A friend of mine mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that when her children were young, a friend of the family – also a mother to little children – died suddenly in her sleep. That terribly tragic event, my friend said, made her realise the importance of teaching life skills to her children as early as possible, so that they have the best chance of becoming appropriately self-sufficient into their teenage years and beyond; especially if the absolute worst should happen to them too.
I saw deep wisdom in this. I’ve always baked with the boys – blanking out the true horrors of baking with them, only to have the memories come screaming back to me in glorious technicolour as soon as I fetch out the caster sugar again – but I’ve always planned to move onto easy savoury recipes as well, building up into creating proper meals. I want them to be young men who are confident in the kitchen, unafraid to try new recipes and experiment, and – most importantly – have the ability to feed themselves a healthy, home-cooked diet.
But the thought of not being around to teach them so many other household basics galvanised me into action too, and I immediately began to draw up plans for a new life skills and self sufficiency programme, for implementation this summer.
So we are now under a new regime. The boys are now required to fold and put away their clothes; sort dirty washing into lights and darks; sort clean socks and pants, and put them away; make their beds; prepare simple snacks and breakfast with supervision; and lay the table for dinner. This is the list of things that we expect of them as functioning humans living in the house. There’s a further list of things they can do to earn a little pocket money, which includes washing up their water bottles, and light dusting. I’m formulating a longer list for them to graduate into, when I feel more confident that they can be trusted with my highly-prized kitchen essentials (the washing machine and dishwasher).
The youngest has taken his new responsibilities in his usual cheery stride. If he can accomplish things easily, he’s more than happy to take them on board and do “grown up” things.
His brother, however, has been a different story. Instead of being grateful to have this knowledge of how to be an effective human passed on to him, the oldest one is most put out, and mutters darkly about how he has “the worst life” and that we are unspeakably cruel parents.
Ah well. It’s only going to get worse, darling! Wait until I ask you to start clearing up after your baking…
This image – my kitchen last week, by me.