Every time we’re in the car running errands, and Things 1,2 and 3 are chattering away: yelling, asking 5,000 questions, singing to some song on the radio that I feel so uncool for not knowing – I try to take a deep breath and instead of screaming at them to be quiet, remind myself that, soon enough, they won’t be saying a word. With Chatterbox starting 5th grade (today!), I’m hyper-aware of the fact that she is a full-fledged tween and with that means the gradual transition to private, mono-syllabic teenager. I want to enjoy the constant chatter while I can. Over this past year, I’ve noticed that the long-winded conversations have slowed down with her and that I have to pry more – which totally makes me annoying. But I’ve found that, if I can catch her in her comfort zone, then there is no end to her animated stories and joke-telling.
In June, while we were spending 4 weeks at my in-laws’ in Miami, Chatterbox found the Food Network’s YouTube channel. It started out cute and benign, and I didn’t pay much attention to it, even as she begged her grandfather to let her pick limes off of his tree so that she could make homemade limeade from scratch. What I noticed the most was how focused she was and how she came to life narrating her steps to an imaginary kitchen audience. During that particular exercise we chatted about her track and field teammates and how she was bummed to be missing a couple of the summer meets and how she was happy to be keeping in touch with a classmate who went to visit Brazil over the summer via FaceTime. Because her mind was distracted with cutting, squeezing and stirring limes (and making a seriously sticky mess on the counters), she didn’t give talking to Mom a second thought.
Since that day in June, she’s become a veritable mini-chef. She’s made countless versions of infused waters, lemon bars and a summer spritzer (she wanted to make Sangria, but I explained why that wouldn’t be appropriate), and homemade french fries and Italian ice – all by her own choosing and with minimal help from me. Her newfound obsession with cooking has been teaching me to take a step back, let go of my control-freak tendencies and let her flourish (while making impressive messes). And of course, I get the bonus of getting her to open up about everything from how her little brother drives her insane, to how badly she wants an Instagram account (HINT: badly), to how she wishes I could ‘take a break’ from working all the time.
I have no idea how long this culinary kick will last, but for now I’m enjoying it. It also shows that my hours in the kitchen have not gone unnoticed! For the first time, we finally have a shared interest; I find myself clipping pages from my food magazines to show her and impressing her with the fact that: “YES, actually, your mom does know Ree.” I think these moments are conducive to her opening up to me because her siblings aren’t around to derail the conversation or get on her nerves or put her on the defensive. With 3 kids, finding one-on-one time can be next to impossible; we’re either all in the car or all at the dinner table or all watching a movie – you get the picture. So, for now, the kitchen is where our conversations are happening.
And I couldn’t be happier.
When does your child open up with you? A lifetime conversations begins today:
This post is part of the #TalkEarly series sponsored by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility designed to encourage parents to talk early with their children about the risks of underage drinking. All opinions and anecdotes are my own.