Peter and I went to a cooking class on Saturday. I was going to go by myself, but when I informed Peter that the theme was “Fall into vegan cooking” he begged to go with me. He dreamed of squash and pumpkins and vegan cheese, and this class did not disappoint.
First, it was in a building that already felt like “home.” A loft in Eastern Market. Peter and I lived in a loft the Downtown Detroit area before moving to Grosse Pointe, and then over here to the West Side (still sometimes feels like I’m visiting).
Gregg’s friendly, warm smile greeted us, and Peter displayed none of the initial nervousness that usually comes with meeting new people. Angela was preparing class materials in the kitchen, so we sat and waited for the other student, enjoying some water and conversation. While I noticed the sun streaking through the windows onto the mellow gold painted brick wall, we listened to music that further brought Peter and me to a feeling of “home.” Bjork and Leonard Cohen took me back to our loft-living days, and even though Peter was only 3 at the time, I know he felt it too.
Once our fellow student arrived, we chose some tea to drink (thai tea I purchased today because it was so delicious for me, and raspberry ginger for Peter) and found our way into the kitchen for our lesson. Peter was being careless with his feet when we first sat down and kicked over a basket of veggies. I know I should be more patient with him. I guess I was still in the “everyday life” mode instead of the “enjoy this amazing opportunity with your extraordinary kid” mode I quickly found as he asked questions and talked about his experiences with the rest of the adults.
We cooked a stuffed veggie “meat” loaf, squash with candied nuts and raisins, stuffing with fresh herbs, and magnificent pumpkin muffins. Peter had his eye on the squash all day. Constantly checking the clock on the oven, comparing with the watch in his hand…the entire class he paid attention to preparation methods, asking which things he could do at home, and offering some of his opinions on vegetarianism as a child, and as a person in a non-vegetarian world.
Throughout the day, we learned about nutrition, the experiences of our teachers, and cooking techniques we will use from now on, forever.
When it was time to eat together, Peter ate more than I have ever seen him eat in one sitting, commenting all the while how delicious the food was, and enjoying the company of our teachers and the other student. He asked to take an extra muffin to his dad, and wanted to take his recipies to his dad and stepmom so they could help him prepare some of the food we made. He wanted to show them that vegan food can be delicious.
I hardly wanted to take him back, though I know he was thrilled to show his dad what he learned, and I missed Ella something terrible by the time we were back in the car.
Sometimes it takes moments apart from everyday life to recognize that what we teach our children literally makes them who they are. I’m so proud of who Peter is becoming, and I’m grateful to be his mother.
At the Detroit Waldorf School, where Peter attended pre-kindergarten, his teacher told me that Peter was given to me because I am the only person in the world who could be his mother. Understanding that with all his challenges – he’s my child because I’m the best mother for him, has given me great strength when I’ve had to stand up for his needs as a child with Asperger Syndrome. I learn more every day that parenting Peter is extroardinarily challenging precisely because he is such a special person.
J has a theory that the children who provide the most frustrations and challengeas young people are those who will grow to be people who change the world. Maybe he’s right. All I know is that my children have changed my world. Their high needs have made me highly-responsive, and I appreciate the fine-tuning my personality has received as a result.
I forget that it’s not every kid who, at almost 10, is a lifelong vegetarian and animal-rights activist, occasional practicioner of yoga, and great lover of books and hiking. I’ll need to remember this next time he’s whining about not enough pokemon time, or having to re-do his homework.
I’m so grateful to have rediscovered my son, and what “home” feels like, in someone else’s kitchen.