“Uh-huh, Uh-huh, Yo, Yo…”

The five-layer dip and growing up (both mom and child)

So, it turns out, I am a control freak.  I didn’t know this until I became a parent.  Because of this, as I have raised my children, I have lived with some conflicting ideals:

A) Raise my children to be self-sufficient and independent adults

B) Avoid messes  as much as possible.


Ideal A is something that all parents want.  We all want happy, well adjusted children who are capable of making positive contributions.  And I wanted it, in theory.  Ideal B isn’t necessarily  a goal I have written out in my plan for my children, rather, as I live day to day it seems to pop up in my mental list of desires for the here and now.  Presently, these two ideals conflict.  As I’m writing this, I realize it is more complicated than being a Type A personality….because, ahem, I am NOT a Type A personality.  I think it’s because of all the renovation we’ve done on the house. Yes, that’s it,  living in chaos (aka renovation) has increased my control freakiness.  Make sense?  Don’t matter, it’s true.

All right, that being said, here I was wanting independent, capable children, yet I was hindering them because I want to seriously control the amount of messes made in my house/environment.  I wasn’t letting my children “Take risks and make messes!” (Thank you Miss Frizzle).  This was especially in the kitchen, as my sanity was hanging in the balance, I couldn’t always let my kids help me with simple meals because my sub-conscience was stressing about the box of kitchen tools or the corner of piled up pantry items because I was waiting on cabinets, drawers, etc….  It felt like it was a game of Jengan10_77571

(I do not intend to sound bitter. I hope I don’t.  If you would have asked me about a month ago, perhaps I would have had a hint of bitterness.  But now I’m not and I don’t plan on looking back.  This has been my choice of living and though the process be slow, I am happy where I am and what we’re doing to this wonderful home.)

Man, I digress.

So, I’ve been the kind of parent that would like my children to learn for themselves but I haven’t allowed as much “hands on” moments because I want to control it all.

Then I discovered this lovely book.  It is called The Parenting Breakthrough.  parentingbreakthrough

My friend showed me a page where it outlines what kind of chores/duties a child should be able to perform at each age. Call them benchmarks if you like.

For example, a 3 year old should be able to dress himself/herself (check).  A 4 year old should make the bed (check).  Then I read that a 4 year old should be able to make a sandwich (hmmm) and make his/her own breakfast (never thought of that).  A 5 year old should be able to vacuum (that’s not a bad idea). A  5 year old should also: straighten room, empty garbage cans, set table, clear table make own lunch, warm up canned food, and get allowance.  Now, obviously every child is different but I realized I didn’t have many expectations for my children and it was ok to create some.  The book addresses the fact that these things help give a child a positive self image and lead to being able to handle bigger issues in life.

So, for the last six months or so, I have been slowly releasing my grip.  Yes, I have, even in the kitchen.

The other night when Chunk #1 wanted to make his own own five-layer dip, instead of saying “That’s ok, I’ll do it”, we got out his ingredients and he put it together (pat me on the back, pat him on the back).  I even took the opportunity to teach him how to use the can opener. This may seem like an insignificant event but I am realizing that these are opportunities where I can contribute to my child’s sense of self.  I am showing him that he is capable.  If I constantly say “That’s ok, I’ll do it,”  then what am I teaching him?  Not only that, it was  a Pampered Chef can opener.  There are grown men that still can’t figure out that contraption… but I digress.

I suppose this is important to me because I don’t want to hear him say “I can’t do that” even before he even tries.  When I was first introduced to this book it was a lightbulb moment.  But the epiphany hit me again as I watched him plan out his 5 layer dip (Yes, five.  It has to be five.  Next year it will be six, I’m sure.)

He was so excited to just create it. He loved being able to decide for himself what ingredients to use.  Then,  he let me know the order of each layer and how good it was going to be.  He looked forward to sharing it with everyone.  He wanted everyone to eat it and love it.

He is growing up and I’m letting him (again, pat me on the back, pat him on the back).

Here were his other comments while making it:

“Ooooh this is going to be so yuMMy!”

“[Chunk #2] when this is done, you can have some ok?  If it’s not good, then you won’t want to eat it, ok?”

Oh, and my favorite,  “Can I lick this?”

When it was done he did what his own mommy does when she makes something yummy: “MM! (sharp and high pitched)  This is so good!”  and then he danced around the kitchen with chip in hand.

This blog has been brought to you by Pace Picante Salsa.

(What is that on my floor?  It looks like toilet paper but I know it’s not!)


5 responses

  1. El Jefe


    The thing on the floor? It’s one of those long, skinny papers from the magnetic pads of paper that hang on our fridge.

    FYI: I CAN use the Pampered Chef can opener (am I the specific “grown man” in question?), I just choose not to. Usually. Besides, the marinara comes in cans with a twist top. Why use a can opener?

    I think you’re doing a great job with letting the kids do stuff–let’s let them do MORE! (5 year old: should be able to hang dry wall, put in baseboards, and re-wire the doorbell.)

    Love, me.

    May 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm

  2. mamacheetah

    No, you are not the grown man I was referring to. I said “grown men.” Perhaps I should have said “grown-ups” so as to include women as well.

    May 7, 2009 at 4:03 pm

  3. earwaxtasteslikecrayons

    I have that book. Your post has re-energized me to look at it again. I was gung-ho for awhile, but the fire fizzled out.

    I, too, struggle with that balance. For a long time I just left things on the floor, waiting for their owner(s) to pick them up. It never happened, and I’ve had to sacrifice a little “let-the-kids-take-responsibility” for a little “ten-minute-pickup-before-bed-makes-my-mornings-so-much-nicer”.

    By the way–love the Jenga picture! What a cute dress Chunk #2 has on (wink, wink). That was probably my best thrift store find ever. Glad a fourth (?) generation is now enjoying it.

    May 12, 2009 at 3:34 pm

  4. Oh, I LOVE that book!! It has literally changed the way I think about letting my children help in the kitchen and actually TEACHING them to do things. It’s amazing what they are capable of that you never would have dreamed possible. Seriously. Now it sounds like I’m bragging (maybe I am) but Katelyn knows how to make pancakes, tortillas, lemon chicken, fruit salad, and many many other things. And she loves doing it. Isn’t it great to see how proud they are of themselves and how good they feel about themselves when they accomplish difficult things?!?

    May 12, 2009 at 4:04 pm

  5. Vickey

    Wow! Do I feel like a failure.
    I don’t even want to know what 7 1/2 year olds are supposed to do. I find myself always doing things for my kids because it is easier. I know I should let them do a lot more than I do, but… Amber Coglianese told me once that her grandma taught her: “Never do anything for your kids that they can do for themselves”. Much easier said than done. 🙂
    On the can opener issue: Pete refused to use that tool for many years until he finally figured it out. Now he likes it a lot. It is quite a tricky one. Don’t feel bad El Jeffe. Laura was just stating a fact. Most grown men really don’t know how to use it! 🙂
    Thanks for the post.

    May 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm

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