A Few Cutting Remarks

WP_20140130_001On G’s seventh birthday, we bought him a gift that many of our friends and parenting peers thought was both insane and inappropriate: his first pocket knife.

I grew up a consummate tomboy and I have the scars to prove it. I still enjoy whittling a green sapling to spear a marshmallow over the campfire, and nothing makes me think of my father more than sharpening a knife on a whetstone (although I use honing oil now instead of spit. Sorry Dad!).

So when my six-year-old son asked for a pocket knife so that he could whittle sticks, I had a hard time saying no. Matt didn’t have any concerns either, so we got him a knife. And over the past two and a half years, he’s done great with the knives (yes, he has more than one now). He has carved home-made birthday presents, his own marshmallow-roasting sticks, a couple of olive pokers, a few spoons, and more whittled-down-to-nothing nubs than I could count.

He’s been responsible with his knives and careful around his sister and friends. He’s cut himself badly enough to require mama intervention twice–once badly enough that I needed to break out the NewSkin–but still hasn’t done anything that left a scar, which means he’s better off than I was at age nine.

Despite all this, I have absolutely dreaded the moment I would have to let him use knives in the kitchen. Let me pause for a minute and admit two things about myself. First, although I’m a generally laid-back parent, I have severe control-freak tendencies when it comes to the kitchen. And second, I’m a bit of a klutz and I cut myself in the kitchen on if not a regular basis, certainly a higher-than-average basis.

So when people tell me how their six year old is making them scrambled eggs all by herself or that their three year old cuts carrots up for them, I cringe. It’s not just because I know he shares my genes and that I’m the type of person who is officially and forever banned from using the mandoline. It’s because I like to do things the way I like to do them in the kitchen, and I rarely have the time or patience to let someone else futz around with the meal I’m trying to prepare.

I let both kids help with things like muffins. And they have both made scrambled eggs even if their egg-breaking technique fills me with rage. hope that they’ll soon improve their technique.

But at some point, if my son has been carving with a variety of knives for over two years, I knew I was going to have to let him have a go in the kitchen, right? If not for his sake, for the sake of his future wife who will appreciate a man who knows his way around the kitchen just as much as I do.

Rather than let him wreck havoc learn in my own kitchen, I did what any other control-freak would do in such a situation: I pawned him off on the school’s after school cooking club. A stroke of pure genius, I must admit. And it’s been fabulous. His amazing teacher has let him do all sorts of things I would never ever be patient enough to let him do, like roll out home-made tortillas, burn the heck out of a grilled-cheese sandwich, and add as many toppings as he’d like to his home-made pizza.

After a couple of months of him experimenting and learning in someone else’s kitchen, I’ve decided to chill the fuck out relax a bit and let the kids help with more than muffins and scrambled eggs. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you like.

Tonight, for example, I let G peel potatoes and carrots and cut them up for the beef stew. OK, I’ll admit, the water for the potatoes was boiling and he was cutting potatoes at roughly the speed of a sloth, so I might have stepped in on the potatoes and redirected him to the carrots, but come on, it’s a school night and we needed to eat dinner before midnight. But he did a great job on the carrots and, as the picture illustrates, he has pretty good knife technique for a nine year old. In fact, considering that I nearly cut my finger slicing the potatoes, perhaps I could learn a few things from him…