What I Learned About Parenting from Last Night’s Dinner Fail

I pretty much put dinner on the table Monday through Friday.  On the weekends, I don’t worry about it too much.  There’s leftovers and Mary Tyler Dad is around to help “man” the kitchen.  Last night was one of those infrequent nights that we cooked dinner together.  Aside from me not having showered all weekend, or done my hair, it was a picture perfect moment of a happy couple slicing and dicing away.

We were making a chili recipe I had found a few weeks before.  It was a hit, so there it was back in rotation on the menu.  My husband is much more of a natural cook and something that might take me 20 or 30 minutes, he tackles in 5 or 10.  I set him up chopping and dicing (also known as the ‘laundry’ of kitchen duties) while I browned the meat and measured the spices.  We were good to go and making great time.

After the veggies had been added I stirred the chili and said out loud, “Huh.  Last time I made this it was red.  Why isn’t it red?” But there were corn muffins to get in the oven and stories to tell and two kids to tend to, so I didn’t think too much about it.

About 15 minutes later I pulled the corn muffins out and put them on the counter.  Dinner was ready!

That was when I saw the box of tomatoes and the jar of salsa.  I had a V-8 moment.  Dude.  I had completely forgotten to put the “red” ingredients into the chili, which would, of course, account for the odd brown color it was rocking.  Oh, yeah. um, maybe dinner would take a few minutes more.

Crisis averted by simply adding those tomatoes and salsa I had so absentmindedly left out.  And those muffins that so stubbornly clung to the tin?  Pfffft, muffin tops taste better anyway.  We were delayed about 15 minutes, but that’s the story of my life every day.  Why should dinner be any different than any time I try and leave the house?

As we sat down to eat and I admired and salivated over our food, I thought about what a great metaphor for parenting our dinner fail was.  And, yes, this is how the mind of a mom blogger works.  At all times.  It is exhausting, just ask my husband.

Last night’s dinner presented fails in two different kinds of ways.  With the chili, I simply got distracted and didn’t follow the recipe as written.  That was a clear and easy to identify mistake.  My mistake, which I own.  With the muffins, I had done exactly as the instructions on the box suggested.  Didn’t matter, as those suckers were stuck in that pan and not going anywhere.  But what’s this — you do as you’re told and something still gets mucked up?

Chili 2

This is where the parenting metaphor comes in, so stick with me.  And stop with the eye rolling already!

When we parent, there will be mistakes we make that will fall squarely on our shoulders.  The phone attended to more than the child, consciously opting not to wear boots on the first sunny, warm day in months, which results in massive puddles and soaking wet shoes and socks for your son on a long day out.  Those dots are easy to connect and you try to not make those mistakes regularly.

But the second kind of mistake, the stuck muffin mistake, well, those kind of mistakes are seemingly beyond your control.  You pay attention, you do everything you’re told to do to avoid the mistake, you expect the best, and then, fail.  Those kind of parenting mistakes suck the most.  There are fewer dots to connect, fewer clues as to how to make things right.  Sometimes muffins stick and sometimes we get stuck, too.

When we parent, we make mistakes.  They are a given, a fact of life, inevitable.  But if cancer has taught me anything, it’s that many things in life that you think are a problem, a fail, well, bluntly put, they’re not.  So many of our mistakes in parenting have a fix.  Time helps.  Talking helps.  Walking away helps sometimes, too.

Last night’s dinner had a happy ending.  The chili was delicious despite my original omissions.  Corn muffins taste good, top or bottom.  It worked out fine in the end.

Parenting doesn’t always.  Bad things can happen despite your best efforts, but most of the time, much of the time, things work out.  Our kids grow up to make mistakes of their own.  And that is comforting to me, just like chili on a cold winter’s night.

Chili 1


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