March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
So we recently had a conundrum in our family:
My family likes to eat delicious meals. I don’t like to cook.
As I explained to my husband, the source of my aversion to cooking is the perfect storm of:
1) I don’t enjoy cooking. Perhaps I might if it was by preferred choice and only on occasion when I was feeling adventurous. But the tedious obligation of preparing something new every night makes me want to run for the hills. My inner psychologist tells me my aversion stems from my formative years watching a working mother juggle family meals with a busy work day, but you can’t blame your mother for everything, right?
2) I am not especially good at it. I seem to have misplaced that element of my DNA that naturally inclines me to blend spices and to intuitively know proper temperatures and cooking times. My grandmother has it. My mother has it. Where is the research proving that trait skips every third generation?
3) I can rarely please everyone. The feedback is hardly inspiring when someone is always complaining about what I have produced. The odds simply don’t fall in my favour with a family of six, four of which are children with oscillating preferences. It’s a miracle I can keep all their favourite foods straight, let alone keep track of them when they take a sharp turn: “You used to love tuna melts, what happened?”
So those are my excuses explanations.
Anyways, back to the conundrum. Recently all of this came bubbling to the surface, resulting in a family meeting and a new system for supper delivery. My husband stated in an I-don’t-know-why-its-so-difficult sort of tone, that he and his siblings used to take turns cooking dinner, each one having their designated night to cook. Eureka!
I quickly began the math. Seven nights in a week: One for each kid, one for Dad, one for Mom, and one for eating out.
<cue the operatic hallelujah and heavenly spotlight>
The kids were thrilled. “We get to choose and make supper?!”. The only ground rules were that it needs to be reasonably healthy, and the supper choices need to be made on Sunday nights so I only have to grocery shop once per week.
And so it began.
Night one: my 5 year old chose spaghetti. Fairly straightforward, even went quite smoothly! Daddy was at work late but he prefers low carb meals anyway, so everyone was happy.
Night two: my 7 year old chose shepherd’s pie. A little more work for mom supervising, but many teachable moments and maternal visions of his future wife thanking me for showing him how to cook.
Night three: my 12 year old chooses his favourite, chocolate chip banana pancakes. And the waters start to get rocky. Healthy choice? Mmm, pushing the envelope. Also,his brother has given up chocolate for Lent and refuses any other flavour of pancake. The situation is precarious in its precedent-setting potential. Are we allowed to opt-out if we don’t like what is served for supper? So the negotiations begin and we are able to stabilize the rocking boat, landing on a non-chocolate chip option for his brother and adding a third clause to the ground rules that there is no opting-out of dinner: you eat what is served.
Night four: my 10 year old chooses panzerottis. Again, a little higher supervision requirement than what I was hoping for, but balanced by own gastro-inclinations (I love panzerotti).
Night five: my husband makes grilled cheese for part of our group, while I enjoy pizza with my eldest during his birthday party (fair enough, I thought, given that I also put together fruit and veggie trays for the party)
Night Six: I prepare chicken legs and vegetables. While it was not greeted with the same enthusiasm as chocolate chip pancakes or panzerottis, there was minimal griping.
Night seven: leftovers.
Not bad for our inaugural week, but as we head into week two, the boat has started rocking again.
Tonight my 5 year old selected omelettes, which is only favourable to ¼ of the kids. Can you guess which one? She took the blows all in stride as her siblings griped and complained about having to eat omelettes, desperately suggesting any other alternative they could come up with to avoid having to eat what was on their plates.
As I began to defend her to her siblings and encourage them towards kindness in their comments about her efforts, I realize that she is skipping away from the table unscathed, content with her newly mastered culinary skills, and her full belly.
And she has delivered her own teachable moment. To me.
March 2, 2015 § 1 Comment
“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” – Clara Ortega
Today the little girl who lives next door to us asked me why we stopped at four children and didn’t have more. A little disarming coming from a 9 year old “only child”, and surrounded by my kids, sure made me think before I answered. I had fleeting flashbacks to points between my pregnancies when people would ask if we planned to have more children (such an intimate question but no one really gets that), to which my husband and I would always respond, if we continue to be blessed with healthy, happy children, we will continue to have more. That of course stopped at four, when the number of children then matched the collective number of hands between my husband and I.
Truth is, I come from a fairly small family. My mother was an only child, and my father one of two, so even the number of cousins was limited. When my husband and I were contemplating round three, I got a bit fearful looking at the statistics, and asked him “Shouldn’t we stop while we are ahead? We have two beautiful, healthy children”, to which he responded in his confident wisdom, “That is WHY we should continue, because we make beautiful, healthy children!”. I’m forever grateful to have a partner in life who talks me out of my fear.
Now, as I see our children play and connect, I witness the beauty and intimacy written in the truth above:
“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were.”
I think of my grandparents, who each had loads of siblings and have attended many of their funerals. They do not see a frail, aged body, devoid of spirit, cushioned in satin and surrounded by floral condolences. They see a life-long friend and confidant. Someone who knew not just their past but their origin, where they came from and what they looked like at every stage of growing up. No matter how many friends they made along the way, none of them can match that list of qualities.
I see my children oscillate with each other, sometimes playing with one sibling one day and another sibling the next day, or switching it up mid-day depending on the activity. Then there are the days that they all play together. And that is a beautiful thing. Sometimes very loud, but there is beauty in it. And in their adult years, around the Thanksgiving dinner table, they will laugh and remember funny stories, embarrassing moments incurred along the way, discoveries, and revelations among their varied perspectives.
And their personalities, they are captivating to watch emerge. To have evolved so differently under the same parenting, environment, and genes, just fascinating. I get so excited at their futures, where they go, what they will do, whom they will choose, the journey each will take. I find myself smiling, imagining weddings, grandchildren, travelling adventures, wherever the road takes them.
After I finish writing this, I will prepare for sleep, but not before I check on each child, asleep in their bed, in their most innocent and peaceful state. And I will be overwhelmed with both love and gratitude, resisting the urge to scoop them into my arms and shower them with kisses, snuggling their small bodies and breathing in their scent.
One day, a long time from now I will be away from them, but something in the air will remind me of that scent, and it will take me back, bringing a smile to my face, knowing I am blessed.
And I will live outside the touch of time.