D: Fisher, it’s your turn to scramble the eggs today.
F: Okay, Daddy.
He drags over a chair. He cracks the eggs. He pours the milk. He attempts to scramble the eggs. Daddy steps in and scrambles a bit more for good measure. He applies spray to the nonstick pan. He pours the scrambled eggs onto the frying pan.
F: Can I turn on the stove?
D: Well, you have to turn on the stove to cook the eggs. They aren’t gonna cook if you don’t turn it on, are they?
F: No. Which one do I turn?
D: See this, it says, “Front.” Is that the one?
D: This says, “Back.” Is that it?
F: Uh huh.
He turns the stove’s knob until he hears the click and blue flame lights.
Julie Lythcott-Haims has a chapter in her book “How to Raise an Adult” called “Teach Life Skills.” In the chapter, she describes neighbors with four kids, each of whom, from the age of four, was expected to make her own breakfast, freeing up the parents to work out, shower, and get ready for the day. While the oldest kid is visiting, Julie asks him how it works: “The cereal is in the bottom cupboard, so are plates, and cups, and the milk is on a low shelf in the refrigerator. [My parents] showed me how to do it when I was little and my brother and sisters figured it out by watching me.” From age four. The takeaway is to resist doing things for kids that they can do for themselves…and kids can do a surprising number of things for themselves if they are allowed to try. It isn’t as easy to teach a young kid to prepare his own breakfast in the face of a parallel commitment to include, as often as possible, some good clean protein (through eggs) in the first meal of each day (especially after that damn classmate of Cory’s ruined hard-boiled eggs for her), but Daddy smiles finishing Julie’s chapter on the BART train, already having gotten six-year-old Cory and Fisher up on that chair, scrambling away at their own eggs.
Speaking of which, Daddy steps in and adjusts the heat, explaining where the arrow should point.
D: Are you missing anything?
F: Um…a spatula?
He gets a temperature-resistant spatula. He puts one hand on the padded handle of the frying pan. (“Once you get going, there are only two things you can touch: the spatula and the handle of the pan. The spatula and the handle of the pan. They’re the only two things.”) He uses the spatula to stir with the other hand. He keeps stirring until the eggs are cooked just right. Daddy steps in to carry them over to the plates.
D (eyeing the 65-pound puppy): Fisher, one jump from Cinder, and those hot eggs and that hot pan are going to go flying.
F: Oh, thanks, Daddy!
D: Fisher, did you forget anything?
Daddy flicks eyes to the stove while Cinder’s eyes stay trained on the pan, alert for loose bits falling.
F (turning the knob back to off): Oh, thanks, Daddy!
The eggs look exactly like Daddy’s, but Cory thinks they are “too watery.” Sigh. Always a critic.