, but she also warms up fairly quickly and then is your new best friend.
    I would bet that your little one would have done a great job too!

  46. Nichole

    Yes, exactly the way she wanted it.
    You've no idea just how much restraint it required for me to hang back and give her some space.
    Next year I'm buying two. ;)
    I haven't seen those photos…send them my way!

  47. Nichole

    Thank you, Renee.
    Your plan requires baking. Can you come over and help with that? ;)

  48. Nichole

    I'm going to need your phone number, because in one paragraph, you have allayed all of my fears.
    In fact, I may have to put you on speed dial.
    Thank you…

  49. Nichole

    Thank you, Tonya.
    She rocked the train, didn't she?

  50. Nichole

    Letting go of that analness is soooo difficult!
    Sadie can totally do it!

  51. Nichole

    Thank you so much.
    I love the sample. It feels safe and comforting, just as you described it.

  52. Nichole

    It does look tasty doesn't it? I wonder if she'd notice if I ate the Spree candies off?

  53. ~*Jess*~

    It's beautiful!

  54. Law Momma

    Cracks me up that your 3 year old was better able to create a gingerbread anything than I am!

  55. Lyndsey

    SHE is perfect!!!!!!! Stop worrying Nichole and enjoy the beautiful girl she is….oh and by the way she does love her order but it's who she was from the start! That is the best train I have ever seen! Max saw the same one at Target and now I think we are going to have to make a second gingerbread decoration! Happy Holidays to the best family and mother ever! By the way your Xmas card is breath taking!

  56. Lyndsey

    So we got a train also. Manny helped and it for sure didn't look like the box! I'm now really impressed with Katie. I think she has a future in design or architecture!

Add a comment

(required, won’t be displayed)

About this post