This morning as usual, I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast – eggs, oatmeal or homemade granola and yogurt.
He answered “eggies”, then grabbed a big ladle and ran around the kitchen hollering
Scoop and Nuke! Scoop and Nuke! SCOOP! AND! NUKE!
Of course I burst out laughing. He’s never said “Scoop” or “Nuke” before . . . but clearly he’s been paying attention to his parents in the kitchen.
I do a ton of batch cooking and leftover nights in our house are universally known as Scoop and Nuke.
This morning’s hilarious outburst got me thinking about how things would be different if we had a different food culture in our house.
He just as easily could have been hollering for a Happy Meal.
Before I became a mum I intellectually understood that kids were little sponges, but it wasn’t until I had E that I really started to understand what that means for day-to-day life.
We involve E a lot in the kitchen. As soon as he sees me get the mixing bowl out he’s dragging the kitchen chair across the room pleading in his irresistible little voice “Helping?”
He knows how to grind the morning coffee, season food by sprinkling things from “high in the sky”, stirs, dumps and counts every baking project, and has even stirred on the stove. He is the family friday night pizza man, lazagna-layerer, grocery store helper, Mama’s perennial sous chef.
He absolutely loves it, cries when we’re done and takes a ridiculous amount of pride in telling his Dad “Me made it!”
More and more I’m realizing this isn’t necessarily the norm.
I’ve been a mum long enough now to start getting to know other mums and to be developing what I sense will be a deep-seated, life-long sense of self-doubt about my parent skills and style. Lots of my friends don’t allow their kids in the kitchen, feed them a different menu than the rest of the family at a different time and place than the adults. They aren’t allowed to use real cutlery, plates or glasses.
Their children eat dinner quietly at the table by themselves.
They must look at our messy, sometimes chaotic dinner time and think I’m crazy.
E eats what we eat, and has done from day one. This has met with lots of gasps and tisks but it’s worked for me. The same people who gasp and tisk are equally surprised when E sits down and devours a plate of fish, asks for second helpings of broccoli or happily gnaws away on a turkey leg.
It’s not perfect.
He claws at his tongue and cries TOO SPICY when I make spicy curry, and his appetite ebbs and flows with growth spurts and new teeth. Learning motor skills means the floor beneath his chair has to be swept and scrubbed after every meal.
But E is learning to how to be part of a conversation, how to take his turn telling “stories” about his day, how to share, how to enjoy new experiences, the names of various fruits and veggies, how to use a knife and fork, how to use his manners, how to take pride in doing something for others.
He also has three opportunities a day to be with his parents and be a sponge, for better or for worse. This morning reminded me that what we say isn’t as important as what we do everyday.