Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It Comes Down To This: I "Grease The Track."

This morning, unbeknownst to them, Son and Darling Daughter each greeted me with the same question.  Nope.  Despite the freezing rain and snow of the day before, and their plainly-stated hopes of the night before, neither one asked, “Do we have school today?”

Each asked, “Can I have an Advil?”  To which I, taken aback, responded, “For what?”

OK, what I really wanted to ask was, "What the aitch?"  I mean, plenty of folks scrounge for pain relievers within seconds of prying open their dehydrated, bloodshot eyes, but my guys are 12 and 14.   They may have had a rough night, but it had to do with books, not booze.

I probably should've been scrounging for my parenting cap, because if I’d been thinking clearly, I’d have remembered:  Son’s braces had been tightened the day before, and DD's braces had been put on the day before.  Of course they were sore.  I had braces as an adult, and based on my two solid years of whining, you’d have thought I’d undergone that excruciating Chinese leg lengthening surgery (if you don’t know, you don’t want to), rather than the privilege of a simple tooth-alignment procedure.

Still, the kids’ question reminds me that my most common parenting task is simply “greasing the track.”

I don’t mean, necessarily, making their lives easier.  I mean, recognizing what’s going on in their lives and making it easier for them to make good decisions – putting out cut-up veggies for snacks to help them steer clear of sugary treats, keeping them “busy” at times they could be getting into trouble, eliminating distractions at homework time, and in this instance, providing satisfying, easy to chew, or rather, ingest, food.

Sure, I’d rather spend time imparting my considerable (OK, biased, and likely inaccurate) knowledge.  It'd be great to have more hands-on time, teaching the kids the things I’m good at -- stuff like cooking, holding a fork correctly, and, um, sending e-mails.  Occasionally, my choice would be to just flat-out do things for them.  (Really, I’m quite good at sending e-mails, and could even do it in their “voice.”  Here, watch: “Yo, sup?”)

This past weekend, for example, the kids’ dad got married.  And as much as I’d love to have horror stories to share, there was nothing catastrophic about it.  Nothing even slightly diabolically blogworthy.  (Disappointing, right?)

Still, weddings are a big deal.  Particularly when your parent is getting married.  So I knew, when the kids returned home, I’d need to grease the track – making a meal sure to please (Waffles of Insane Greatness, natch), helping them unpack, giving them an opportunity to decompress, making it easy to get back on the “school” track.

So where was I this morning? The kids’ teeth hurt.  DD’s upper and lower teeth don’t even meet.  And, given their tender teeth, everyone’s bound to be a wee bit cranky.

So where were the smoothies, the yogurt, the noodles, the soup?  Where were the easy-to-eat treats I could pack in their lunches?  Where were the treats?  The Jello?  The tapioca?  The 17¢ ramen noodles?

Twelve hours later, they’re in my fridge and pantry.  My parenting cap is firmly in place.  I’m back to greasing the track.  Starting with this easy-to-eat, but slightly sophisticated and flavorful version of chicken and rice.

Saffron Rice With Chicken
Serves four.
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, peeled, impaled on a toothpick
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken broth
2 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken, cut in bite-size pieces

Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in large saucepan with lid.  Bring to a boil, stir once, put lid in place, and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove lid and drop chicken into saucepan.  (Don’t stir.)  Cook on low an additional three minutes.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.  Let rest 2-3 minutes, unlidded before serving, hot.
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