Love is in food, which is thus an expression of our desire to nurture another.
Cooking is not only a passion of mine, but a way of life. Back in the days when I worked full-time, I would rush home to cook something for my children, simply because I would feel bad if I had to feed them ready-cooked meals. Silly, I know, but it has been bred into me that good food builds good everything.
Imagine my horror at this: my youngest child cannot cook. She kills yeast off with her impatience, she is careless with a panful of hot fat, she leaves a trail of destruction behind her. Her father is as cavalier as she in the kitchen. On the rare occasions they were left in charge, burnt food ended up in the dustbin.
I must confess – despite my commitment to creating a magical childhood for my children, I screech when father and daughter’s carelessness ruins a meal that I had lovingly prepared and had left in their charge (on very rare occasions). How could two intelligent human beings forget to turn the stove off or put the oven up too high? How can they not be aware that something was wrong until smoke filled the kitchen the the smell of burning assailed their limbs?
This is a photo of father and daughter in panic-control and damage limitation mode as I came home from yoga 30 minutes later than scheduled. Despite my meticulous instructions, because I came home later than expected, it had not occurred to either of them to take the food out of the oven or at least turn the oven down. The casserole that I had prepared earlier was completely ruined.
“We can have muesli and fruits for dinner instead,” the father said winsomely. “Or go out?”
My mother urges me to calm down in situations like this. “Be grateful that you have such a happy home, Jac,” my wise mother always reminds me. “The burnt bits will all come out in the wash anyway.”
She’s right, as always. But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we lose perspective.
Only a few days ago, I shouted at my daughter, and her father shouted back at me, “Don’t shout at her!” The three of us sat down, bristling, to an unenjoyable dinner in mutinous silence. Ugliness had crept into our happy household that evening for a few hours.
It reminded me of a person I once knew, who grew up in a household where his mother was unhappy and blamed the world for everything. The person grew up blaming others whenever things went wrong. That became his first instinct – to find blame in others to justify things that go wrong. It became a safe place for him to go to, a language he understood, when blame is passed on. It was impossible to find solutions to issues, because every single issue that was raised became a perceived witch hunt. Because that was how he grew up – accepting blame. Thus in adulthood, when he was in the position to pass on blame, he did so automatically, instinctively.
The voice with which we speak to our children becomes their inner voice.
I don’t want my daughter growing up into an adult who shouts like a madwoman whenever people make mistakes or fail to execute her orders. And as wise philosophers have been saying since time immemorial, it all starts with ME. That is to say, I must stop shouting at her in anger when her actions are lacking.
Difficult, impossible even, to practice in the real world of parenting, but then, parenting is about learning about ourselves, turning the mirror inwards to face our own issues honestly, and emerging wiser, more accepting and happier when our work is done.
Here is something beautiful and idealistic that I would like to leave you with today: