20 Feb 2013


I don't like cooking. I could blame this on my child's preference for his own snot rather than my culinary efforts, but this aversion is a long standing thing that began years before any of the kids got here, so that would be unfair. 

Cooking has always been a necessity rather than an enjoyable activity. As a student I survived 3 years in halls of residence on pasta, beans on toast and Farleys rusks.

When we got engaged, my mother pulled my future mother-in-law aside and whispered confidentially 'You know she can't cook, don't you?' (She did know as it happened and didn't care).

When I was pregnant with our eldest my mother-in-law broached the issue herself with, 'Well you'll have to start cooking now my love, won't you?' But I had already thought this through and outlined my cunning plan to her: Breastfeed until it's old enough to work the microwave. Sorted.

This more or less happened and Ethan learned to make porridge in the microwave before the age of 2. I also taught him how to scramble eggs, heat up beans and make packet noodles. We spent many happy minutes counting down the seconds together then shouting BEEP really loudly when the timer was up. The whole thing was FUN and enhanced his numeracy skills enormously- although it did result in him counting backwards rather than forwards for a while.

At the age of 8 he had a best friend next door to us who was 3 years older. This little boy was taught to make cups of tea by his mum and when Ethan found out, he wanted to learn too. I though Why not? and taught him. Not because I enjoy parental competition, but because I enjoy drinking tea. Lots of it. And by that time there were 2 younger kids in the house and less time to make tea. As long as he took his roller blades off first I was happy to share the load.

Nowadays I have a reasonable repertoire of meals but cooking remains a chore. It should take as little time as possible so I can get on with other stuff and (rather crucially) I prefer the kitchen to be tidy, and making food for lots of people generates mess. 

It's also tedious thinking up what to make then deciding the thing I really want can't be done as the central vital ingredient is missing. Of course I could PLAN our meals properly, for every night, but that would involve being organised which I do for a living, and in non-work time I'd rather wing it. Occasionally I'll attempt a tried and tested recipe by a proper actual TV chef but I usually loose concentration halfway down the first page, get annoyed that the contents of the pan look nothing like the nice picture in the book, then improvise and start adding things of my own.

Luckily Keith enjoys cooking (you know, actually enjoys it) so we mostly share it when he's around. Ethan's early interest in cooking has increased as he's grown and fuelled by food technology classes at school, his input into family meals stands at around a meal a week.

Isn’t that cool? Eventually I plan to be redundant. I want all 3 of them to be doing my job by the time youngest is 12 so I can lie in bed while they get ready for school, emerge from under my duvet to kiss them good bye and if I haven't heard anyone moving around by 8.30am maternal instinct will kick in and compel me to text them.

I think we’re on track for this already. Due to a combination of a reward chart scheme and primal survival instinct at 6, 9 and 12 years old the kids:

• Make their own beds
• Make their own breakfast and clear up afterwards
• Sort out their own laundry: dirty stuff in basket, clean stuff (which I've folded or maybe ironed) back in drawers
• Make their own lunch boxes
• Wipe out their own lunch boxes and take care of any leftover bits
• Set table (Whoever wanders into kitchen complaining of hunger)

• Help cook (Eldest- as above)
• Clear table (Whoever finishes eating first)
• Wash/dry up (All- a dish for every year of their lives, cutlery counts as a quarter, tupperware as half)
• Bath/shower themselves then clear up afterwards
• Feed the cat

Of course when I say 'Make their own beds', there's a certain standard which I would prefer and then there's the standard that I get as it's the one they are capable of. But that's FINE because they’re doing it independently and future daughters and sons-in-law will love me for it.

Throughout the Bible God's relationship with his people is described as a parent/child one too. Isn't it weird how our ultimate parenting goal diverges from the perfect divine one?
Our relationship with God flourishes best when we press into him more and more, depend on him more and more and acknowledge our utter reliance on him for each and every breath we take. In a paradoxical way we grow as children of God by embracing our helplessness. 

But our goal as earthly parents is completely the opposite- we expect our children to gradually need us less and less, we encourage them to make their own decisions about bigger and weightier things (as their experience and age increase) and eventually we celebrate that they become autonomous people capable of functioning and contributing to society without parental involvement. 

So what happens to the dysfunctional among us? 

In the extreme, a christian who is prideful, self reliant and individualistic to the point of not really needing God at all probably isn't one.

And in the extreme a child who is overtly dependent on parental approval and assistance may be requesting Harvey-wants-Bitty.

(NOT normal)