I cook most of the dinners at our house. There is something about the sight of me cooking dinner that makes our one-year-old especially needy. We make faces and giggle and play at all times of the day, but the only hour at which he consistently needs to be held by me is the one in which I am trying to cook dinner.
Given the choice of being held by me or by his mother, it is probably 70/30 in favor of Mommy, except when I am cooking. When I am cooking, he sees no other arms but mine. Only these arms can keep him from a crying fit when there is something sizzling on the stove.
Parents learn to do much with one hand. Our days are a routine of picking things up one at a time, in the order necessary to complete what would be thoughtless tasks to freewheeling, two-handed, childless types. Still, there are some things that are nearly impossible to do with a child in one arm, like hoisting a roast out of the crock pot or forming dough into a pizza shape.
My son doesn’t care what I can’t do one-handed. Cooking is daddy-toddler together time. He lets me know this by wrapping his arms around my legs as I’m trying to walk to get the butter. If I want to move freely between the fridge and the stove, I’d better pick him up.
By picking him up I’ve jumped from the frying pan onto the electric coil, because putting him down again is bound to be an ordeal. When a toddler is okay with being put down, he lets his feet down to meet the floor. When I try to put my son down so I can strain the pasta, he lifts up the landing gear like the floor is hot lava.
Touching hot lava dismays children, even when it is cool and made of linoleum. I am reminded of this every time I attempt to set a child down in it. Having to sit in hot lava while a heartless parent cuts up chicken breast is the worst fate imaginable. It makes a child cry. A lot. Much more than necessary. Especially since no crying is necessary. But it might distract Daddy enough to make him cut his finger, and that would teach him some respect for bonding time.
It’s not only that holding a child while cooking is inconvenient. There are things involved with cooking that are hotter than metaphorical lava. This means the boy has to be upset with me from across the room as I pull a dish out of the oven. But when safety is not an issue, I have learned to do all sorts of food prep with one hand.
If you wonder what this looks like, just imagine the Heisman trophy statue. Only, imagine a one-year-old tucked under the left arm, instead of a football. Then imagine that the outstretched right arm is holding a whisk.