Friday, April 22, 2011
Middle Child Solution --- Food is Love
My second son Damian and I always connected in a special manner through food. He loves to eat and I love to watch him savor my latest culinary creation. We have called him a human Pavlov’s dog because he loudly salivates when one of his favorite foods is mentioned or shown. Damian is also my official “baking buddy.” He takes the responsibility quite seriously. Damian is pictured sampling a Dutch treat called poffertjes which are little puffed up pancakes covered in powdered sugar.
When we brought home his little sister, I could see him struggling a bit to understand his place since his previous position as baby of the family had been usurped. I was a middle child too but my younger sister came 2.5 years after I was born. I don’t remember any different. However, Damian was 7 when his sister arrived and he had reveled in his unique last place spot.
I saw a bit of internal conflict too as he absolutely adored his sister and spent much of his time trying to make her laugh. Often doing things I would prefer he wouldn’t like loudly repeating nonsensical noises which brought peals of laughter from his little sis but drove me batty.
I tried telling him he was the only one in the family that was both a big brother and a little brother. But he appeared thoroughly unconvinced. He still had the air of someone who thought life had just short-changed them. He had lost a bit of his natural adulterated exuberance and seemed a bit adrift within the family unit. I wanted him to still feel valued, unique and anchored. However, what I had tried wasn’t making it real for him and my willing clearly wasn’t sufficient.
So during my adoption leave, Damian and I came up with a plan to create a “Damian and Mom’s cookbook” through tastebook.com. Damian and I would test recipes. His brother Dimitri and dad would rate them. If the finished products received two thumbs up from our judges, we would include them in our cookbook. Damian loved this new “in charge” role. It also provided a great way for me to focus on him while doing something we both loved. We now have a nearly complete cookbook. And more importantly, we have many wonderful memories included in the food, the friends and family who contributed, and the photos. Our test kitchen efforts often lead to some funny and insightful exchanges.
Once, as we were baking my “almost famous chocolate chip cookies,” Damian said to me, “I love baking with you.” My heart swelled, and I replied, “I love you.” Then Damian clarified, “I like baking for the tasting .. .” And then added, rather belatedly and I am guessing perhaps because of a look on my face, “But, a-a-ah, also doing it with you.” Well then, I stand corrected, I thought. Damian is not the most tactful child and is honest about his feelings almost to a fault. I have to remind myself sometimes to not let it hurt my feelings.
Then Leyla bounded the kitchen and I informed her, “Damian is baking cookies.” Leyla’s little face lit up and she exclaimed enthusiastically, “Thank you for making us cookies, DA-MEE-AAN!!” She is a kindred spirit of her brother's when it comes to the sweeter things and instantly smiles whenever he comes into her view. I then asked Damian in a lighthearted tone, “How does that make you feel?” He replied without hesitation, “Like SUPERMAN!!” My heart swelled even more – who knew it was possible.