Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Chefs-in-training

"I'll help you. Press 3, press 3 again, press 0. Now push Start. Fantastic! You're cooking!!! Yay!!"

I love to cook and more often than not, my food doesn't suck. When I found out that I was having three daughters, I had visions of standing in the kitchen with my daughters surrounding me, cooking a magnificent feast for my husband. There would be memories of years worth of cookies and brownies, cakes and scrambled eggs, rice and plantains. I would show them everything I know and watch them get creative and become a better cook than me.

While the diagnosis rattled my cage, it didn't touch that dream. Because in my head, a girl's got to eat! Diagnosis or not; and they must know how to cook. So everyday, from the day they came home from the hospital, I lined them up in my kitchen to watch me create some concoction that more than likely Bugabuga would spit out. LOL. The kid was brutal on my ego.

I walked in front of them, before they could even raise their heads and explained how to peel a carrot and wash potatoes. I held up foods to their face so they could smell it. It became my most favorite part of the day.

As the days past, I noticed the enjoyment they seemed to have in the kitchen and when they began to walk, I let them sit on chairs rather than in high chairs. My nerves would fray because they never seemed to recognize the danger of the stove or danger in general. I began to sweat every time I cooked. I was always afraid that I would miss a baby running past me and try to grab a pot. I explained constantly that only mommy could touch the pots and pans.

They always listened.

I began teaching them to cook with plantains. I would fry them and then when it was time to smash them, I would hand the smasher to a baby after placing the plantain inside. The kids didn't have the strength needed to push down on the apparatus but I would place my finger and thumb out of sight and still control the smash while they used both hands to push with all their might. They were so proud when the plantain came out thin. They clapped their hands.

The diagnosis and lack of awareness caused me to doubt them. I backed off of bringing them into the kitchen with me. I missed them so much! They were in the next room and they wanted to be with me and I wanted them with me but the therapists said that cooking and understanding the situation may be difficult for them. I didn't want them to get hurt.

So many nights, I tossed and turned wondering how they were going to eat later in life. If they couldn't be trusted in the kitchen, would they be able to be self-reliant?

I relented on the kitchen boycott fairly quickly. As a concession to the professionals, I only brought one baby in at a time to help. We continued to smash plantains happily as I racked my brain on making this a safe environment.

"Bugabuga, stop touching the microwave."

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0. Where's the 10 Mom?"

"The microwave doesn't have the number 10, it has a zero instead. Now don't touch it, please."

"Mom, come on, Mom. No 10! You silly Mom!

"Stop touching..."

The microwave started. My heart missed a beat. I turned it off but nothing was inside, so everything was fine and then it dawned on me, they can cook in the microwave!

We started cooking immediately. Popcorn, hot dogs, bacon, prepackaged pancakes, vegetables-anything and everything. I did hand over hand with them and walked them through the process. The number one rule was that no one cooks unless mommy is there. The kids were so excited to learn.

A few months into our daily microwave cooking lessons, the CEO asked for popcorn while several therapists were there. We went to the kitchen together and worked our magic. She made popcorn for everyone. She proudly handed her sisters, brother, dad and therapists a bowl each.

"It's so good of you to let them learn even though they are ...."

There was an awkward silence.

"Even though they are what?"

"Uhhhhh. Developmentally delayed."

"Of course, I'll teach them how to cook. Doesn't everyone?"

"No, actually. Many people don't let their special need kids learn. They just fall into the habit of doing everything for them."

I was horrified and I'm still horrified by the idea of not giving these kids the opportunity to grow and learn to take care of themselves.

"Your kids have an amazing shot of having a normal life with slight adjustments to help them with their disability."

You bet your ass they do. Nothing will stand in their way, even themselves. I firmly believe that only an individual can place limitations on themselves-no one else can do it unless you allow them to do it to you. So therefore, my children's potential is limitless because we know that they are great and will live great lives.

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