a moment of awful parenting, and a recipe: mexican chocolate shortbread cookies

In a moment of brilliant motherhood earlier this week, I threatened to cancel my son’s seventh birthday.

I said this to him as I walked him and his sister into school on Tuesday morning. He likes me to walk him in, and I know this well. But that morning, I couldn’t find parking spot on my first drive through the school’s parking lot. Or on the second. By the third pass, as I slowed every 90 seconds to allow moms and dads and their backpack-laden children to cross the parking lot, I could hear my pulse pounding in my ears. I was growing ever more frustrated and annoyed. My limit had been reached.

“We’re doing drop off today, guys,” I said, with finality.

I had suggested doing drop off on parking lot lap number one. On lap two, I threatened it. On lap three, my hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, and I unclenched my jaws briefly enough to declare that we were doing drop off, and THAT was THAT.

Once during last school year, when Oliver was in kindergarten, I dropped the kids off at the drop off line, rather than walking them in. It was raining hard that day, and I didn’t want to get wet. He refused to get out of the car and immediately burst into tears. After I forced him out of my car, he was so distraught that he just stood there on the sidewalk, sobbing, seemingly paralyzed with anguish. A couple of teachers rushed over to him and held his shoulders gently. I drove off, wanting to move on so the parents in the minivans behind me could drop their own (happier) children off. I felt like a complete jerk. But I hadn’t gotten wet. There was that.

So on this past Tuesday morning, after proclaiming my plans to do drop off, I glared at Oliver in the back seat. His eyes were already watering and his lower lip quivered as he struggled to hold back the tears.

And so I caved. I circled the lot again, fuming. I was furious with Oliver for not letting me get my way with this. It was his fault that I would be late to work. When my patients had to wait on me, he was to blame. I was angry with him for insisting that I walk with him. Why couldn’t he be like the other kids, the ones who love getting dropped off? I finally found a far spot in the corner of the lot, farthest from the school entry, and I hurried them out of the minivan.

As we walked to the school, I declared that Oliver would not be having a birthday cake for his birthday, and, in fact, I thought it best if we just cancelled the ENTIRE THING.

He looked up at me, his vivid blue eyes solemn, and he nodded.

At that moment, my heart sank. What was I doing?

I was being mean and spiteful. I had threatened to do something that I never had any intention of following through on. My behavior was atrocious, perfectly hateful. Instead of cherishing the fact that my son wants me to walk with him, to hold his hand on the way to his classroom, I let the fact that I was being inconvenienced take over my emotions.

I was being an awful mother.

I’ve thought of little else since then.

And now I’m in New Orleans for work, and I still feel terrible about what I did. I return home on Friday, the day of Oliver’s birthday. I will pick up that cake from Publix on my way home from the airport. We will have a family dinner together – he’ll get to choose what we have – and then he’ll open his presents. We’ll celebrate with slices of marbled vanilla-and-chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

Mostly, I’ll seek out every opportunity to hug him tightly. And I’ll promise to do better next time.

*   *   *   *   *

I baked these cookies last weekend, much to the delight of the kids. They made a wonderful lunchbox treat, and I’ve been asked to make them again.

Chances are, I will. They make a pretty good “I’m sorry” cookie.

Mexican Chocolate Shortbread Cookies


1-1/2 cup (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (55 grams) unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch chili powder (optional)
1/2 pound (2 sticks; 227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar


Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and chili powder (if using) in a small bowl.

Using the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat until pale in color, about 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated and the dough sticks together with fingers.

Dump the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper and press into a log of about 12 inches in length. Roll up in the wax paper and chill for at least one hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in middle position.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove wax paper from dough and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Bake in a single layer until firm, about 22 to 24 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 weeks.