It’s traditional at the beginning of each new year to make a host of resolutions, but I only make one: to hug each of my boys and Bill every day. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but I prefer to be realistic and aim for something I can actually achieve.
After school started last week, however, I started thinking that maybe I was aiming too low. Perhaps I could add a resolution: to be a more traditional, nurturing mother.
First I envisioned myself reading stimulating books to the duo every afternoon to meet this goal. But honestly, I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than try to sit on the couch with two smelly, wriggley boys, so then I hit on the idea of having a project ready each afternoon that all of us could do together.
When the boys came home from school that day, I said, “Hey guys, I was thinking about making cookies. Anyone want to help?”
“I think I’m going to play basketball,” Finn said, and he headed outside.
“We already have cookies,” Porter reported from the depths of the pantry. “How many can I have?” He was clearly more interested in instant gratification than the process.
“I don’t really want to make cookies, Mom,” Drew said. “But can we make salsa? I know how.”
“You know how?” I asked dubiously.
“I saw it on TV,” he said. Then he described the elaborate chopping of tomatoes and how in the end the product was just like what you buy at the store, but better. I didn’t have any idea where he’d gotten this information; I could only conclude that he did some illicit TV watching and happened upon the Food Network. He was strong in his conviction that he wanted to make salsa and was capable of doing it.
I was a little disappointed. I’d had visions of the boys sitting at the counter, merrily mixing batter, then licking the beaters while the aroma of freshly baked cookies circulated throughout the house, practically proving my worth as a mother. At least Drew wanted to cook, but making salsa didn’t sound very comforting.
Of course, in the spirit of fulfilling a resolution, I agreed. “I don’t have anything to make salsa with today,” I told him, “because I bought chocolate chips and flour and things like that. But if you write what you need on my grocery list, I’ll get it next time I go,” I told him. Later when I looked at my grocery list Drew had written:
I guessed that the “leefe” he required was cilantro, so I bought it all, plus a bag of tortilla chips, and I had it sitting on the counter when he came home from school the next day.
Drew walked in, saw the ingredients and said, “Cool.”
He went outside and I heard him yelling for Porter. “Come inside!” he screamed. “I’m going to teach you how to cook!”
Porter ran in and they settled at the counter. Chatty Mom had bought candy for the carpool, so they each had a pack of electric blue Sour Punch Straws they were munching on.
“Mom, I’m teaching Porter how to make salsa but he has to be quiet and listen,” Drew said matter of factly. Following his cue, I acted like this was no big deal, as if we’d been making salsa in secret for years and Drew was the clear expert in the field. “I’ll get your equipment,” I answered, and I got a cutting board, a knife, a rag, a spoon, and a bowl and set them on the counter before him.
Drew started hacking while I watched closely to make sure no one cut off a finger. He cut part of a clove of garlic, and then pushed it over to Porter and said sternly, “Now you try it. But be careful. The knife is sharp.”
Next Drew cut off a small piece of the onion and sliced it. His eyes watered, but he didn’t flinch. He passed the remaining bit of onion to Porter to cut.
“This stings my eyes,” Porter complained.
“That’s what onions do,” Drew said. “If you don’t want to help I’ll make it.”
“I want to help,” Porter said, taking a bite of Sour Straw with his onion-scented hands. “I do.”
Drew continued chopping the tomato and the green bell pepper. Then he cut some lime and squeezed a little juice in the bowl, and picked a few leaves of cilantro and added them. He stirred the contents, looking dissatisfied.
“I think I need something with a motor, like what you make a cake in, and you put this in it and it makes the pieces smaller,” he said.
“How about a Cuisinart?” I asked, pulling my small one out of the cabinet.
“I think so,” he said tentatively. He scraped the vegetables into the Cuisinart, then pushed the button and the mixture took on a definite salsa-like appearance. He peered at it, then said, “That’s enough,” and got out a tortilla chip and tried the concoction. Porter followed suit.
Apparently it was fine, because they ate it all.
I’ll admit, I was shocked and amazed at his achievement. I don’t know any other seven year olds making homemade dips, and I started to dream of him becoming a famous chef who’d give all the credit for his success to the mom who allowed him to freely experiment in her kitchen. How many other kids could put “Accomplished Mexican chef” on their college applications? Even though it hadn’t turned out exactly the way I’d planned, it looked like my new resolution was going to benefit the entire family, and perhaps even lead to college scholarships.
But since then, no one has expressed any interest in cooking, or any other family projects, for that matter, even though I’ve proposed additional cooking adventures, a family basketball game, and an afternoon of Let’s All Rake Together, all of which were loudly rejected. Porter has preferred to work on a system of rivers and levees he’s digging in the back yard. Drew has been focusing on his Legos and Finn has been wearing out basketballs. I was finally convinced it was time to forget that resolution when I looked at the grocery list and saw that Drew had written: salsa in a jarr.
No worries; I have more time to myself, and I have hugged each boy at least once a day. Sometimes twice.