Daddy is the best cook!
Roni, the third of the brood was the most difficult to win over. If she was 99.99% on the closeness meter with her mom, she was the exact opposite with me -- she was just tolerating my presence. You get this rotten feeling when you feel that your 6-year old daughter keeps an emotional distance from you. I worked so hard in trying to win her over but I was making little to no progress at all. It was always like this until I had my first break ...when I heard her say, “My daddy’s the best cook ... ever!”
When I was still working with the broadcast media industry, I was a stranger to my four kids. I would leave home when they were still asleep, and they would alreadybe tucked away in dreamland whenever I arrived home late at night.
When I shifted gears and decided to become a stay-at-home dad, it took me months (even years to some) to develop a better relationship with my children. Roni, the third of the brood was the most difficult to win over. If she was 99.99% on the closeness meter with her mom, she was the exact opposite with me -- she was just tolerating my presence! I worked so hard in trying to win her over but I was making little to no progress at all. It continued this way until I had my first break ...when I heard her say, “My daddy’s the best cook ... ever!”
It happened during one of those nights when I was the one who cooked dinner. Truth is, I only know a couple of recipes. My limited knowledge in the culinary arts is mostly confined to grilling meat, chicken and fish. If ever you see me use the stove, it’s because I do a little frying too. But my baby loves to eat! And her absolute favourite food is not cake, not ice cream, not mommy’s spaghetti, but chicken barbecue (and anything grilled).
Oh, boy! I just hit the jackpot!
“My dad is better than your dad.”
You know how it is. To a child’s eyes, her dad is always the best dad in the world. And no matter how limited my culinary skills are, I’m still the best for her. Maybe the chicken barbecue and my cooking helped her get a handle to what she feels towards me, or maybe it just gave her something -- some sort of a catalyst -- to help her relate to me, or it may be both. Whatever it was, it helped me finally break the barrier.
Strengthening the bond
Immediately after that incident, I made sure we have barbecue at least once a week. On Friday afternoons, when she gets back from prep-school, she immediately breaks into her sweetest smile as she runs to our backyard where I’m preparing to grill. As I start the charcoal glowing, I let her help transfer the marinated chicken cuts to a tray where I can skewer them. Funny as it may seem, but I started bonding with my little girl in front of the barbecue pit. Not wanting to wax philosophical, I can say that the food you serve can be like the love you offer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be expensive...heck, it may even be imperfect.
And what do you know, I started not only to improve my cooking but I also started to venture into learning more (and some are complicated!) recipes. Now, my menu includes family favourites, kids’ favorites, Roni’s favorites, etc. I succeeded not only in finally winning Roni but also, I have discovered more ways to make family dinner time more exciting. I experiment, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail (the entire brood teases me while I pretend to be terribly hurt -- which makes them tease me some more). Whatever I cook, I make sure I garnish it with my main ingredient: fun.
Whatever shortcomings I may have with some of my dishes, I make up for them with flamboyance and flair. Some nights, I make everyone stay in the bedroom, while I hurriedly try to transform the dining area into something that mimics an expensive restaurant (sometimes I succeed, but sometimes the result is more hilarious than classy). When I serve steak, I serve them while they sizzle in blue flames (I poured gin over the steaks and lighted them before walking in). My kids love French fries so one fine weekend, I come home with sweet potatoes. I let them help me peel and slice these into size, I pour enough salt and deep fry these while the kids watch. When served (with mayonnaise and ketchup), they swear it was the best tasting French fries they’ve ever tried. (Watch out McDonald’s!)
Lesson for fathers
No amount of material goods or wealth can buy your child’s love and happiness. Being a father is not all about being able to provide material comforts, it’s not all about paying the bills, it’s not all about being a good example or about guiding your children.
Being a father is about being there for your children, it’s about sharing your time, it’s about showing them and making them really feel your love. Being a father is more about creating lovely moments - it’s more about memories that they will remember and cherish long after you’re gone. In my daughter’s case, cooking does the job!