“Mate!” I exclaimed, frustrated at having to repeat myself for the third time in as many minutes. “Clean up as you go.”
Master14 was panicking about his upcoming Home Economics test where he was to cook up fried rice and had asked to have a practice run at home. I agreed incorrectly thinking a stress free night of someone else cooking for the family sounded great.
“Stop yelling at me,” he snapped back. “I’m anxious already.”
He was anxious!?
I’d spent the last fifteen minutes trying to keep my tone friendly and encouraging but it was getting increasingly difficult.
That’s not how the teacher said to cut an onion. Then why did you ask me to show you? Do I cut up the trunks of the broccoli and put them in too? Yes, I mean do you even look at what I feed you as you’re shovelling it into your mouth? I wanted a proper thing of corn not a can of corn, Dad. Well you should have said. I did – I told you I needed corn!
Nothing either of us was doing was right in the eyes of the other but he wouldn’t let me leave the kitchen and after one particular point in the proceedings I decided I wasn’t risking leaving.
Only a couple of minutes ago I’d walked past the saucepan bubbling away on the stove and asked him what had happened to all the water in with the rice.
“That doesn’t look like eight cups,” I told him.
“Eight cups?!” he exclaimed, racing over. “I thought you said a cup.”
Half an hour later the family was enjoying Master14’s dish and giving him all the congratulations he seemed to think was warranted.
He was lapping it up. But of course he wanted more.
“What would you rate it out of ten, Dad?” he wanted to know.
“Oh, a ten,” I grinned through another mouthful of slightly overpowering burnt onion flavour.
I expected him to giggle and ask what I really thought of it and then we could discuss a couple of little places he could focus on during his test.
“Good,” he nodded as if I was just confirming what he already knew. “I want to do really well.”
“You’ll do fine,” I assured him. “Just put the rice on and then prep everything else before you start cooking the onion and all the rest. Have it lined up in little bowls or something. And clean up as you go so you don’t end up in a mess where you can’t find anything. Trust me, it’s just easier.”
Turns out I mustn’t have stressed that last bit enough.
He slumped into the car seat after school and I knew before asking it mustn’t have gone as well as he’d hoped. I mean it had no chance of going that well, but it must have been even worse than I’d hoped.
“I think I got a C minus,” he grumbled.
“That bad?” I said, surprised. And I was. I mean the thing we ate was at least edible. The little kids even had seconds. “What happened? Did you burn the onions?”
Burn the onions? Forget to add water to the rice? Leave out the soy sauce? Snap at the teacher for emptying the fire extinguisher all over his frypan? Once I started to mentally list off the many ways it could have gone wrong I realised there might have been any number of things.
“No, the rice tasted fantastic,” he said, perking up for a moment. “It was even better than last night.”
So an eleven out of ten then.
“Well, what was the problem?” I prompted.
He sighed, a bit miserable again.
“We weren’t marked on our cooking,” he said, before saying something which made me think the teacher must have been in a cracker of a mood that day and as such extremely generous with her marking. “We were marked on our cleaning up.”
Poor bugger. He didn’t stand a chance.
Raising a family on little more than laughs
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