Giving my kids access to knives might have been my smartest parenting decision yet. I’m not sure why I didn’t do it earlier.
It all started one day, a few weeks ago, when I was cleaning out our kitchen cabinets. I go kind of declutter-crazy every couple of months, when I read those inspiring articles about people who pared down their belongings and live a freer life. We don’t need so many serving platters! Why do we own so many pots? Donate, donate, donate! I need to be free!
I was also moving items around, and decided to move the kids’ stuff — plastic cups, plates, popsicle moulds, etc. — from an upper cabinet to a lower cabinet. If they could reach everything on their own, maybe they could … actually get their own juice?
For some reason, the morning juice requests had really been making me twitch.
By that point in the morning, I’d spent time laying out outfits, helping the kids get dressed, brushing their teeth, combing and styling their hair, and tidying up the top level. Then I’d release them — literally, opening the baby gate and releasing them like caged animals — to the main level, where they would grab pots of yogurt and spoons.
I’d have a few minutes to run around upstairs and get myself ready. Then I’d come downstairs and make a beeline for the tea kettle, fumbling my way through the fill-up process, to empty yogurts and indignant cries of “forgetting” their juice.
Not just one request. Numerous peeps and chirps about their juice, as I boiled water and retrieved a tea bag and tried to do everything possible to get my morning tea fix. Once the tea was steeping, fine, yes, I’d pour the juice. I started to hate juice, just on principle.
But as soon as the cups hit the table, the requests for waffles and fruit and cereal and “round toast” (English muffins) and “brown toast” (whole wheat toast) would start. Yogurt was the only easy part of our breakfast routine, because they could do it on their own.
The yogurt is the key, I thought as I loaded their plasticware into their new kiddie cabinet. I decided to add some knives. Now, we’re talking about child-appropriate knives, of course: a dull saw-edged one (marketed at children) for cutting fruit, and a butter knife for spreading. I also added a few small cutting boards.
“This is your very special cabinet, with your very own ‘cooking’ tools,” I told the kids during the official unveiling. “You have bowls for pouring your cereal, and cups for your juice — D, you can help C with the pouring — and even little knives for cutting fruit or spreading peanut butter.”
Four-year-old D clasped his hand excitedly at having his “very own knife and ‘cutty’ board.” Three-year-old C looked skeptical, like I was outsourcing my juice-pouring responsibilities to someone she didn’t quite trust to get the job done.
The next morning was the big test. I heard cabinet doors opening and closing — and a few squabbles — while I got dressed, and hoped I wouldn’t walk down to see hundreds of Cheerios floating in a lake of orange juice.
But no, there wasn’t any more than a small puddle on the counter. The kids were both sitting at their little table, with bowls of cereal and milk, yogurts, and full-to-the-brim cups of juice. Once I peeled a banana for D, he carefully sliced it on his “cutty” board and transferred the pieces to a bowl.
The independence has awakened a real interest in cooking, especially in D. He runs downstairs announcing “I’m going to fix my own breakfast, OK, Mom?” and begs to help with lunch and dinner prep whenever he’s around. He’s learning how to use the microwave and toaster, too, but only with adult supervision. I haven’t gotten scrambled eggs yet, but he did pour me a bowl of cereal the other day!
Yes, there have been mornings when C tried to dump half a box of cereal into her tiny bowl, D refused to pour her juice, and I discovered trails of milk dribbles leading to too-full cereal bowls.
But the minor messes are more than worth it, especially when one of them forgets and asks me for a cup of juice as I’m busy making my tea.
“Of course,” I smile, gesturing to their cabinet. “Help yourself.”