“We had a situation last night…” she said.  

I know this mom, and when I look into her eyes, I feel good about what I see there. Her tween daughter and mine are not the same, but there is a valor I see in this mom that I find reassuring. We had our time in the iron shackles: the morning after the sleepover, each mother arrived and marveled at the situation: surely not! we thought. Not my child! we assured ourselves.  

But it was. It was our children.  We’d like to think they know better, that we’ve taught them, that when the hour arrives they are prepared. But they weren’t. Such are the evil teen years. The persuasion of the cool kid trumps the parenting, and we are left scrambling and awkwardly picking up the pieces from that one thing – the thing we thought we had done our jobs to prevent or circumnavigate.  

We hadn’t.  

The aforementioned situation was not ideal… but it wasn’t the end of the world. It raised the hair on the back of my neck, but then hours later I sat by a backyard fire and felt like a bear at the entrance to my cave: our children were inside our home, safe and insulated.  Out by the burning embers from the fire that I suddenly – insistently – asked my husband to build, I realized I was burning other things.  Earlier in the evening, I asked my wounded child – still smarting from the stress of the day – are you good? She walked over silently and hugged me.  Thanks, Mom. she said sincerely, and then tapered off. My heart wondered for what?   

But my mind was a little more on point, and I looked her in the eye, returning the hug. She looked at me meaningfully and smiled weakly. I know, I said. I get it. She hugged a little more. This is one of the few times I think I may have gotten it right – one of the few times I’ve come at a “situation” with calm and reassurance instead of a harsh tongue. Our worrywort child punishes herself more than we ever could. She fretted and shed tears and collapsed, exhausted from the stress of it all, into her own bed in the middle of the day.  When she emerged puffy-eyed and lost-looking, I finally offered the only thing I had – the thing that seemed strange but also on the mark.  “Would you like to learn how to make risotto?”  

She did want to learn. And so we made mushroom & leek risotto (hop over to my food corner for the details). I chopped. She measured. Despite always having ten cartons of stock on hand, I was frustratingly clean out. We turned the heat down. I drove to the store, she ran inside. We turned the heat back up so things would simmer again. She stirred, and I tried to coach her on how to sense when things were beginning to get sticky while remaining hands-off so she could experience it herself. Finally, I placed my hands over hers on the wooden spoon, and we slowly navigated the murkiness, feeling the spot where the grains were just beginning to mire themselves to the bottom of the pan.  

It might be a little easier if I help you. Right there. Do you feel that?  She did.

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