Thursday, April 17, 2008

Testing the Waters

With the impending change in seasons, I can’t hold back the advances my youngest daughter is making toward adulthood. Christine will be my last chick to leave the nest and I am trying really hard to focus on the positive aspects of her new life instead of the desire to hold her close to home. As parents we hope to send our children out in the world with all the tools they will need to survive. We have nurtured them from birth to the terrible twos, from toddlerhood to tweens, and from teenager to adult and we should be happy with the people we have produced. But inside most parents just want their kids to be healthy and happy and to lead a good life, and to keep them close at heart.

Recently I caught myself watching Christine from afar, trying to picture her out alone in the world. Today, I watched as she determinedly peeled potatoes for supper. For years, I have tried to teach her how to peel potatoes, and I must admit I’m not a very good teacher. I am sure there are cooks out there who will gasp and groan when I say that I hold my potatoes in my hand and peel with a paring knife toward my thumb. This is the way I learned and this is the way I have always done it, so naturally I wasn’t going to be able to teach Christine the right way to peel a potato.

On this particular night, Christine was peeling potatoes with her new potato peeler. After so many failed attempts to peel potatoes with a paring knife, on her weekly shopping trip with her Daddy, she found a vegetable peeler. Now she is contentedly peeling potatoes with speed and I don’t have to worry about her cutting her fingers off. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the young ones don’t have a problem. Christine wanted to improve her skill at peeling potatoes and she kept at it until she got it right. Now, if I could just learn to use the vegetable peeler.

While parents are always trying to teach their children, it is amazing what we can learn from our children. I’ve learned many things from my children over the years. I’m so proud of Christine because for the past two years, she has been walking on a daily basis, drinking water and hardly ever drinking sodas. I want to try to emulate her throughout my life but my laziness and lack of will power seem to always win out. Christine has adapted her lifestyle around what she sees me do. I know I shouldn’t drink Cokes and Christine knows I shouldn’t drink Cokes, the problem is, I seem to be addicted and try as I might, I can’t give the habit up. Christine has seen my struggle and she has chosen to limit her intake of soda and increase her intake of water. In this case, my daughter sets a better example than me.

Christine does her own laundry every week and I am proud of that fact. I know when she goes to college, I won’t have to worry about her wearing dirty clothes. She knows what it takes to keep her clothes clean and she realizes that if she doesn’t keep them clean, she won’t have anything to wear. This practice has evolved as she has grown, starting with helping me do laundry and graduating up to her independent use of the washer and dryer. She knows what detergent to use as well as fabric softeners, temperature settings, and load size. This is one thing she won’t have to learn at college, because she’s already an old pro.

Christine has been cooking for a while now, and she enjoys it. I don’t necessarily enjoy cooking, so it’s great to have your teenager cook supper. Chicken fettuccine alfredo, chicken fried rice, and tacos are three of her favorites. She has made a fine art out of searing cubes of chicken for many of her signature dishes. She loves to cook the chicken, but hates to cut it up – kind of like me with pumpkins, I love to carve them, but I hate to gut them. She cuts chicken breasts into bite-size chunks and them throws them in a pan with a pat of butter or olive oil. She cooks the chicken until the outside cooks to the color of caramel and then she can use it in a variety of dishes.

Christine has been studying for her driver’s license and has signed up for driver’s education in the fall. My baby driving – eeck! – be still my heart. I realize that the sooner she gets behind the wheel and learns, the better off she will be, but I’m not quite ready to let go. I already blame my grey hair on my oldest daughters learning to drive, so you would think I would be ready to teach Christine, but I’m not. With all the dangers on the road, I just don’t want her out there alone, but I know she will eventually have to join the “driving nation”. Driving is a major wing-testing task that teenagers can’t wait to undertake and parents want to delay.

A parent’s job is never done, and I guess that’s a good thing. As much as I hate the thought of Christine leaving home, I know that she has to do this in order to grow up. If I could protect her from all lifes little ups and down, I would, but that is not really possible. All I can do is hope I did a decent job of raising her and that she will be able to take care of herself. She has her visions of the future, and as long as her vision includes me every once in a while, then I will be happy.

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