As a child of the ’80s with two full-time, working parents, my younger brother and I spent a lot of time at home by ourselves. We always had a babysitter when we were little, but by the time I got to middle school, we were full-blown latch key kids.
The bus dropped us off about a block away from our house, and we’d walk home, let ourselves in, and raid the kitchen for whatever junk food was available. If we got hungry for dinner, we’d grab a TV dinner out of the freezer, or heat up a can of Spaghetti-Os in the microwave. I’d like to reiterate that I was about twelve, and that I not only knew how to use the microwave, but I also could use a can opener, and cook on the stovetop.
My children are lucky, I think, that I work from home and that I’m there every day when they get home from school. My daughter is eleven and my son is nine, and up until this year, I’ve never left them without a babysitter when I have to go out. Even now, I only leave them alone if it’s just to run a quick errand, or maybe for half an hour if I take the dog for a walk. Which is fine, and as it should be, and also in accordance with the laws about leaving children alone. But I’m realizing that because I or a babysitter are always there to do everything for my kids, they’re not at all self-sufficient, and couldn’t use a microwave or a can opener if they tried. (Which, for the record, they haven’t).
So the theme for us this year is self-sufficiency. No longer will I tie my son’s shoes in the morning, even though when he does it they come undone five seconds later. No longer will I fetch my kids snacks after school while they sit on the couch and veg in front of the TV. And, at least for my daughter, no longer will I make her school lunches. I recently informed her that if she isn’t interested in eating the hot lunch served at school (which she isn’t), then she can pack her own lunch every day. Because after six years, I’m really sick of making her lunch. Every. Single. Day. And, oh yeah, it’ll also be really good for her to learn how.
So, on Sunday night, I suggested that she make her lunch so that she wouldn’t have to get up fifteen minutes earlier on Monday morning. She asked what she should make, and I told her that this was no longer my decision. It was up to her. So she decided on pasta. Except that she doesn’t know how to boil water. So I told her I would teach her. And let me just say, OMG.
First, she had to try three different lids to figure out which one fit on the pot she was using. Then, she didn’t know how much water to put in the pot. When I told her to put in a little salt to make it boil faster, she put in a fistful. Once the water was boiling (how will I know when it’s boiling?), I told her to dump in the pasta. I also told her to be careful not to dump it in too hard because she wouldn’t want the hot water to splash on her. Which then started a round of unnnhhhh, unnnhhhh, I’m scared, I’m scared, as she held the box of pasta in the air above the water, paralyzed by a fear of getting splashed. And then when a tiny little drop splashed her on the hand, she screamed, and I was like, well, next time don’t hold the box so far above the water. Lesson learned.
So then the pasta is cooking, and I tell her to stir it. And she’s all, how many times? How often? Is this enough stirring? It was all I could do not to just grab the stupid wooden spoon out of her hand and smack her on the head with it. And oh, you should have seen the nonsense that went on when the pasta was ready and I told her to pick up the pot and dump the water into a colander. FYI, the sink is maybe a foot from the stove. It’s not like she had to walk to China carrying a pot of boiling water. But she insisted on wearing a huge rubber glove on each hand, so she not only looked like the Michelin Man, but also had no ability whatsoever to use her thumbs. And the whole five seconds it took to get the pot from the stove to the sink she’s going, unnnnhhhh,unnnhhhh, it’s heavy, it’s heavy, I’m gonna’ drop it, and whimpering like a little baby. And I’m like, seriously, your backpack weighs more than a major shipment of cocaine and you’re complaining about ten ounces of water? I mean, honestly, it was ridiculous.
So finally, she gets the pasta out of the pot, and she puts half of it into her lunch box and the other half in Tupperware. I’ll spare you the details of her cutting up the fruit (which she insisted on freezing overnight, only to discover the next day that thawed fruit will leak juice all over your lunchbox), and of her cleaning the pot and the spoon and the colander, but let’s just say that it took HOURS.
So then she looks at me and she’s like, I can’t believe you’ve done this every day for six years. I think I’m just going to eat hot lunch from now on.