It was recently my daughters birthday. She turned 9. Birthdays should be a happy time, spent with friends and family. But the truth is, that we are struggling with her anxiety. It seems to be getting worse and worse. Occasions like Birthdays, unfortunately have become a source of anxiety rather than celebration. I hadn't realised the extent to which she was feeling this and went ahead and invited a few neighbourhood friends around for cake after school.
When I told my daughter the plan, she proceeded to have a complete meltdown, she was petrified. The poor girl didn't even know where these feelings were coming from. She knew that the appropriate response should be excitement, but instead all she felt was dread and anger. Anger at me for putting her in that situation and anger at herself for feeling this way.
It has taken me a while to understand these responses. Once upon a time, if I'm honest, I would have got angry at her, because sometimes it seems as if she is being ungrateful, or trying to be difficult. But slowly I am able to understand that a lot of the behaviour we have struggled with in the past has its roots firmly buried in anxiety.
Things like not getting ready for school when I ask her repeatedly. Not wanting to participate in sports or school productions. Never wanting to dress up, lest she be "noticed". Difficulty getting to sleep and sleeping alone. Inability to be flexible and major tantrums if plans change. All these behaviours can be viewed as naughty or difficult but actually stem from underlying anxiety.
So why is it that so many children are struggling with anxiety and even depression?
There is never one reason, but many. I have been focused on what we have been eating and the physical health of myself and my children, but now I am facing up to what I knew deep down, that there is some major mindset work to be done as well.
How do we change our thought patterns? And how on earth do we change the thought patterns of our children, who appear to be born with a negative mindset? Sometimes it seems that my daughter came into this world scared and insecure. No matter how much love, time and reassurance I give her, it never quite seems to be enough to sustain her. It is draining.
Now that I have woken up to the reality of what is before me, I am seeking help in this area and I'll let you know how I get on.
I'm sure our children are sent to us to teach us what we need to learn in this lifetime, so I am going to try and learn my lessons this time round.
She had a lovely Birthday, despite the initial anxiety and it was a beautiful cake, filled with so much love that I'm sure, even had it not succeeded, it would have tasted gorgeous anyway. I'd love to share the recipe with you. I used good old prunes to add sweetness. Filled with nutrients and fibre they are a great substitute for white sugar. It is gluten free and you can make it dairy free as well if need be.
This cake is quite dense and fudge-like, similar to the constancy of a brownie.
This is a dense rich cake with a moist "brownie" like consistency.
Chocolate and Prune Cake
180g/1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup cocoa powder
125g butter, coconut oil or ghee
1/2 cup coconut sugar
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup almond meal
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk (dairy, almond or coconut)
Preheat the oven to175ºC. Grease and line a spring form cake tin with baking paper.
1. Soak the prunes in hot water for 5-10 minutes.
2. Drain, add to a food processor and process on high, until smooth.
3. Add the cocoa powder and process until fully mixed.
4. Add the butter and sugar, process until smooth. Scrape down the sides if need be.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
6. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl.
7. Sift over the almond meal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
8. Fold together and add the milk.
9. Pour into a lined cake tin, flatten the top with a spatula and bake at 180ºC for 30-40 minutes.
Once cooled you can cut in half carefully and fill with...
200 g mascarpone cheese
200 g coconut cream
2 tablespoons of maple syrup and
1 teaspoon vanilla.
100g Good quality dark chocolate in pieces
1/4 cup cream or coconut cream
2 tsp butter or coconut oil
Place all the ingredients into a bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.
Stir gently until melted together.
Cool a little before spreading over the top of the completely cooled cake.
Decorate with berries, flowers and raspberry powder.