Saturday was one of those perfectly blissful days. One of those days were I wish I could bottle that feeling and remember every moment for ever. We spent the whole day together and we spent most of the day cooking. The kitchen is one of our happy places. We cooked for ourselves and cooked for a dear friend that was passing through town on Sunday.
Our four-year old wants to be right in the middle of the action, and loves to help us cook. If you’ve ever cooked with a four-year old, you know that they are not actually all that helpful, and it might even take more work to find, guide, and correct the tasks that they are given. Nevertheless, we encourage this “help” because we think cooking real food is an essential life skill.
We were making a huge lasagna for the following day, so there were plenty of four-year old tasks: Peeling garlic cloves, de-stemming and chopping mushrooms (yes, we advocate giving children knives! with proper training and supervision, of course); cracking eggs without getting eggshell in the bowl or breaking the yolk (it takes a lot of eggs to perfect that art); mixing eggs, spices, and parmesan into ricotta; grating cheese; pulling parsley leaves off the stems; and crushing dried spices.
Sometimes she is completely dedicated to a given task and will finish it to the end. Other times she loses interest or patience and asks for another task or says “I’ll just watch for now.” On Saturday, after completing a good bit of work on various tasks, she decided to just watch. Then she decided she wanted a banana. At the time, Aaron was pulling out our dried spices from the summer and she loves to smell those. Then she starts putting the spices ON the banana. She said it was delicious, and was particular to the thyme over the basil. She ate 3/4 of a banana while sprinkling dried thyme on each bite. Who knew?
We had a delightfully silly time, cooking and hanging out. We spent a lot of time talking about putting love into the food we cook. In between all of the cooking and cleaning and eating, we made plenty of time to build houses and marble runs with her latest building sets.
I love days like this.
Lest you think all of our days are spent in blissed-out perfection, I thought I’d share a few ridiculous conversations as proof that we, too, endure the universal struggles of parents of four-year olds: circular conversations that go nowhere but around and around, no end point in sight. We’re trying to figure out happy endings for these discussions. (If you have any suggestions, please share!)
Scene One: Aaron and child happily working on construction project at dining room table. I am happily working on laptop nearby.
- Child discovers she can scratch our wooden dining room table during an art project with Papa.
- Child: Look, Papa, watch this! (Demonstrates how to scratch table with scissors.)
- Papa: What are you doing? No, don’t scratch the table.
- Child: It’s not just YOUR table.
- Papa: You’re right, just don’t scratch our table.
- Child: But it’s not just YOUR table. It is your table, and my table, and Mama’s table.
- Papa: It doesn’t matter whose table it is, if you scratch it, you will not be allowed to use the scissors.
- Child: BUT IT ISN’T JUST YOURS!
- Papa: I hear you. Don’t scratch the table.
- Child makes pouty face, looks down, and begins to wail. (Not sad crying, but loud & dramatic wailing.)
- Papa: You can go in the other room if you are going to scream and yell.
- Child goes in other room for much wailing. Then a few exaggerated coughs and nose blowing. Child returns to table in less than 5 minutes, wiping tears away, trying not to smile and still look pouty.
- Child: I’m ready to finish my project now.
- Papa: OK, great!
I was sitting in the same room with them, listening (and writing it down, real time!), trying NOT to interrupt or interfere, and thinking: “Whew!! At least this happens to him, too. I’m not the only one!” At least I managed to not laugh throughout the entire exchange. But both Aaron and I almost lost it when she came back out with the trying-not-to-smile-and-look-really-sad face.
Scene 2: Here is of one of my circular conversations with our child during this past week.
- Child is riding in grocery cart, reaching out to grab some random food item from cheese/cracker/olive display.
- Me: Please stop doing that. You’re about to fall out of the cart. That isn’t something we’re going to buy.
- Child: But Little Sister wants it! (‘Little Sister’ is one of her dolls, who is riding in cart with her.)
- Me: Even if ‘Little Sister’ wants it, you are a big girl and I am asking you to stop doing that. (As we move away from display)
- Child: But she wants it! Now you’re making Little Sister cry! ‘Waaaah, waaaah, I want it, I want it!’
- Me: If ‘little sister’ choses not listen to me, then she won’t be allowed to come to the store with us.
- Child: But she wants to come to the store. She is a real person, you know.
- Me: We can leave her in the car or at home next time.
- Child: That is rude. She is a real person!
- Child begins to ‘kick’ me with “little sister’s” leg.
- Me: Please stop kicking me. That isn’t helpful.
- Child: I can’t make her stop, she is a real person.
- Me: She is not a real person, please help me.
- Child: She is a real person and you are rude!
- I breathe deeply and try hard to NOT scream: I am about to throw that ‘real person’ into the effing trash can!!!!! More deep breaths while my child continues to lecture me about the real/fake little sister/baby doll…
- Me: Will you please talk to your ‘Little Sister’ and show her how to be a big girl while we are in the grocery store?
- Child: Yes, but you know she is a real person. And she really wants those crackers.
Fortunately, our daughter inherited our
stubborness tenacity. If these silly things weren’t so frustrating, they would be laugh-out-loud funny.