I've discovered that anal-retentiveness and parenting tend to butt heads frequently. I easily give into frustration when carrots spew out of my child's mouth across the table, or a curious baby is climbing up my pant leg while I'm chopping onions, and, of course, when a walker rolls over my toe while I'm in the kitchen hastily trying to prepare dinner. It seems like too much chaos in the kitchen for this anal-retentive mother. After all, this kitchen is MY throne!
I have a friend who has purposefully placed a stool next to the island in her kitchen. Her sons are always climbing up onto it while she cooks. Baby hands go into the butter and the cream cheese, and she just smiles and without a word continues with what she's doing. At first I think, boy, do I wish I was that laid back when kids are in MY kitchen. But I've realized that this mama has wisdom that I, the rookie mom, is still learning.
Polly Berrien Berends, in her book Whole Child/Whole Parent, addresses my hang-ups regarding such matters:
While she is unlikely to eat unless hungry, she is not simply feeding herself because her stomach is hungry. Her feeding, reaching, feeling the food, pulling it into her mouth, is learning. And it is learning almost more than the food for which she hungers.
Seeing that our children are trying to learn inspires us with many thoughtful ideas on how to prepare food that not only nourishes their bodies but also helps them learn what they are trying to learn. Realizing that they are not simply "playing with food" when they should be eating it, but rather learning, many "foods for thoughts" occur to us. Whether or not they get eaten, the peas in a pod are amazing; the star in the apple is a wonder.
There are two reasons for including our children in our kitchen activities. One is that we can't keep them out and get anything done at the same time. The other is that this is one of the best places in the house for both parent and child to learn what we most need to know. The child's task is to explore the material properties of her world and learn how to deal with them. And where could you find a finer, better-equipped learning laboratory than the average kitchen? Here such spiritual nutrients as love, humility, abundance, order, beauty, gratitude are concretely expressible. When task and circumstance are viewed spiritually, essentially, the necessary work is easier and more fulfilling.
I love how Ms. Berends takes a circumstance and flips it in such a positive light. If only I could see this reversed perspective in many situations I encounter. Such a key piece of wisdom that I've been missing.
My daughter is a very curious soul. She likes to explore. She notices every tiny detail -- many which I overlook. I should be open to nourishing this curiosity instead of diffusing it for the sake of having things "my way". Of course, "letting go" will be a work in progress. It always is for the anal- retentive. However, the kitchen is a great place to start.