Last night, Baby Girl helped cook her first meal.
She's a tremendous help around the house, actually. She does laundry and dishes, as well as feeding her fish. Well, I say "does" but before you accuse me of exploiting my 17 and a half month old, let me explain. What she does is follow directions very well. With laundry, she ferries clothes from a pile to the washer, provided you lift her up so she can throw them in. Once I've poured the detergent into the cup, she pours it into the washing machine. She also loves to be handed the wet clothes, mostly one garment at a time, and put them into the drier. She loves it? Yes. She actually asks to do laundry. When the clothes are dry, she can be persuaded to put them into a pile, but has less patience for folding (mostly she unfolds my piles, but I fold faster than she unfolds, so it works out). I credit my sister with this domestic turn, as she watches Baby Girl two days a week and laundry is one of their chores together.
As for the dishes, she can hand you clean dishes from the dishwasher to be put away. I tend not to load dirty ones in with her there, but she'd be happy to help out then, too.
Baby Girl is also the owner of a fish tank, populated by a merry little contingency of platys, hatchet fish and guppies. Every night she says "bye-ee" to them when we shut off the light, and every morning she helps to feed the fish. I put the flakes in my palm and she transfers them, a pinch at a time, to the fish tank.
Thinking back on all these skills, it dawned on me that she could certainly help cook! She is interested in what we do in the kitchen, of course. She has played in her high chair while we've cut vegetables and such, and she's even perched on my hip and watched in rapt attention while I assembled and cooked her quesedillas (I do many things one handed, the other holding her). But she's never actually helped.
I decided to capitalize on her established skills and have her help make spaghetti and meatballs. Okay, so it's not exactly marinara from scratch here, but I'm so proud of her. We had some leftover jarred sauce, which she poured into the oversized stock pan (to minimize splashes). She added the salt, basil, pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano. She stirred it all up and then dropped in the meatballs, one by one, that we bought at the meat counter at Giant Eagle. She also added in extra water to thin out the sauce. Baby Girl then decided the meatballs were in the wrong place, so she picked a few back out and repositioned them elsewhere in the pot. I put an end to it there. Fortunately, she loves washing her hands (read: I have to limit her to ten minutes a wash, after each diaper change, project, meal, etc and whenever else she notices the sink) so we could clean up pretty well. Plus, Baby Girl will gladly clean up any drips or messes if you hand her a paper towel. My kitchen wasn't the worse for the wear and we had yummy dinner. Moreover, we have leftover meatballs, and that's right up her alley.
I'm very, very proud of her in so many ways. I hope to have a little helper in the kitchen for many years to come! When she leaves our home, she'll know how to feed herself and her family well--at least, that's the goal!