|Don’t Read This
Author: Clay Nichols
Reading parenting columns is a dangerous business. Turn back while you can. You’re probably better off re-reading the camp ads.
In my most recent experience, a quick read of a parenting column in a major national newspaper nearly resulted in one car crash, one house fire and several lacerations. The column in question was of the kind that makes you feel inadequate. (There are only two kinds: the one that makes you feel like a loser and the other kind, usually written by a bumbler about his or her parenting misadventures, inducing the reader to feel smug and superior. Sorry for making you feel so inadequate all these years.) The author opined that she was sick of her kids just doing all the dishes; she wanted them to graduate to preparing entire meals for the family.
Suffice it to say in my family, our expectations of the kids’ contributions to mealtime preparation and cleanup are somewhat less than that. Strike that. Completely less. The amount of less that is the hallmark of the inadequate parent.
Case in point: with my wife away on business, I decided to try a new recipe for family dinner as a whole. Tasks were assigned: I would grill marinated steaks and veggies, oldest boy would make Caesar salad, middle girl on pesto pasta, youngest on yogurt and fresh berries for dessert. Sounds good, right?
Except that in the middle of food and grill prep, a ride home from a playdate fell through; therefore, because timing is everything in cooking, I almost became a smear on Loop 360, an episode took place with my gas grill that I refuse to discuss in detail because of certain clauses in my renter’s insurance and I returned home to find my seven-year-old using a meat cleaver on the strawberries instead of the butter knife I suggested (it worked better).
I guess the final result wasn’t utter disaster. My kids patronize me when I cook, and I adore them for it. They also have high regard for their own skills and accomplishments in the kitchen. The result: clean plates all around.
Clay Nichols is one of the founders of DadLabs.com and co-author of “DadLabs Guide to Fatherhood: Pregnancy and Year One.” He lives in Austin with his wife Kim and three children.