So I’ve already discussed how annoyed I was by Oz’s blog about what a fabulous (vomit) mother she is. So fabulous in fact that she sends her oldest to a lock in at school after he get busted for skipping class. Um…SURE! Let’s reward truancy with a treat! Way to go!
Anyway, I know single parenting is hard. Truly I do. I’ve many friend who do it and I’ve seen and been a part of many of struggles. I’m amazed at the strength, perseverance, flexibility and resilience of all of you. In fact I’m going to go ahead and include those who are in a partnership of some sort, but still end up finding the bulk of the child raising falls to them. The shit’s hard, everyone needs support and understanding.
In the spirit of all this, I thought I’d take a moment to share what I’ve learned in 9.5 years of raising
3 2 boys . and their father. I’m sure many of you (especially with boys) will relate.
1. Cliche as it might be, it’s a reality – BUY YOUR TOILET PAPER AND PAPER TOWELS IN BULK. (And dish soap, and hand soap, and toilet bowel cleaner and body soap)
2. Understand that there will be accidents (either bodily, kitchen, bathroom or in public) and prepare yourself. Try not to lose it when the entire jug of milk has ended up on the floor and the dogs are now walking through it. Also, be prepared for clogged drains and toilets. Industrial plungers are a must. Tater Tot can easily clog damn near any toilet in the world…and his dad’s almost as bad.
3. Milk – Remind them it’s not water…but be prepared to buy gallons weekly. (French Fry will drink about a half gallon over the course of dinner if we don’t remind him to drink water)
4. Always have on hand an abundance of fruit or raw veggies or yogurt or fruit snacks or relatively cheap and relatively healthy snack options. Apples, oranges, yogurt and grapes are what “my” boys love. We have a rule that these are “free reign” foods and that unless someone is in the process of cooking they can eat as much as their tummies can handle, without asking. This prevents growing teens from hiding in the bathroom eating soup or tuna out of the can because he’s hungry again and embarrassed to ask for more because we just finished dinner 30 minutes ago. (Sidenote: we are not food nazis, when they started growing we weren’t prepared for the constant hunger and it wasn’t until they spoke up that we realized it so we made these things available)
5. Those with younger kids, inevitably you carry around some sort of bag or pack or alpaca to assist with the needs of your youngling. I recommend also adding crayons, coloring books or pictures to the mix. Grad some kiddie menus from Chilis or somewhere that hands out crayons and stock up. I still carry crayons to this day and it’s amazing how often they come out.
6. Chores – teach your kids to clean the bathroom, loading / unloading of the dishwasher, tidying the kitchen / living room and folding laundry as soon as they’re old enough. They need to know how to clean up their messes and gives them a sense of responsibility. Tater tot cleans the kitchen, loads the dishwasher and cleans the downstairs bathroom. French Fry unloads the dishwasher, cleans the living room (once everyone else has picked up there shit) and the upstairs bathroom. Both help with laundry. May seem like a lot but they’re 12 and 15, they are relatively small spaces and it makes them think twice about throwing their underwear all over the place. Which brings us to…
7. Nudity – when they’re little it’s just a part of your day. Now that they’re older we’ve had to remind them that they need to at least have undies on when walking around the house. Tater tot still strips to his skivvies when he walks in the door…so does his dad.
8. Teach them table manners. I’m not saying that you don’t but I see so many kids that have terrible manners. We wanted to be able to take the boys to nice places to eat so there’s the following: No chewing with your mouth open or talking with your mouth full, say please and thank you, don’t eat with your hands UNLESS it’s meant to be (French Fry was the worst with this, he’d eat damn near everything with his hands), say excuse me after any burp or fart, and stabbing the large chunk of meat then gnawing on it, is not attractive. When they’re with us regularly this is not an issue, I’d like to think I’ve taught them well little by little, but when they’re with her for long periods of time they forget half of this. She just laughs when they burp out loud…just because they’re boys is no excuse, I was raised with brothers, who have manners, my 2.5 year old nephew says excuse me after he burps, I think the 12 and 15 year old can handle it.
9. You will have to remind them to brush their teeth…repeatedly. Funnily enough showering is not the issue. They shower without being asked, but it’s a constant battle to get them to brush their teeth. But you may have to remind yours constantly to shower too…just depends on the kid.
