Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Diagnosis: Brain Flu

Cooking the chicken for dinner

I was sitting on the couch last night reading a book when Joy came running into the living room, yelled "Snuggle!" and jumped onto my lap.  She squished my face between her hands, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me her most serious look.

"Mom.  I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but you have brain flu.  You're very sick and you will keep on being sick for eight years."

"Oh no!"

"But don't worry, Mom.  I will take care of you.  I will take care of the house and do all the cooking."

"What foods do you know how to make by yourself?"

"I can get crackers and cereal and toasted bread and bagels.  I could make other things if you told me what to do.  You'll have to stay in bed all the time, but it's okay because I will bring you whatever food you want."

"Wow, Joy.  By the time I'm done being sick with brain flu, you will be 13."

"Is that old?"

"You'll be a teenager."

"Oh.  Maybe you'll just be sick for four years."

This morning, I was on the couch having my prayer time when Joy came stumbling into the room. Her eyes were still barely open, her hair mussed from sleep, creases on her cheek from her pillow.  She walked up to me, climbed onto my lap, put her hand up to my forehead and gave me her most serious verdict.

"I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, Mom, but you're still sick.  Now you're going to be sick for four years and a day.  But don't worry; I will take care of you."

Mommy, I want to learn how to wash dishes not in the dishwasher

I may not have brain flu--which is nice seeing as brain flu doesn't really exist (I know because I looked it up).  Hopefully I will never really be confined to bed for four years.  But I am convinced that if I ever did find myself on extended bedrest, Joy would be the one to pick up the slack around the house.

"Mom, I want to help you cook dinner.  Can I cut the chicken up myself?  I want to feel how slimy and rubbery it is."  Last night she cubed the raw chicken and sauteed it all by herself.

"Mom, I want to help you with chores.  Let me vacuum the living room," she said as she grabbed the vacuum out of my hand this morning and proceeded to vacuum the room.

"Mom, I can fold laundry, too.  I will fold the napkins."  She made a big tower of napkins and put them away without my even asking.

She is my shadow.  She is my helper.  She grabs responsibility out of my hands and insists she can do them even when I waffle because the task is messy (cutting up raw chicken), hard (my vacuum is heavy and bulky and hard to push), or seems to be above her ability level (peeling and chopping raw potatoes).

She ignores me when I say that I want to do something on my own (it really is easier to cook dinner without a helper), shoves her chair up to the stove, reaches for the cooking spoon, and stirs up the food in the fry pan on the stove.

She tells me it's okay if her hands get messy, that she can just wash them if they get covered in bread goo from helping me mix, kneed, and shape the bread dough for baking.

Slowly, Joy is becoming efficient in the kitchen to the point that she's more useful than a hindrance.  Slowly, Joy is becoming efficient at doing chores that actually help me and don't require my redoing.

She's only five.  Her half birthday is on Monday (just ask her, she already has her party all planned--lasagna for dinner and cookies for dessert).  But she has a goal that she is determined to meet.  She wants to be a chef and a mother.

So she insists I teach her everything I know about cooking.  She insists on learning everything she can about running a home.  She cried this morning when I told her that I only do the grocery shopping on Mondays when she's at co-op because she really wants to go shopping with me so she can learn how.

The kids helping with dinner party prep-David peeling potatoes,
Joy washing and chopping them,
Lizzy slicing tomatoes and shredding lettuce

I'm starting to learn that my job as her mother is to step back and let her try her hand at the tasks she wants to tackle.  I may think that cutting up raw chicken is a task beyond her ability, and yet Joy successfully diced the chicken up just fine last night.  I may think that something is easier to do myself, but it really is helpful to have Joy stand at the stove and stir the food around to keep it from burning while I tend to other dinner prep.

One day I will be thankful that I stepped back and let Joy try her hand at all the things she insisted on trying.  She will be able to cook dinner all by herself.  She will be able to clean the house without oversight.  She will be able to run this household while I sit back and let her.

Yup, I can dig this plan.

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