How To Cure After School Blues
My youngest daughter came home from school a little down. One of her friends had found another group of friends to hang out with leaving her a little sad and lonely. There was a lot to talk about this evening…important stuff about how to survive the ‘tweens. With issues abound like cyber bullying, sexual predators, unplanned pregnancy, and drug abuse, hanging on to innocence these days seems impossible. When you’re almost ten there’s a lot to take in and everything is such a big deal.
This was just a friend break up (to me, but the world crashing in for her) that had her down, but even so, it wasn’t easy getting her to talk about it. As a mom, a wife, a friend, I’ve learned (and still am learning) that just listening is as much of a skill as baking bread. One must know just how high the thing should rise, when to punch it back down, how to handle things delicately, and how to know when the thing is done. Just like the bread, it took a couple of hours for my girl to let all her feelings rise up, cry it out a bit, and finally start talking about it while helping me with dinner. I just listened while interjecting an occasional “Hey, could you measure a cup of flour?” and, “Stir this for a minute, will you?”
Once she started talking, making dinner became a nice backdrop to the conversation, and eventually a nice diversion from her woes. Julia had never heard the term “surf & turf” before, and when I told her what it meant she wanted to try it right away. I didn’t have any beef tenderloin or lobster just lying around but I had some chicken tenderloins and shrimp in the freezer so we tried our poor man’s version for dinner.
I thawed the chicken in the microwave while I had Julia put flour, salt, pepper and spices in a zip-top plastic bag. I put the chicken in it when it was thawed and she shook everything up to coat it well. I placed this into a skillet with hot melted vegetable shortening, and fried it up on both sides until it was golden and crispy while microwaving a couple of potatoes. When the chicken was done I let it drain on a paper towel, I threw the shrimp (which was precooked) into the oil, and cooked them until they were nice and hot. For something green, I plopped some romaine, cheese and dressing onto the plate. While I was dealing with the lettuce. I had Julia stir the pan gravy made from the leftover flour coating, and a couple of tablespoons of the frying oil with all the brown bits at the bottom, made a nice little roux, then added a cup or so of milk. Having the extra hands to stir the gravy made it come out quite smooth. Soon our minds were far from our troubles and a tasty dinner was ready for just the two of us.
We talked and talked some more and decided we should bake a cake and have a good dessert too because to a nine year old cake = happiness. Also, just to add to the fun, we were eager to find out if Grandma Mary’s old Sunbeam mixer from the seventies still worked. My mother gave it to me the other day wishing me the best with it because my Black & Decker model had just croaked. We whipped up a boxed mix of white cake, talking about the four generations that have used this mixer. Our minds successfully steered farther and farther from our troubles by this time, and yet even farther once we iced and ate our cake.
Julia is a sweet sensitive girl, as many girls her age are, and I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the pressures and social issues she will face. Her own brother and sister are college graduates and it was really hard watching how painful growing up was for them. Heck, I don’t even know how I survived it! Tweensville is one tough town buddy!
Her dad got home from work just before bed time and asked us how our day was. I told him that today being a 4th grader wasn’t easy and shot Julia a furtive look. Jeff caught the tone and with his special ability to cure even a rainy day he said, “Oo Yeah, 4th grade was the toughest three years of my life.” Julia smiled reluctantly. “…but least I learned how to have a sense of humor.”
Julia rolled her eyes still trying to hold back a smile and said, “Now I see why it took three years, Daaaad.” Her quick and clever retort made us laugh out loud.
With a twinkle in his eye, he cupped her face in his hand and said with a proud smile, “That’s my girl…so what did you make me for dinner? It smells good in here!”
Bad mood? What bad mood? Julia’s after-school blues greatly improved with dinner and cake, but Daaaad managed to peg the happiness meter all the way past ten in about five seconds…totally Daddy’s girl. He can’t let her be sad for even a second.
The world is going to continue to throw a lot of hurt at our kids but we’re committed to making home a place where they can check the hurts at the door, come in, and just be loved…and of course well fed.