I came downstairs before 8:00 and found my thirteen year old busy at the stove. She’s not known around these parts as a morning person, but today the sun came up and she decided to make homemade coffee cake and scrambled eggs with cheddar and ham. It was a tasty meal; served up, of course, with a side of bitter animosity barked at annoying younger siblings and some unnecessary shoving over plate placement, but the surprise was sweet so I thanked her for a lovely effort.
On Saturday, my ten year old decided that since the man-of-the-house-pancake-maker was out of state, that he himself would take up the task. On his own he made a double batch of homemade whole wheat pancakes which included a Blue Plate Special of cinnamon apple. The eighteen year old stumbled downstairs about 10:30 to eat the pancakes. “Who made these? They are really good. They’re fluffy and the flavor is perfect.” Dear son, that would be your younger brother—the one whose indoor pet crickets torment you at night. They are good pancakes. And if we’re all lucky, before he started cooking he washed his hands from the morning garden check, the cat-fish-tank check, the turtle-tank check, the compost-worm-farm check, the mating-toads-in-the creek check, and the squirrel-feeding check.
This is the eighteen year old working on his own most recent kitchen triumph:
raised cinnamon rolls.
The sixteen year old made a first-time chocolate pie for Pi Day that far exceeds the glories of any pie I ever made.
The twelve year old is on a kool-aid popsicle making kick which is really about to drive me up the wall. But there are worse things than sticky floors and eternal pink moustaches, I suppose. Maybe. I really am bothered by sticky floors.
The eight year old regularly gets up in the morning and makes her own applesauce. She makes a horrendous mess as well, truth be told. She cuts up her apples with a real knife, turns on the stove, and uses the stick blender to puree the mixture. If you turn me into child protective services for this I will make fun of you for your pre-teen’s inability to open a cheese stick plastic wrapper without weeping. Or, I will invite your kiddos over and let my eight year old teach them how to cut veggies. She’s got experience teaching the other neighborhood kids how to slice and dice, I’m sure we can help yours.
Look, everybody knows that when I can’t find my favorite spoon or the location of the kitchen scissors is in question, that the kitchen is my kitchen. If I’m trying to get a giant meal on the table and beloved son wants to wash fish guts off his hands, it’s my kitchen.
But the kitchen isn’t really my kitchen. It’s our kitchen. The dirty dishes and pots and pans are our dirty dishes and pots and pans. The microwave, which currently rivals Jackson Pollock for splatter art, is our microwave for us to clean. The food we eat is our food. We share the food and the work.
It would be a terrible disservice to my children if I cooked all the food and cleaned it all up. It would be devastating if I let them grow up without understanding that being a grown-up means you can feed yourself and you can feed others and you can clean up the mess without whining about it.
Embrace the reality of your humanity. We must all eat and eating makes messes. Give that prickly-cactus-fact of the real world a giant sloppy hug. As many as are able should cook and clean up.