Okay is Okay. And it Makes You a Happier Parent.

Posted January 5, 2016 by jimhigley

12400648_10201111426143846_3636818645534668946_n

My daughter gave me a food processor for Christmas. I’ve secretly wanted one for years.

Not that I’m a big cook. That I’m not. I cook out of necessity 360 days a year. The other five days I notch-up my culinary skills for special occasions.

But I do cook. And in the over 25 years of doing so for my three children, I’ve never had a food processor.

In the past, when a recipe required a food processor, I’d use an old $20 smoothie-maker which waited always in the lower cabinet next to my sink. I’d find it on top of the waffle maker I never used. But the $20 smoothie-maker is something I used. About three times a year.

However, never for a smoothie.

But now I am the owner of a food processor. A sort of culinary legitimizer.

A few days after Christmas I was home with my youngest son. Alone. A rare occurrence for this now college-aged man who is taller than me. And were you to ask him you’d learn that he is also wiser, smarter and more seasoned than me. But he’s still my boy. The one I’ve cared for over many years.

And on that particular night that boy asked me to make him his favorite dinner. Like I used to.

Pasta. With melted butter and parmesan cheese. Could there be anything more basic?

It used to be my go-to meal for him. And (I’m proud to say) I’d regularly sprinkle it with protein of sorts – chicken, turkey, sausage and, yes, hot dogs. I could make this dish in my sleep. And I’m quite sure there were many occasions when I did.

I remember thinking, as a young dad raising this boy and his two siblings, that I wasn’t good enough. A good enough cook. A good enough male laundress, a good enough storyteller. Anything and everything. I’d read about people who were amazing at all things domestic. But I that wasn’t me. Especially with cooking and laundry.

Laundry was a task I undertook nearly every day of my life for well over a decade. With three children – all of whom played sports – it was a necessity. I did it because it had to be done. I did it because I couldn’t stand the smell of their sweaty uniforms. I did it because I didn’t want them to be the one child on the team with grass stains still on their jersey.

I did it because I loved them.

But I didn’t fold clothes.

I learned early on – at least for me – that folding clothes and putting them neatly away in a child’s dresser was a waste of time. Because as soon as I put the clothes neatly away, my children would rummage through them and mess everything up – undoing all that I had done.

Which only made me frustrated.

And my frustration confused them because it didn’t matter to them. So I morphed. And decided to not worry about perfectly folded clothes in dresser drawers that no one ever saw. And with each child I developed a clean clothing plan. With one, I would simply put a basket of clean clothes in her room. What she did with it after that was her decision. With my youngest – who liked his clothes in drawers – I gladly put them away. Unfolded. And for my oldest? I honestly don’t even remember anymore.

But I remember that everyone was happy with the process. As unPinteresty as it was.

That was one of many parenting experiences that taught me what caring really was all about.

We don’t need to be incredible and magazine-perfect to show that we care. There’s not a  grading system associated with one-on-one caring.

The recipient doesn’t judge. They just enjoy the feeling.

Which brings me back to the food processor given to me by my daughter this past Christmas as well as my youngest son’s request for his favorite pasta and parmesan cheese dish.

“I’m running low on parmesan cheese, Drew,” I told him after his request.

He moaned.

Which made me stop and briefly contemplate a quick trip to the grocery store. But then I remembered I had a bunch of leftover cheese from the holidays. Leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap that would typically have stayed in the refrigerator long enough to age out.

I also noticed my food processor sitting pristinely on the kitchen counter.

“What the heck,” I thought to myself. And proceeded to toss into my new food processor three or four small pieces of hard cheese that were destined for doom had they lived in my refrigerator much longer.

I pushed the start button. Gently. Tentatively. I looked around to make sure Drew didn’t see what I was doing. And within less than 15 seconds I had a bowl of perfectly grated cheese.

Which I sprinkled over my son’s pasta before blending it in with a wooden spoon.

A journey back to my bland, boring, uninspiring cooking-for-kids days.

*

Later that night, my son – the one who is taller and wiser than me – randomly said, “Hey Dad, whatever you did with my pasta tonight was really good. Do that again.”

“Awesome,” I said as I thought to myself, “I have no idea what kind of cheese I used.”

But what I also felt – in many ways  – was the most wonderful “P.S” to being a parent for over 26 years. Our children don’t need us to be perfect. Our children simply need to feel cared for. They need to feel loved.

They need to know that every day, in the tiniest of ways, someone is there caring for them. Thinking of them. Making them a priority.

That’s what makes them know they are a person of value.

The wonderful residual when you know someone cares.

*

I loved writing this. And I’m grateful to Whirlpool  for sponsoring this story as part of my my CES series. CES – The Consumer Electronics Show – is happening now! And I’ll be there as a spokesperson for Whirlpool helping share news and great stories about how technology can help all of us care for the people we love. There’s over 20,000 new products being introduced at CES – but what I know is that the ones you’ll be seeing from Whirlpool all are there to improve the lives of families. Check out the CES section of their website to see what they’re planning for the kitchen of the future. #EveryDayCare