All the Good Mothers Are Doing It

I’m ready for a Southern Living moment in my tiny, charming retro kitchen. My eager children are smiling in their tiny aprons. Little chubby, willing hands wait patiently for instruction. All ingredients are perfectly and prettily measured into stylish prep bowls – you know, in that annoying way they do on cooking show segments. (I particularly get a culinary kick out of the way they put the finished dish in the oven and the second oven already has a finished dish in it. Hark!) My children even eat everything with proud delight as they have had a hand in the prep work. (This is one of the promised side-effects, yes?)


Sadly, by the third ingredient, I’ve lost one kid and part of the butter to the art supplies,the toddler is pulling desperately on my pant legs (watch out…I know from experience those yoga pants will fall), and the child who is interested is trying to convince me baking soda and baking powder are probably just the same thing while reaching for the huge chef’s knife. And he wants to practice chopping on the crayons.

Ahhh, kids in the kitchen. I often hear more experienced moms discuss the merits of expecting and allowing kids to help with food preparation. “All the good mothers are doing it,” they preach. In my heady bubble world this sounds delightful. Meal planning and preparation: What a valuable thing to incorporate into our homeschooling day. Fractions, vegetables (you know how I feel about the vegetables, people), gratitude for food God provides, and money management. Perfect.

The truth? I want my kids out of the kitchen. Not in. I want that sacred moment of cathartic chopping all to myself. I’m selfish in the kitchen. I don’t want the chaos of don’t-spill-it and wait-until-I-tell-you-to-stir and did-you-just-eat-raw-egg. I’m in a hurry. I just need to get supper on the table, for the love of all that is edible and holy.

Oh, wise culinary engineers out there, pray tell this selfish mom how to enjoy her children in the kitchen. You know who you are: If your 9 year-old can prepare a family meal independently, I’m talking to you, you excellent food disciplinarian, you. Let them make a mess? Pray for more patience? Wait until they are twelve?  I know you all know the secret and you are just not telling me…

  • kristie@thedecorologist

    will my children be helping prepare thanksgiving dinner? i’ll be doing well to be helping prepare it myself! love your post :)

  • Genna Waldron Kunik

    Hello sweet friend!

    This made me chuckle!! My kids eagerly anticipate helping me in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. I’m am not sure when this little tradition started, but I must have snapped a picture of them and it seems that this all started around 5 years ago. The funny thing is that they have ONE job. They do their job and then they take off. Tee! Hee! At the time, there was only 2 of them with this sacred job! lol! Now there are 3! It’s getting quite crowded. I give them each a spice shaker and they actually season “Tom”. They love it! They especially love watching me try to find his “insides”.
    Just thought I’d share this with you! Glad to hear you are normal! We all want our mom time and we are all sometimes in such a hurry.

    Keep up the good work lil’ mama!


  • debbie childers

    The key is ONE kid at a time in the kitchen! Put an apron on them and let them help as long as they can follow directions. . . just like we have to when we read recipes!! I have the most passionate, creative (unruly) kids on the planet, but somehow they pull it together to work with me in the kitchen and get first dibs on licking the spatula!(:

  • Tisha

    My kids do not help me in the kitchen, and I was seldom allowed to help my mom. However, my mom is great with letting my kids help her when she cooks. So maybe by the time I am a grandmother I will be able to deal with the little kitchen helpers.

  • kimberlee

    Ditto Debbie–one child at a time! Today I was inspired to teach my 10 year old son how to cook scrambled eggs bc his little sister wasn’t home to beg, “can I? can I??” He had my full attention and I was able to be very patient, very rare for me! And very important if I want him to not lose interest and eventually attract a spouse with his mad cooking skills. I’m getting ahead of myself.
    I want to share something kids can do during the holidays where they are contributing to the cooking, but they are out of the kitchen–making butter.
    And shares exactly how.

  • Lisa C

    When my son was little, I would sometimes give him a bowl and add a few ingredients for him to stir his own concoction. He might have Cheerios, salt, etc. in his bowl. He enjoyed pretending he was making “Cheerio Soup.” As far as I know, he never actually ate what he made but it kept him occupied while I fixed the “real” dinner. I would like some help in the kitchen, but I want whoever is helping to do it to my specifications, so generally…I end up doing it alone.

  • Jackie F.

    Sweet Andrea… This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve read this. Every day a new adventure with these little guys – even after they aren’t so little. OH! And my son helped with dinner last night – he cleaned up the prep dishes as I moved around. I think that’s officially his new gig! OH! And he saved dinner with suggesting alternate ingredients…. A big pat on the back? Why no, I don’t mind if I do… LOL

  • Anna Quinn

    The who-is-going-to-help-make-the-chocolate-pecan-pie fight is about to ensue! And believe me, they don’t want to work together. It’s a “by myself” kind of project, apparently! In need of rescue . . . . Anna

  •! Angela B

    Ah! I wish I could write so well. Very funny, and very true. Our family success tricks: Yes, as mentioned above ONE child in the kitchen. My cousin was blessed with twins. Her very handy husband built a special platform that gives them the needed height to help and learn, but keeps them contained (think: platform like window washers). Always keep mixers unplugged until you’re ready to turn them on (how many times have I cleaned up powdered sugar or flour that has poofed ceiling high thanks to an over-anxious child wanting to “mix it now???”) As for knives and crayons, our little one was given a fancy wooden kitchenette with wooden knives – all fancy sorts. I find the serrated edged wooden knife that was used to cut the red crayon (“Lookm Mommy, it’s a tomato!”) very disturbing. Crayon doesn’t clean well off of unfinished wood. Really, the success comes when they get to college and can actually feed themselves without a microwave or a meal ticket, until then, who’s counting all the dirty floors, fingerprints on cupboard doors, overturned bowls, and please don’t look at the ceiling above the mixer…it’s just not fair!

  • KFS

    Wait until they are twelve.

    Ten at the outside.

    My 12 year old daughter is a careful and capable cook, more concerned with exact measurements than I am and a bigger germ-a-phobe than any of us. I could probably hire her out as a sous’ chef. (sp?)

    I had her messing around in the kitchen at a younger age but the keyword is “mess.” Be willing to sacrifice the occasional egg or 1/4 of flour to the cause, let them crack and mix and whip to their heart’s content. Then practice good sleight of hand and dump their contribution (or just wait until they lose interest and wander off).

  • colleen

    A kid in the kitchen is challenging. I didn’t do it a lot but I did. It paid off in dividends this past weekend when my twenty year old “kid” was home from college and cooked dinner for our family while I hung out on the couch. Keep it simple…scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, cookies and do it when you aren’t frantically trying to make Thanksgiving dinner. ….EEEEK

  • Beth

    I am so with you on this one, and agree that most kids would def. learn more with one-on-one time in the kitchen. Just so you don’t give up . . . my 24 year-old son wanted to learn how to make the pie crust and pies this year for T-giving, and prepared the pecan and apple pies from scratch! My 20 year-old did the dressing, and the 22-year old just combined ingredients and cut cheese to go into the broccoli rice casserole! For them, each having their own dish to prepare worked great, and since there are no girls to pawn off the cooking responsibilities on, they realize that many great chefs are male! It doesn’t hurt that they’ve grown up seeing their dad and I cook together LOTS, and always doing the whole Thanksgiving meal together! Besides, some kids are just more interested than others, but eventually, they all want to EAT!!! I wonder if we have spoiled our sons by going to eat at some very good restaurants, but hopefully it will result in them wanting to cook great food!!! Blessings on you all raising children that love the Lord–that’s the main thang :0