I admit I may—at times—have tried to show my daughter my own love of certain hobbies in hopes that she would be interested enough in them that we can enjoy them together one day. I mean, right now she's two and her current hobbies include screeching when she doesn't get her way and eating the Cheerios under the couch. But—I hope that by exposing her to these certain things, she will be able to realize how big her world really is.
Growing up, I remember helping my mom bake cookies for Christmas and my dad teaching me the fine art of properly loading a dishwasher and cleaning up after meals. But I don't really remember cooking much of anything until I was in middle school. So it didn't shock me that I was a pretty terrible cook when it came to meals later on in life—my husband has even gently reminded me that he still liked me even though I couldn't sauté chicken to save my life.
What did shock me though, was that I ended up being pretty self-sufficient in the kitchen after some practice. I learned to knead homemade bread, I bought a sous vide, and I can whip up dinners with 25 ingredients that always make my parents laugh as they remind me how I used to not be able to boil water.
So, because I own every kitchen gadget known to man and love nothing more than dipping homemade pretzels into cheese sauce, it's only natural that I want to share this passion with my own little girl. I didn't learn how to cook until I was a teenager and it was several years of awful dinners and boxed Kraft before I improved. I want my daughter to learn how to cook now and there are two reasons for this.
First of all, I'm curious to see if she will like it, really and truly like it, like I do. I know no matter what you do, your kids will have their own interests. But if she's willing to participate, both my husband and I are willing to teach her.
And second, I think it's one of the most important things I can do as a mom. Not for her to be able to make spicy tortellini alfredo with her eyes closed, but to be able to learn the importance of working as a family.
I want to show her that meals are so much more than eating. That there was actual work put into her enchiladas, and that homemade dough—while not always feasible—is always better than store-bought. I want to show her how to mix batter, and for her to be able to taste it as she goes. I want her to put her hands in pizza dough and sample cucumbers from the salad and watch ingredients be transformed into a meal.
However, she's also really messy and that tends to throw a wrench into the whole thing...
I've had to take deep breaths when she knocks a bowl of shredded cheese on the floor and wait in painful silence when she puts the chocolate chips into the batter—one chip at a time. There are days I want to just get it done, and chop the things and throw those things into the oven, but there she is, dragging a chair up, getting it caught in the rug and screeching in frustration.
It's not always easy, and sometimes, I really don't like including her.
But then she scoops the flour into the cup and knows to level it off with the flat edge of the knife. She is learning to sprinkle ingredients instead of plopping them in one big lump. And the smile she gets on her face when we ask her if she wants to help makes it all worth it.
The truth is, kids are messy. They're messy and they have no concept of cleanliness and food dropped on the floor for the dog doesn't faze them. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever got was that you have to start them young. You have to start them helping you when they really aren't even totally capable. You have to start them in the kitchen when they fling ingredients and miss the bowl, and eat flour. Because it's the only way they're going to learn and get better.
So here I am, continuing to invite her to pull up the chair. To help stir the pot and scoop sugar, and use a butter knife to practice cutting bread for crumbs. Because she's getting better, and because she loves it. And also because it's teaching her independence and instilling confidence ingredient by ingredient.
I know one day she'll be proficient. She'll make excellent knife cuts and know what deglazing means. But practicing with her now, when she's still messy and clumsy is so important. It helps me practice patience and it is an opportunity to spend quality time together. And that makes me forge on.