Cooking On A Budget: To Soon Old, To Late Smart

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Soon Old, To Late Smart

When two of my children were very young, my first husband and I divorced.  Being a single parent was a challenging experience. I had to obviously be the main "bring home the bacon" person, chief cook and bottle washer, the cleaning fairy and launderer and the errand and lawn boy all wrapped in one.  Not to mention I was the "bad cop" - the one who had to hand out discipline and say no to extra goodies at the grocery store. A role that I really hated playing.
I worked a Monday through Friday job; generally an 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning start and my work day ended at 5 p.m. Then it was head to the babysitters, pick up the kids and go home clean up the mess from the morning rush and cook supper. Even though I did not acknowledge it or wrap my mind around it, the kitchen was my den.
We lived in this little dollhouse - built in the 1850's. Beyond the glassed in front porch was an entry into a very small living room and directly ahead of that was a tiny dining room.  The kitchen and pantry was off to the right of the dining room.  The kitchen had no counters and no cabinets.  There was however a small pantry to the right with a sink and lots of pantry shelves.  To the left of the kitchen was the "mud room" and a back door entrance into the house.
When my youngest child had pretty much full mobility I made a very wise decision.  I swapped rooms - the dining room became the living room and vice versa.  That way, when I was cooking dinner I could keep an eye on both of my children.
Although we did have a dining room table, we ate our dinners at the small round Formica topped table in the kitchen. The only other things in the kitchen were the refrigerator and stove and covered radiator. Nightly meals consisted of food that I was taught how to cook from my mother or grandmother. Shopping on a budget was commonplace for me.
Payday meant that we could possibly splurge - order a pizza and rent a movie that we all watched together. I recall vividly that the only other form of entertainment came in the form of packing a picnic type lunch and taking the kids to a playground. On a rare occasion we would pack a picnic lunch, take the Chester Ferry across the Connecticut River and head up to Gillette's State Park in Hadlyme. There, beside a medium sized fish pond were picnic tables and fire pits to cook on.
When the children and I were at home and they were bored I was often asked to participate in "playing". Play a board game, play barbies and things of that nature.  Unfortunately, being a single parent was very taxing and I all to often said, "I was not put on this earth to entertain you."  I allowed housework, laundry and my job to take precedence over interacting with my children.  The two children I am speaking of are now 31 and 26 years old.
If I had it to do over again, I would pack more picnic baskets filled with sandwiches and Oreo cookies. I would play Sorry and Monopoly and Wiffle Ball. I would play tea and dollies and Barbies and Cabbage Patch kids and I would play "Skeeter Inn" with my children and nieces.
My wish for you is that you interact as much as possible with your children. Housework will always be there no matter what. And despite feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as a parent, summon up whatever energy you can and spend more time making memories and less time cleaning toilets. Bring the kids in the kitchen and make cookies or cupcakes or a pudding mix. If you don't they will grow up in the blink of an eye.
And like my father always said: "To Soon Old, To Late Smart".
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