In some universes, Stiles’ mother was fond of magic or prophecies or child abuse or knitting. In this one, she likes baking.
She started with an Easy-Bake oven when she was five, which she kept with her even after she’d graduated to real ovens, and that toy stayed with her through three cars, five moves, and six failed relationships. When the frame finally cracked beyond the ability of duct tape to patch, thanks to John’s buddies being a little rough with their last move, she’d smiled gently through John’s endless apologies. And then she’d gone into the bathroom and had a little crying fit.
She bakes every weekend, so that Stiles’ first waking moments were filled with the smell of yeast and flour and browning dough. He used to play with (clean) wooden spoons and plastic measuring cups, and when he was old enough (terrifyingly young), he held the bowl still for her while she stirred or kneaded. A little after that, once she’d gotten used to the idea that her son was a tiny, babbling genius who was going to learn anyway, she started teaching him math using baking ratios and cooking timers.
So when Claudia brings in the Easy-Bake oven, it’s already a little juvenile for Stiles. But he’s still a little small to carry hot trays and heavy ceramic mixing bowls by himself, and she knows by now that his smarts don’t extend to figuring out how to keep himself safe. And well, she got a little nostalgic, seeing the boxes in the toy aisle.
“Kids at school are going to tease him,” John observes, watching her rip off the tape and lift out the oven.
It’s a lot pinker than she remembers, she’ll admit. But Claudia’s never been one to stay within the lines other people draw, and she can already see that in Stiles. “Well, you’re going to make sure he knows how to deal with that, aren’t you?” she says.
She glances at him and John silently raises his coffee mug, both conceding and promising, and she smiles as she turns back. Her husband, he’s a good man. A pragmatist, but he’s never going to let that stop him from trying to make the world better.
Stiles is immediately fascinated by the Easy-Bake, and they end up baking his first batch right there on the living room floor. “It’s done!” he says gleefully, poking at the tiny pan. “It’s magic!”
“Good job,” Claudia says. She kisses his temple and pulls his hand away from the hot little light at the back of the oven. “And yes, it is, Stiles. You remember that. Because a lot of people are going to tell you different, but baking is magic. And as long as you can bake, you’ll be all right.”
What Claudia really means is (thinking of the woman at work who just that morning sneered at her for eating a delicious homemade croissant instead of carrot sticks), don’t let people talk you out of what you love just for fads. Things are only as bad as you let them get, and you shouldn’t let your mistakes get mixed up with what you love.
As it turns out, she’s not too far off. But she’s not exactly on point either.