Of course, sometimes it ends in flying laptops

I hate cooking with my children.

I know, I know.  Cooking with one’s children is supposed to be one of life’s finest pleasures: a science lesson, math homework, and a bonding experience all rolled into one.  It is the passing down of knowledge.  It is two generations, joined together in the essential act of preparing sustenance.

The problem is that I love to cook. By myself. I like to chop, mix, and invent.  In fact, the only thing I don’t enjoy doing is greasing the pan, which is to me as annoying a step as stretching before running, except messier.  Before I had children, I could put on some music and shake my groove thing while tossing extra garlic into the pan.  Now that I have kids, my groove thing is three sizes larger and I can’t use garlic because one of the children is allergic.

The kitchen is no longer a place to get away from it all, because it all follows me right in.  The children want to cook with me, which is frustrating as hell because that’s my place.  I don’t get in their way while they build blocks or play pirates or whatever the hell they do for entertainment.  Why the hell do they keep getting all up in my space?

Benjamin, in particular, has begun to show a tremendous interest in all things culinary.  Unlike Lilah, who spends most of her time in the kitchen taking things out of cabinets, Benjamin wants to help me.  Which, God love him, he is completely incapable of doing.  Because he is three, and three-year-olds don’t know what the fuck they are doing in the kitchen.

What three-year-olds excel at, however, is getting dirty.  Like, say, their hands.  With butter. And, suddenly, it occurred to me: I could make him butter the pan.

I’ll be damned if he doesn’t love doing it.  Now, after all that annoying asking to taste each ingredient and insisting upon working the food processor, I can give him a muffin pan with a few chips of butter and he’ll set to work.  He’s pretty good at it, I must say.

Once I realized how useful he could be in the kitchen, I stopped trying to devise clever ways of shooing him out.  Instead, I welcomed him with his buttery little paws.  It became much less annoying when he asked to whisk the eggs because I knew that soon he would earn his keep with that muffin pan.

Then, I realized he was getting pretty good at the other stuff.  True, he still gets batter everywhere when filling the pan, but he manages to mix the dry ingredients without getting flour on the ceiling.  An added bonus?  Since he gets ample whisk-using time in the preparation of actual food, he is much less likely to abscond with the thing to use it as part of his dragon-fighting costume.

Since we’ve started baking more together, Benjamin and I are having a lot more quality time.  I must admit, although I rue the loss of privacy, I do appreciate hearing things like, “Mommy, I beat up the milk!”  And, every now and then, while the computer is shuffling through its play list, we stop cooking to shake our booties.

14 responses to “Of course, sometimes it ends in flying laptops

  1. this patience will pay off – when my kids were a little younger, I felt the same way, except I don’t like cooking, so it was just one more aggravation added on to an already tedious chore. However, my daughter will be turning eight, and she is now cooking dinner for the family one night a week. Granted, we have some weird stuff (tomorrow, she is making egg salad sandwiches, cole slaw and apple crisp), but I like that she is planning ahead and taking on responsibility.

  2. Happy memories – baking bread with three ‘helpers’ all with little knobs of dough. Child 1 produced small, tidy loaf of bread, Child 2 ended with worms and squiggles that never did rise after having the very life pounded out of them and Child 3? Child 3 ate its dough, or most of it, and went around belching yeastily for the rest of the afternoon. I too learned the value of small fingers for greasing tins, and I too had to swallow a couple of times and agree to be gracious about sharing my kitchen space.

    Funny how many of these parenting moments are mixed delight and frustration!

  3. Three is hard, but by the time they are four they can be surprisingly useful. They love helping with bread, and if they can give you a minute to prep the veggies and whatnot, they feel very useful when they can pour stuff in.

  4. I once ended up scooping tomato bits, cheese, and assorted silverware out of the cookie dough because Badger was so excited to “help”.

    Now, however, he is getting the hang of it a bit better. He loves to stand and hold the mixer.

    It can suck to lose your zen space, but oh, those little dirty faces look so earnest and proud when they get to do soemthing grown-up, don’t they?

  5. Of course I meant “do something”. Butterfingers!

  6. @Coco, given the butter/laptop reference, very appropriate.

  7. Cheeky Monkey

    Do people still stretch before running? I thought running *was* stretching.

    Gwen, off point as usual.

  8. Just awesome. I love this post. Everything takes three times as long with my 3YO “helper”, but just like greasing the muffin pan, some things end up being less of a chore. Have a great week!

  9. I have also been irritated to high heaven with a little kitchen ‘helper’. I tried, I really did, but I found cooking with my daughter to be less heart-warming than supremely frustrating.

    Thankfully I don’t really view the kitchen as ‘mine’, so it doesn’t annoy me TOO much. But man, what I wouldn’t give sometimes for 15 minutes alone with my rolling pin.

  10. I like to cook alone too, but the kids are always interested. And Jack Jack HAS to crack the eggs, which is usually messy and sometimes requires me to fish the shells out.

    But they do love it. and it is teaching them great skills that so many kids these days don’t even know.

  11. thanks, I needed the laugh this morning

  12. It takes a lot of patience to cook with kids. Sometimes I have it, and sometimes I don’t.

  13. In addition to buttering tins 3 year olds can cut the lettuce with a plastic lettuce knife (I tried to paste a link or photo but I am sometimes too lame for words). And operate the salad spinner. And sort of help me pick and wash lettuce. Sadly, my son also loves to crack eggs. I dislike fishing eggshells out of things, but not as much as I dislike biting into an eggshell.

  14. Email me if you’re interested – just got a fudge recipe a three year old can literally make themselves.