You weren't going to be needing this pan or these bowls anytime soon, were you, Mommy? I had some ideas about reorganizing them. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)
Last week, my son turned 15 months old — and pitched his first fit for being discernibly bored in the kitchen. I realized then the sweet moments of him contentedly playing at my feet are slipping toward memories rather than future joys.
It was a cliche moment: How did that happen so fast?
As I shared in the introduction to Let’s Talk Food, one of my goals is to occasionally swap stories with readers about kitchen memories. My son has been in that golden age when he’s still discovering the world and hasn’t yet learned the word “no”; in other words, he has been busier than I have ever been in the kitchen.
So today, I’m going to share what it’s been like having the baby in the kitchen and hope those of you with similar experiences will do the same, whether about your own child or others you’ve known.
Our adventures start early with my son unloading the dishwasher, handing me each piece of silverware before trying to climb atop the dishwasher door so he can get to the second shelf. Of course, unloading the dishwasher includes some play acting as well. He must use authentic utensils to scoop imaginary food into his tiny mouth (swish, “eat”, repeat), before he wears the once-clean dishes as a hat.
Keep in mind, I’m trying to put away the dishes (and save his life) while he does this.
Then he’s on to the pots and pans, which are terrific fun for banging together, as well as for lifting as high above his head to drop before he fills them with whatever he can find. Inevitably, I have to remove toys, pacifiers and various other items from pots before I can cook.
More high-ranking kitchen fun
■Emptying the drawer of kitchen dishcloths. (These days, we can only safely use dishcloths that come directly from the dryer.)
■Deconstructing and reconstructing serving bowls before trying to return them to the cupboard and rearranging items on the fridge door shelves whenever I dare open them. (Maybe he’s a professional organizer in the making?)
■Pushing around small step stool before turning it over and using it as transportation for Blue Bear. (Or maybe he’ll work in construction.)
■Shaking the babygate like Godzilla. (A career in acting?)
■Emptying out the recycling bin and turning garbage into treasures. (An antiques dealer, perhaps?)
■My favorite (if hardest to stay productive during): when he just wants to be a part of the action. At his behest, I pick him up and he watches as ingredients are measured, he moves ice cubes to the sink from the bowl where I’ve shocked boiled eggs for easy peeling, or tosses apple cores into the baked apples. (Ah, he’s a sous chef.)
Frustration and joy
Sometimes my son’s antics give me great pleasure, sometimes (I can admit it), they’re frustrating.
A few months ago, one of our little games was “dumping.” I would lean him, lean him, lean him over while he clung to my arm giggling, then “dump” him from that arm to the other, which he found hilarious.
One day, while I was measuring a tablespoon of Worstershire for meatloaf and apparently not paying enough attention to him — though he was in my arms at the time — he decided it was time to play the dumping game. He leaned from his position perched on my hip from one arm to the other, causing Worstershire to splash everywhere.
I’m sure I let out an “ARGH!” But what I will always remember is his look of anticipation, which said, “Isn’t dumping fun, Mommy?” followed by a bit of longing: “In between everything you’re trying to get done, did you see me down here being adorable to get some attention out of you?”
What my son didn’t say with that expression — though I wish he would have — was, “I won’t always be this size, Mommy. Not too long from now you’ll wish I still fit on your hip. A couple months from now, I’m going to tromp through the kitchen checking out the dishwasher, the dishcloth drawer, the pots and pans, serving bowls and baking sheets, find them all wanting, and I’m going to pitch a tantrum.
“So for today, Mommy, will you stop worshiping your work and play with me for a few minutes?”
Many times I’ve put him off so I can stay on task. But I’m grateful for the times I’ve dropped everything, if only for a short while, to say yes to his unspoken request.
Yes, honestly, I’m also grateful he often has been self-entertained so I could cook fairly easily — and enjoy him too. I’m hard-pressed to find a time in my life when cooking has been more special than when it can be broken up with a smiling glance at a little tousle-haired boy at my feet, jabbering at the pots and pans.
Do you have baby-in-the-kitchen memories? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for, which is how I managed to have one for years and ignore it except for this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow me on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!