Dear J, J, L and L,
So today’s the day. My first official Friday Letter to my kids. I guess I’ll just jump in with both feet.
We’ve eaten some interesting foods over the years, many of which became favorites. A few we discarded before they even had time to cool completely. But, you gotta admit, I can cook up a pretty good meal.
I apologize for the Salmon Patties. That involved some desperation and not much experience or innovation. Luckily, the Spinach Lasagna incident only two of you had to endure. I’ve since learned that better recipes exist for those particular concoctions that turn out deliciously edible. Let’s not forget the forgotten corn from Thanksgiving that we discovered the day after. And those flaming peas in the microwave made quite a stench. I think I’ve blocked out most of the other gastronomic catastrophes. Feel free to remind me in a private message or an email. No need to share them all in public.
My pancakes never made it up to snuff in my opinion. There’s that whole practice pancake idea that irks me some. You know, the first pancake will simply turn out raw on the inside, burnt on the outside or funky and not very yummy looking. All those pancakes after the first turn out great. Or in the case of my particular pancake cooking abilities, edible but not stellar.
Shouldn’t every pancake turn out the same every time? Why does that first one have to serve as a sacrifice for the rest of the batter that follows? And then, even after that first pancake, I never felt like mine had the delightful taste and texture of Denny’s or IHOP. (Too high of a standard maybe?) So I rarely ate the pancakes I cooked. If we had homemade raspberry jam, then, okay, I had a couple. Bacon on the side served as a kind of apology for the lack of quality in the pancakes.
There’s a theory out there in parenting that equates first children to practice pancakes. The idea plays out with the idea that parenting gaffes and goofs and idiocy only happens with the first child, who somehow survives or becomes scarred for life, but the rest of the children that follow turn out okay because of the sacrifice endured by the firstborn and lessons consequently learned by the parent.
Children and food don’t compare in any way, shape or form. Food doesn’t interact, respond or run and hide in a closet. Food doesn’t cry in the middle of the night. Food doesn’t snuggle with you and make you feel like everything’s going to be all right in spite of the chaos and mess.
Even if you accepted the food/child comparison, parents learn only the first couple of chapters of parenting wisdom from that first child. For instance, we learned to relax a little bit after stumbling through J1 and arriving at J2. (Yes, I know, emphasis on the word little.) One of your parents learned to relax sooner and more convincingly than the other one. There are lessons learned with each child, some more dramatically or hysterically than others. Each of you came with your own ‘lessons Dad and Mom need to learn from parenting me’ agenda. Rarely did one child-raising experience intersect or lend itself to the child-rearing experience of the others.
Sad, but true.
I have a different theory, a better one than the practice pancake theory. It’s more like how my waffles turn out.
Yes. Every single waffle a masterpiece, delicious, fluffy, crisp and tender, warm and welcoming. I can practically smell the melted butter in each little square, the warm syrup puddling. Bacon is optional with waffles. Perfection.
That is until that final waffle.
I always, always, always burn the last waffle. I sit down at the table, dig into the succulence of waffle nirvana and forget to check on the last one. Even if I set a timer, I’m so enamored of my plate of perfection that I think to myself, I’ll get to that in another bite or two. Before I know it I’m dishing up another waffle, downing a glass of milk, reveling in the particular happiness of breakfast carb overload. Then I realize, too late, that the last waffle has crisped to a dark, dreadful crunch that shatters on fork approach.
What does that have to do with parenting children?
Each one of you have been your own kind of sumptuous waffle delight to me. I’ve gotten so caught up in the joys and work and business of parenting at times that I’ve neglected or ignored the warning signs, the red flags, the obvious pitfalls. Yup, I’ve made mistakes. Probably the same ones over and over, without learning from them. But you all turned out amazing in spite of your parents, not because of us.
And, no bacon required, no apology needed.
Now, you’ve all added a delightful side dish of a companion who adds dimension and delight to our family. Like, bonus bacon!
I feel like a master chef. The secret is you’ve all managed to do your own cooking, I just stirred up a few ingredients and look how you turned out!
So, what about that last waffle?
Well, that’s me. I never really learned to pay attention to my own needs. I tended to push myself past my limits until I got a bit burned out. Staying up too late, getting up too early, saying yes to every request, trying to do it all and be it all. That’s not a smart way to function. It leads to dysfunction. Sorry about that part of things. I wasn’t always at my best for you.
I’m hoping you learn not to burn that last waffle. I hope you pay attention to your own internal timers, bells, whistles, needs and wants. Keep things balanced and enjoy your own life as you raise your own little munchkins. Good luck with that.
Thanks for letting me experiment in the kitchen of life with ya’ll. It’s quite a delicious and always surprising treat.
Until next Friday, I’ll be thinking about you, worrying about you and loving you!