Dinner, Driving, and the Impending School Year

I made dinner from raw ingredients and the kids did not like it. This is completely normal, except for the part where I made dinner from raw ingredients. Today provided enough space in my brain for me to notice the half dozen apples which had gone soft, but not yet rotten. I not only noticed the apples, but was able to formulate a plan for turning them into Sour Cream Apple Chicken over rice. I enjoyed it quite a lot once it was done. Getting started was hard though. My reserves of creative energy are still running low.

Kiki kept me company while I chopped chicken, apples, and onions. In front of her was the Utah Driver Handbook. She is currently studying to take the written test to obtain her driver’s permit. I have many feelings about the idea of her driving, but I’ve squelched them for today. She paused frequently in her slog through the text to ask me questions and to snitch bites of apples or chicken. We discussed right-of-way and where-not-to-park while rice boiled and chopped bits simmered.

“This is all common sense. I already know everything in this book.” Kiki complained, angling to get out of studying.

“Yes, you probably do and that makes me glad. However I’m not going to spend $70 on a test until you have at least read through the book.”

Kiki said nothing, but looked at me with a level gaze, as if not quite convinced that I was really going to require her to read the boring book.

“Also.” I added “I really don’t want to stand in line twice.”

“There will be a line?” Kiki asked.

“Honey, the DMV is made of line. I’m figuring the excursion to get your permit will take at least 3 hours. The smallest piece of that will be the test. Hopefully we’ll get to stand in more than one line because that will mean you’re getting your picture taken for your permit. I really don’t want to go through it twice, so we won’t go until I know you’ve studied.”

This convinced Kiki. Her complaints dried up and we worked through a couple of chapters. The reward for studying real driving was some pretend driving via MarioKart Wii. I can hear them downstairs right now, cackling with glee while the food sits uneaten on the stove.

I’m not really minding the uneaten food today. I already knew they were not fond of this recipe. Making it was a symbolic gesture, a stake in the ground to re-establish normal. We have just under two weeks until school starts. In that time I need to bring all the chaos back into balance. We need to find our center because last year school hit us like a wave and threatened to swamp us all.

This year has the potential to be just as hard. Kiki is starting high school with a full load of homework-heavy classes. (This is also the reason for the hurry on the driver’s permit. We want it out of the way before she has school work too.) Link is starting junior high and will need to figure out how to manage 8 different classes per semester. Gleek is headed into fourth grade, which is typically a difficult grade. And so I view the onset of school, not as an escape, but as a shift in my work load. I will have space in the day where I can work in solitude, but the rest of the time I have to pay attention to the kids. Not so I can carry their loads or do the work that they should do, but I need to stand ready to teach them how to manage. Then I have to hope that they learn quickly because it hurts when I know how to fix it but I can’t without stealing the lessons they need.

I am afraid of what this school year will bring, so I’m trying not to think of it except in scheduling terms. I need to know what to watch for and deal with what is in front of me, not fret about how it might go wrong. So I made dinner. And they didn’t eat it. And that is okay. Because today they live in a world where Mom made dinner for them and expected them to go to bed on time. There is security for them in that. I can see them unwind when the day has meals as signposts to mark the progress of hours. They are happier and less stressed. Two weeks just might be enough to give us a good start on school.