As a mother, I want to teach my child all of the requisite skills that will surely be necessary later in life. Think about what I just said there: all the skills!!! What does that mean? Well, the obvious things such as to crawl, walk, bathe, brush teeth, get dressed, feed himself and ride a bike. But there is so much more to it than that. I have to teach him how to relate to other people, keep the swing going, make Mac and Cheese, be financially responsible, separate laundry, understand the lyrics to a song, right from wrong, the nuances of sarcasm, why we can’t call the police on every speeder on the road, the stove is still hot after you turn it off, you can grow your own vegetables, you can’t grow money, how to appreciate world culture and why the bad guys knocked the buildings down in New York. I can add a million more things to this list, and all of those would only cover one week.
Parenting is challenging, but worth the awkward silence from the guy in the Target checkout line who my son informed that “fuck” isn’t a nice word. The lesson of the week? Working for what you want.
My son is only four, but I don’t believe in treating him like a baby. Sure, he still has his baby blanket and wants to snuggle at bedtime. He can’t use the stove without supervision, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t learn to cook. It may be a few years yet before I relax on the couch and let my son even pour the milk into his cereal without a cautious hand underneath. I still think it is important to teach him these life skills now. So today, he learned how to make Mac and Cheese, one of the staples of his diet. I have a step stool that I keep in the kitchen which stays out due to the frequency with which it is used. I have a rule in my house, I will cook for the family but if you refuse to eat it and want something else, you have to make it yourself.
So, my son pulled out a pot, took it to the sink and filled it (about) halfway with water. While he readjusted the stepstool, I carried it from the sink to the stove. He picked the right knob for the eye and waited for it to boil. Once the bubbles were going strong, he poured the noodles into the pan (after a word of caution about taking the cheese packet out first), learned how to set the kitchen timer for seven minutes. When the timer went off, he raced me back to the kitchen to learn how to strain noodles (a first for him) and then proceeded to measure (again with help) the butter and milk. Then his favorite part, stir and EAT!
I know he is young yet to cook for himself, but I live in a world of “what ifs.” I want to know that if something were to happen to me, my son would have some very basic survival skills. He can make his own cereal, scrambled eggs, soup (if it has a pop top), cheese and pepperoni and now, we are adding Mac and cheese to the list. He helps with laundry (he loves to throw the clothes and Downy ball into the water) and dishes. I know that when he does go off to college, he will be able to separate his clothes correctly. He will know the importance of using hot water to wash/rinse dishes. He will be able to cook for himself. He will even be able to grow a garden of his very own.
I may be thinking too far ahead. After all, my little chef hasn’t even started kindergarten. But, I figure it is never too early to start teaching the values of hard work and what it means to be part of a family. And we are able to spend a lot of quality time together. Win-win I’d say!