Or perhaps the learned helplessness mutation of the lazy gene. Dark Princess and I are downstairs in the lounge. The lounge is covered in boxes and baskets full of washing, oh and floor rug a la dog hair! Like a mohair rug, with a hint of fox stink.
‘Can you go and start dinner for me please?’ I ask Dark Princess.
‘What are we having?’ She asks without lifting her head from her laptop. Rattlesnake eggs and spiders’ webs.
‘Bangers and mash.’
I wait for a moment or so. No movement.
‘Now would be good.’
She harumphs, gets off the couch and makes her way into the kitchen. I continue folding washing. The never ending Himalayas of laundry. One day my Sir Edmund Hillary will come.
‘Mum, where’s the potato peeler?’
‘In the drawer.’
‘It’s not there.’
‘Oh. Got it’.
Fancy that! Someone’s actually used it and put it in the diswasher. There’s a moment of silence.
‘The potato peeler doesn’t work’.
I can see all movement in the kitchen has ceased. She appears to be reading a Pizza takeaway brochure, with intent. I wait, and then put down the washing I’m folding to go into the kitchen to check on the faulty potato peeler. Of course it doesn’t work. It is after all an extraordinarily technical tool, full of moving parts and hi-tech chips that often breaks down.
‘It’s fine! Of course it works! Like this!’ I demonstrate how to hold the potato peeler.
Dark Princess is 14.5. At her age I was cooking meals for the family. But that was back in the day when we ate dog food for lunch (if we were lucky) and I walked miles through the snow to school with only newspapers on my back to keep me warm. Occasionally dinner was fricasee of hard-luck rat.
Dark Princess picks up the potato peeler and laboriously starts to peel. It takes ten minutes to peel one potato. We may be eating at about 3am at this rate. I have to force myself to not get involved and head back out to the lounge. After all 3am is dinner time – somewhere in the world.
30 minutes or so later.
‘How long do I boil the potatoes for?’
‘Until they’re done.’
‘How do I know if they’re done?’
‘When you can smash them with a knife and they’re soft.’
It would not be maternal or kind to add ‘you numpty!’ but I think it anyway.
I am losing patience. I was not blessed with patience at the best of times but to not know when the tatties are cooked? God above, have I spent my life running around after them so much they have no life skills at all?
Minutes pass. Decades wander by. I am aging before my very eyes. I now wear glasses, carry a cane and take daily suppositries for my constipation.
Dark Princess is still cooking dinner.
‘Have you put the sausages on yet?’
A huge flurry of movement in the kitchen. Papers are rustled, books slam down, the fridge door opens and shuts. I can hear the frying pan slam down onto the gas ring and the sizzle of sausages.
We may get to eat before the end of the milennium. Hurrah!
Which is a good thing as my Englishman has arrived home, Son breezes in through the door from college and Miss Ten has emerged still dripping from her shower.
‘How are we going?’ I enquire of the chef.
The cook sounds stressed.
Could it possibly have anything to do with the smell of singed pork and the pall of smoke? I fight a strong physical urge to race into the kitchen like the cavalry. I start counting. Patience can be whipped into action by recalling numbers.
‘1, 2, 3, 4, 56.., 89..’
Surely it would have been easier to cook myself. Surely? And that is the trap. That’s how they get you. Learned helplessness.
Dinner is served not long after by a red faced hassled looking cook who will, from now on, be paying far more attention in her cooking classes at school.
Dinner was charred sausages served on a bed of potato that had devolved into a river of chalk. Not a hint of green on the plate, but considerable lashings of tomato sauce.
Mums and Dads of younger kids, hear this old wives’ tale and consider this: if you constantly do things for your children how on earth will they ever learn enough to do it for themselves?
And more importantly, do it for you?
Images: Flickr CC