10. Car rides – Books, music (either their own MP3 players or phone or previously agreed upon trip music), movies you can stomach listening to over and over (or wireless headsets in your vehicle) and the strict “KEEP YOUR BODY PARTS TO YOURSELF” rule. Now, if it’s just one kiddo, you’re lucky in this sense. If you’ve got more than one, you feel me? 😉
11. FOOD HACKS (This could be the topic of it’s own blog but I’ll try to sum up my wisdom) We’ve already discussed the snacks and milk issue. I also encourage you to have your boys in the kitchen helping when they’re old enough, sometimes it helps to have a chef’s assistant and they like knowing they contributed. For intricate recipes I chase everyone out of the kitchen with my “bacon spoon” while wearing my apron.
Nonetheless here they are:
- Frozen veggies are your friend. I love taking the time to steam or grill or blanch or saute produce, but the reality is I’ve thrown out too many good veggies and have had too little time during the week to do this. So frozen it is. Green Giant makes some tasty ones with various sauces, Target’s brand is pretty damn good too. Bags of frozen peas, carrots, broccoli florets and corn should be kept around at all times. Easy for soups, sides, curries, etc. Melt some butter, throw in some basil with corn and peas, YUM. I also get couscous and quinoa blends for sides. In the end my intricate produce prep recipes wait for the weekend when there’s less time constraints.
- Keep on hand ingredients for easy to cook meals. My go-tos are chili and chicken fajita bowls. I always buy the ingredients so I can throw it together at the last minute if need be. Preseasoned meats are good too (chicken leg quarters, chicken breasts, pork or beef ribs). Find some easy ones where the ingredients have a decent shelf life (where the preservatives don’t make you cringe) or are frozen and keep at least 2 batches worth stocked up. I recommend an easy baking mix such as Bisquick too (there’s a heart healthy one out there). There are also some great saute, crock pot and oven sauces out there. Find some favorites and stock up.
- Double any soup, stew or crock pot recipe (and invest in a variety of freezable storage containers). Last time I made gumbo, chili and even chicken and dumplings I doubled it and froze half. Another easy meal.
- BUY A CROCK POT. If you don’t have one already and if you do get another one. I have 2 different sized ones and yes, they get used.
- If you have the time and desire, you can cook up large quantities of meat on Sunday or the last day of your weekend (whole chickens, pork carnitas, hamburger meat, sausage, brisket, preseasoned / marinated chicken, etc) and store the leftover for dinners throughout the week. We used to bake a whole chicken every other Sunday when the kids were smaller and save about half of it for meals the next day or two. Now that they’re older, there’s not much left of a small chicken once the teens have gotten into it. So the big meals I cook with the intent for leftovers have gotten bigger.
- Don’t knock the frozen pizzas. There’s a lot to be said for having these around, you can also find relatively healthy ones. Pick up a large deli salad and violá! Same goes for the rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.
- You don’t need fancy cookware, but you do need: Large and small saute pan, rectangle and square casserole dishes, sauce pan and pasta pot (as I call them, basically a medium and a large pot), a good knife, a cutting board or two, a couple cookie sheets, a ladle, some wooden spoons, a couple spatulas, and measuring spoons / cups for dry and liquid ingredients. They don’t need to be the expensive ones, Wal Mart and the Dollar Stores are sufficient.
- Baking – use parchment paper for pastries, cookies, etc. Use foil for meats, fish, etc.
- Pay attention to raw meat on kitchen surfaces and wash your hands thoroughly. Seems self-explanatory but it happens.
- Drinking wine while cooking is perfectly acceptable. Even if it’s breakfast. 😉
Go-To Meal Ideas:
Chili, Chicken Fajita Bowls (black beans, chicken fajita meat, corn and / or rice, peppers, guacamole, cheese), Tacos, Spaghetti, Chicken Curry (I keep Thai Green Curry from Campbell’s Skillet sauces in the cupboard), preseasoned ribs, pork chops with raspberry chipotle sauce, preseasoned chick leg quarters. Usually all thrown together with some sort of frozen veggie and / or side.
I hope I shared some good ideas. If anyone has anything else to contribute I’d love to hear it! I add new recipes all the time.