Mornings recently got easier for me.
It started when my son, Harrison, began pouring Cheerios and Rice Krispies into a bowl. It sounded like rats had invaded the kitchen, but it was just the 8-year-old rustling through boxes on the cereal shelf of the pantry and clanging the bowl down on the counter.
“Don’t you want some milk with that?” I asked when I walked in on him.
“No, thanks,” he said, slowly walking past me to the living room to lounge in front of morning cartoons as he ate.
Soon he was microwaving hash browns. When I heard the slap of the microwave door, I realized what he had done as he stood on top of a chair to reach. “I thought you’d be mad, Mommy,” he said. I went with the moment. “No. Just don’t fall off the chair or put anything metal inside the microwave,” I told him.
He moved on to lunch, one day manically preparing his own sandwich to pack for school: a Wonder Bread hamburger bun with a slice of American cheese and some mayonnaise nuked in the microwave for one minute. I suggested he wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil.
This week, home from school with a buddy over early, it warmed me when I emerged for my first cup of coffee to see Harrison serving breakfast: hash browns and warmed-up edamame. The boys were visibly pleased with their feast.
Although I have been feeling a sense of pride about my son’s newfound self-sufficiency, I wondered whether this working mother ought to be making other decisions before work — bagging exercise or the extra sleep to make pancakes with blueberries picked from the garden or some such.
“Every working mom thinks she should be doing more,” says Wendi Fischer, West Islip-based child and school psychologist.
In letting go of the apron strings, make sure safety is a major concern, teaching the child about how stoves can stay hot after use or how you can get electrocuted by putting a knife in the toaster, she says. And, she suggests, “talk about nutrition,“ so they make good choices about what they prepare for themselves to eat.
Her biggest advice: Forget the guilt and embrace his need for some independence, but be there in the background should he need someone to point out that his steaming hot hamburger-bun-with-American-cheese-and-mayonnaise sandwich might melt the plastic in the Ziploc he had originally laid out for himself.