Parenting comes in phases. No one warns you about that at the beginning. Well, maybe they do, but you’re too tired to hear anything in those early months. Now that I am the father of an 18-year old college freshman, I am able to sit back and put some perspective into the past two decades and see that it truly comes in waves, a stage at a time.
Early on, during the newness of parenting, kids are in their infant years and your parental philosophy begins to form. Most of this philosophizing is done while changing diapers and/or trying to get a baby to stop crying while sitting in a rocking chair at 3 a.m., and you never realize that a day will come when— they are, like my teenage son, wearing a size 12 shoe and taller than you with a growing aversion to hugs, and— you will be wishing that you were sitting in a rocking chair holding a tiny infant whether they were crying or not.
Next is the questions phase when an endless barrage of questions flies forth from the back seat, “Daddy, why is the sky blue? Daddy, why do the clouds move? Daddy why do you have more hair in your ears than on your head?” You do your best to answer and you never realize that one day you’ll be hoping that they’ll ask questions— the important ones about life and the consequences that come from poor decision making.
The adolescent years are filled with carpooling screaming kids to ball games, chauffeuring screaming kids to the movies, shuttling screaming kids to restaurants where they scream even more, which is just practice for screaming still more on the ride home. It’s the loudest phase in parenting and you never realize that one day it will be just you and your wife sitting in a quiet car, on the way to a movie, wishing the back seat was full of screaming kids. It’s not until then that it hits you that the screaming wasn’t screaming at all. It was nothing more than loud fun.
The teen years are filled with minor battles and small turf wars inside the home. All is smooth sailing in public. It’s behind the scenes when the fangs come out. An argument could start any minute about whether the sun will come up in the morning and occasionally you find yourself taking the opposing viewpoint. You don’t realize until it’s too late that they are in a transitional phase and undergoing a metamorphosis from being a totally independent little person to becoming a wholly independent grown-up person. And then one day you catch yourself missing that dependent person.
Last week our daughter was home from college. Being away has been a great experience for her. She is learning what life is like without her own personal housemaid, valet, lackey, and servant— her mother. Those two are best friends. They still lock horns on occasion, but the times between those incidences have grown longer. Today she just wants cookies.
That was my wife’s thing. We were the cookie house. Her friends knew that whenever they came over to our house, no matter what time of day, my wife would bake a batch of fresh, warm cookies for them.
Early on I had plans to be the breakfast dad. I wanted all of the kids to end up at our house sometime around midnight or 1:00 a.m. and my plan was to make them pancakes and bacon. It was a good plan, one that I conceived in my thirties. I didn’t know that by my mid to late forties my ability to stay awake past the 10:00 p.m. news would be severely altered. So, instead of getting a full breakfast late at night, my daughter’s friends got cookies. My wife loved that job. She still does it for my son’s friends. She always makes them breakfast the next morning, too.
One of the only requests my daughter made on her short visit home was for brownies. Actually, she doesn’t really want brownies. What she wants is to lick the bowl She’s like her old man in that aspect. I make brownies just so I can lick the bowl. I could care less about the finished product. Though that’s one of those things that, early on, I probably griped about. Last weekend I made brownies twice. She and I took turns dipping a rubber spatula into the bowl. When we were finished there really wasn’t a lot of batter left to bake brownies.
That is when it struck me, sitting there looking at a half-eaten batch or raw brownie batter in my kitchen. It’s not the destination it’s the ride. It’s the getting there that really matters. Let them have all of the brownie batter they want. At the end of the day, it’s the shared experience that matters.
Early on my wife and I made a commitment to each other and dedicated the coming two decades’ focus on child rearing. We knew then that the time would pass too quickly and we made sure to milk it for every minute. We milked it, and the time still went too fast.
I’ve got a lot of job titles— restaurateur, chef, author, columnist— but the most important one, with the most lasting impact is, and the one that is actually the most fun and rewarding is “dad.” It’s even more fun when I get to lick the bowl.
Muz’s Fudge Cake
4 Squares Bakers Chocolate
2 sticks Butter
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Flour
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup Nuts, chopped
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Once incorporated let cool slightly. Cooled chocolate should still be in liquid form.
Mix together the four eggs and gradually and the two cups of sugar until completely incorporated. SLOWLY pour the slightly warm chocolate mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
Slowly incorporate the flour into the chocolate/egg mixture. Add vanilla, nuts, salt, and mix.
Line a pan with waxed paper or parchment. Pour in the chocolate mix. Bake at 350 approximately 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Carefully flip the fudge cake and finish cooling. Once cooled completely, remove wax paper and cut into squares.