When I was in seventh grade, my mom enrolled in a full time MBA program in addition to her job in management where she routinely worked what seemed like 60 hours a week. My dad had recently started his own business and put most of his time into ensuring its early success. That left my brother, a year older, and I to fend for ourselves and to take care of many home duties for our family. Our lives, however, were full of privileges, so these small chores were not too much to expect nor any more than we should have already been doing.
One role we played was weekday dinner chefs. After weeks of tacos and mac and cheese, our parents declared no more. My brother and I dove into cookbooks and drew on our years of experience watching our dad, a master in the kitchen, to create more interesting and edible meals. By ninth grade we were both coming up with our own dishes and by the end of high school, it was second nature to cook for family and friends.
I missed my parents in the hours they devoted to their work and studies, but I am ever grateful for the time in the kitchen with my brother and my parents. I’m at home in the kitchen and not afraid to take on a complicated recipe or admit defeat after a fail. My own children have been wielding kitchen knives and making messes with me since they could safely sit on our kitchen counters.
Yet, with all this experience, I have had a hard time turning over my pans (and never my beautiful Kitchen-Aid mixer or beloved Vitamix) and counters to my children. We are chopping, stirring and cooking all the time, but I can’t seem to let them wear the head chef’s hats without hesitation.
Tonight was a typical night for a typical family. Kids had after school activities, mom had after school meeting, dad is out of town, dog needs walking, and sports practices for all in the evening. There was no way I could make it home from my meeting and make dinner for my youngest and get him to practice on time. So, I did what I should have done years ago.
“Do you want to make your own dinner before I come home?”
“YES! Is mac and cheese okay?”
Oh dear Lord, no appliances involved, please. “Um sure.”
“Mom, we’ve done it tons of times.”
“Yes, of course. I trust you.”
My meeting ended at 4:40, ten minutes past when I was supposed to be on my way home. I called the kids to let them know I’d be late. “Mom, we’re just about to drain the noodles. See you when you’re home.” Click.
Ahhhhh, my babies draining boiling hot noodles without me? It took everything in me not to speed the short three miles home.
And, thank goodness I didn’t. Because if I had, I’d have missed this serene scene, as I walked through the door. My children at the table, no burns, eating their mac and cheese. A plate of cut veggies and hummus in the middle of the table and a salad and glass of water sitting at my place.
Was it exactly how I would have done it? No way. It was so much better. I’m so proud of their messy endeavors and vow to let them do it more often. It was a gift my parents gave me, and I owe the same to my own two mac and cheese lovers.