I know better. I really do. I know I’m not supposed to leave the start of dinner preparation until 4:57 p.m. Especially after we’ve run down to the pool… because I clearly remember being a child and thinking my body was in starvation mode after moderately swimming for 30 minutes.
We foolishly came back upstairs all soaking wet. Swimsuits and towels were flying all over and little boys were running around shrieking as though their rigourous exercise had been non-existent.
I stared blankly at the raw chicken inside my fridge. I couldn’t even remember what I had meant to do with it by that point. Chicken fingers… ok I can do that, unless I can’t remember the recipe, or the order… dip it like what, egg, milk, or milk, egg, or just milk followed by breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese… how long does one bake these things, and what sort of terrible mess is this going to create?
By that point the little guy had grabbed onto my leg and I had scratched the recipe. Pan fry in garlic it is, because I KNOW everybody at the table will eat it and there will be no fear of something new on the dinner table.
“No… don’t touch.”
That’s when the wailing started. Because I wouldn’t let him turn the stove dials… and I wouldn’t let him push the buttons to turn on the oven… and I wouldn’t let him try one more time to get away with turning those same previously mentioned stove dials.
So now I’m moving around from the stove to the sink as though I’m dragging a very large poorly fitted peg-leg that makes hideous crying sound effects.
I can feel my blood pressure rising with the internal temperature of the chicken.
Cooking under duress. It must be some sort of punishment. It’s like I’m on an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen against my will, I might as well duct tape oven mitts to my hands so that I can REALLY feel challenged.
When my husband is home it’s a different tale. I will often drop two toddlers in his lap and ask him for a 5 minute head start, because I know if I can just grab the competitive edge over my two little toddling ‘whatcha doing fan club members,’ I’ll be less stressed as I’m flinging pancakes, chicken, or (the classic) noodles.
Those little guys know how to position their helper stools right in front of the only drawer in my kitchen. They know Mom’s going to have to say, “Oh man, I need a fork to whisk these eggs” and then pick them up, open the drawer, grab the fork, realize it’s actually a spoon she grabbed and not a fork, pick them up again, then place them back on the stool exactly how they were positioned before so as to not upset them… That’s it. She did it. She’s also now forgotten if she added the baking powder.
It’s a skill and a gift. One that neither toddler takes lightly.
I do appreciate their sheer joy though when they hear the blender being lifted out of its holder. I like how they come running when I crack that first egg against the bowl, and I like how they yell “Smoothie!! Want some???” every time as though they’ve never tried it before in their life.
It’s stressful, but I also know they won’t be hanging off of my leg forever, because there are two big brothers wandering around who no longer do that, and are often desperately enlisted to “just grab your brother and go play with him for 5 minutes please???!”
So my helpers they shall remain with their sticky fingers and flour flying stirring methods, and each day I’ll continue to work on faking my relaxed stance. Who knows, maybe one of these days we’ll get dinner on the table with nobody crying, until then, at least we’re still getting dinner on the table.