Monday, July 17, 2017

Calendar Conversations

Photo: Cook Diary
(Jewish Apple Cake)
When I was in high school, I loved to bake. Not just stuff out of boxes and tubes (my current go-to when I can't convince my daughter to bake for me), but recipes I selected from cookbooks. My mom and I had a great deal -- I baked and she cleaned up -- one that allowed each of us to do the thing she preferred.

Cooking, on the other hand, is not something I've ever really enjoyed. I don't mind cooking, but I dislike meal planning and, as someone who works from home much of the time, I resent the time meal preparation takes out of my schedule. Once upon a time, putting together a great meal appealed to my creative side, but, with rare exceptions, those days are gone.

Shortly before my husband and I got married, I changed jobs, moving from a full-time position to a Monday-Thursday work week. Over time, that job also morphed into full-time, and Friday night dinners out became part of our routine. We'd become parents by then, so these dinners were never anything fancy, but they became a family tradition of sorts.

Initially, we aimed for restaurant consensus, and later, when my daughter was old enough, we began taking turns choosing the restaurant. She loved the power it gave her when she picked a restaurant, and I loved knowing we'd go somewhere she'd find something to her liking.

Samuel1983 via Pixabay
As her schedule grew more hectic, I began to take the family calendar to dinner so we could plan the week ahead. This elicited groans some weeks, so I tried to keep it short, but remained firm in this part of our dinner agenda. Five minutes between ordering dinner and receiving our food was a key part of keeping everyone on track and creating a built-in reminder system for the week ahead. One of us always remembered the items we discussed (and it wasn't always me) and we rarely double-booked.

Eventually, my daughter grew out of this family tradition, preferring to just chill out on Friday evenings instead of going out to dinner (usually followed by our weekly Target run). Reluctant to let this family time go, my husband and I made a new rule: she could opt out of one dinner a month. By the time she finished high school, our Friday family dinners were once again becoming dinners for two, thanks to a busy schedule, a new driver's license and burgeoning independence.

In retrospect, these Friday dinners became the perfect metaphor for her growing up years: offering choices, letting out the reins a bit, communicating about necessary changes as she asserted her independence.

Making compromises. Showing respect. Finding the balance between her heart's desire and ours.

Last Friday was one of those rare Fridays where we all gathered for dinner out together. Accustomed to my calendar-itis, the only cringing my husband and daughter indulge in these days is of the inward variety, but I honestly don't think there's much of that either. The nine-year-old who reveled in picking the restaurant has become a nineteen-year-old who is a part of the conversation. A year in college has taught her to look beyond the week ahead, and the calendar conversation quickly morphed into to-do lists and necessary back-to-school errands.

A month from now, we'll be packing her up again, and she'll be heading to a place she's come to think of as another home. I remember those days and my own enthusiasm to get back to the friends who'd scattered across the country again after spring semester. Rather than being hurt or insulted by her excitement, I am instead happy that she has found a place worth going back to.

And just like that, my role has changed again. Through an intricate mix of Friday dinners and family vacations, movie nights and card games, informal chats and respect for the independence she's proven ready to handle, my job now is to make sure that home #1 is always a place she finds worth coming back to.

I'm up for that. Just don't ask me to cook on Friday.


No comments:

Post a Comment