I'm a stay at home mom. This is my job, in many ways. Raising these three children to adulthood. Teaching them how to live without me. In a real sense, that's what I'm doing. Teaching them to be adults. Teaching them not only how to emotionally handle all that life will throw at them, but also the nuts and bolts of daily life. Everything from how to talk and walk, to getting yourself dressed and brushing your own teeth, to doing laundry and how to cook.
Because I've got between three and four years separating my three, I've got one at each stage. Julianna is two and learning so much about who she is and what her thoughts and feelings are separate from me. She's learning about emotions (really embracing the pouty face, at the moment) and about how to communicate her wants and needs to me with words. Sam is six, and still dancing along that path. Separating from me, becoming okay and secure when he's outside of my immediate sphere of influence. Learning that he's capable and strong - but that's a whole different blog post :-). But my Jessica, my nine year old - she's learning to cook.
I've never been a great cook. In fact, before I had kids, I was proud of my inability to actually cook anything. I'm the sort of girl who would happily eat every meal from a restaurant, and I'm not at all domestic. I dislike anything crafty, I can't arrange flowers in a pretty sort of container (I generally dump them into a juice container because I can't remember where I put the vases), my parties are not elegant, it's bags of chips in plastic bowls and pots of coffee. I can't decorate, my furniture is mismatched and it doesn't bother me at all. But somewhere along the line, I did learn to cook and to bake. Partly because eating out every night (especially with three to five kids) is ridiculously expensive, and partly because I got tired of having Marc do all the cooking.
It started with straight up chocolate chip cookies. I'm a HUGE fan of the roll of cookie dough. But after I had Jessica, I wanted to do all those "mom" things. I picked up a bag of chocolate chips, and went down the list of ingredients, buying things I'd never had in the house before, like vanilla extract and baking soda. And we baked together. After that, I moved onto snickerdoodles (after vaguely remembering the name and googling it). I became a baker. I started making my own challah and matzoh ball soup, dragging Jessie and later on, Sam, down this domestic diva path with me.
Last summer, I decided it was time for Jessie to learn to bake on her own. So she started small, with boxed brownie and cake recipes. She did well with that. But this year, she's graduated to meal planning. It started because I realized that she was becoming more and more of picky eater, and theorized that if she had more control over what she was being served, she'd be more likely to eat. It worked. It was an easy step from picking out the meal to cooking it. I've learned that if she's squabbling with her brother or lying on the porch moaning about how bored she is, the quickest way to make her smile is to hand her a cookbook and tell her to pick something out, and if we have the ingredients, she can cook it.
She's watching cooking shows and perusing cookbooks now, and last night, whipped up Alton Brown's recipe for soft pretzels - and they were AWESOME.
More and more, I'm seeing her grow up. And as much as it freaks me out, I know that it's what she needs to do. She needs to know how to assemble a meal from the contents of the fridge, she needs to know how to crack an egg and why you need to proof the yeast before using it. She's more confident, more secure and scarily enough, I can see her on her own now. The day is going to come when she moves out, when she's on her own, and I want her to know how to do more than bubble up a bag of ramen noodles. And in the end, I'm enjoying this new found freedom from doing ALL the meal planning and cooking. Now if I could just get her as enthusiastic about loading the dishwasher...