Inspiration /Chef for
By Marta Felber
If you are a parent you probably will appreciate my next sentence. There are many things I wish that I had done differently in my parenting. However, I do choose to share one thing that did seem to work. It was not a success for at least three months. It seemed more like six months. In the beginning I wanted to scream and throw up my hands in defeat.
The plan came out of need. By the time I got home from work and got dinner on the table it was late in the evening. When I added clean up time I was even more exhausted. Why couldn’t three healthy young sons help? It sounded like a good idea. A master plan was drawn up. There were many choices. They each chose two days of the week they would be chef for the main meal. They chose how involved they would be in the preparation and clean up. Serving and clearing the table were always part of the deal. If they had to miss for any reason they were responsible for getting a brother to substitute without my being involved. Friday night was their night off and they were served their favorite foods in the TV room on trays. They were required to keep the schedule they had chosen for several weeks before they could negotiate any change.
Structure was the easy part! Next we got to the food. Each son and I rushed through a short course in cooking the night before they were due to be chef for the day. And I struggled with the question of why I ever thought this plan would work in the first place. Each morning the Chef found a 3X5 card at his plate with the menu and helpful notes. If there were questions he had to get the answers then, or never. The card got posted on the hood of the stove. I never knew what I would find when I arrived home.
We soon discovered that one son was a natural at cooking. He loved biscuits, and he chose to make them at one of his meals. But he could not find the baking powder and used baking soda instead. The biscuits were slightly green in color and tasted like soap! He has never lived that one down. Another son chose Sunday noon to be Chef. I suspected he just wanted the privilege of slipping out of church to go home early. Maybe it was the pull of using power tools that were often needed on Sundays – electric knife and mixer. The last son to mention was somewhat lukewarm to the whole idea of cooking. He finally chose to help me cook and then did the complete cleanup. Groceries did not appear by magic. Every two weeks on Saturday one son and I went for groceries. Each of us had a list and there were races for speed and best bargains. It was great to have them carry in the bags and unpack what we had bought.
After those it-will-never-work months, the plan started to click. The chefs began to merit specific and appreciative praise and got it, not only from me, but others in the family. I believe they realized how much their contribution meant. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without their help. They got an allowance, but it was not connected in any way with their duties as chef. This plan worked for years. Then they began to get after school jobs as bus boys, waiters, and one as a short order cook. Has it carried over into adulthood? Two out of three still cook, and they all show evidence of being astute comparison shoppers. I remember the question someone asked me, "How in the world do you get these guys to do all this?" I was proud to answer, "It is not easy, but it is a combination of planning and organization, choice, expectation and appreciation."
Notes from Marta:
If you are a parent, share a feel good parenting experience with a friend. What do you think your children will say about you some day? What will they say they like best about you?
What chores did you have as a child and growing up? What has stayed with you? End your conversation with yourself on a positive note.
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