Mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent days, to the point where I try to go out of my way to avoid using it, but in the case of my tween becoming more teenag-ery, it's a good word. Caught up as I am with the demands of a pair of toddlers, I often expect DQ to "figure it out" when it comes to entertaining herself, studying and homework, and snack-making.
I admit that this may not be fair, as I'm comparing 11yo DQ to myself at 11, twenty-some years ago. I do think she's capable of feeding, clothing, bathing, and cleaning without being told to do those things. She's proven her capability many times over. But my former 11yo self differs quite a bit in personality from DQ.
- DQ is super social; I preferred my own company.
- DQ requires constant acknowledgment; I was motivated to stay under the radar by an abusive stepfather.
- DQ is not self-starting; I was independent by eight years old.
- DQ is desperate to learn from me; I self-taught myself.
- DQ takes everything to heart; I didn't allow people's words to get to me.
So, when she asks, "Can I help make dinner?" my first instinct is to deny her because I can do it faster myself. But then that word mindful floats through my head, and I try to mask my reluctance.
In truth, once we get going, I really do enjoy her company. She gets super focused and careful when we cook, listening as I babble on about why we use this temperature or that knife, or how to substitute ingredients. And she recalls the information and steps well. She's like a completely different kid in the kitchen, one I'd like to see continue to develop.
After dinner, if she decides she likes the meal, she grabs her journal and records the recipe from memory, asking questions as I pick up and put away the leftovers and load the dishwasher.
The real reward, however, is when her mom hails me over IM to let me know that DQ made dinner tonight, and it was delicious. I hope that, in twenty years, she forgets the fights and rules and remembers our time at the stove.