January 2018―It takes a village to raise a child. I am part of the village for the girls in my Sunday school class. I only see Miyani (age 16) and Diamond (age 12) once a week for a few hours, but an idea has been bubbling around in the back of my mind for a way that I could do more to address specific needs and weaknesses I observed. I wanted an opportunity to show the girls a healthier way to eat and how to do some basic cooking. I also noticed that practicing table manners would benefit the girls. I knew that they could also benefit from learning various domestic duties. And, listening to the kind of questions they’d ask and comments they’d make during Sunday school, I am convinced that we need to address some specific issues from a Godly point of view. So, I invited them to come to my place for an evening of cooking together, eating together, cleaning up together, and studying together.
A couple weeks in advance, I broached the idea to the girls and their parents, all of whom enthusiastically agreed to the girls’ night out. I sat down with Miyani and Diamond to go over food allergies and likes and dislikes. But then we ran into a little trouble.
Me: “Ok, I thought we’d cook something called Barbecups. It’s biscuits filled with barbecue flavored beef and—”
Diamond: “I don’t like barbecue sauce.”
Me: Sigh. “Ok. We’ll make you a couple without the sauce. Also, we’re going to have some vegetables. What kinds of vegetables do you guys like?”
Me: “Do you like corn?”
Me: “Hmm. Ok, Miyani. Do you like peas? Beans? Asparagus? Broccoli?”
Miyani: “No, no, no, no!”
Me: “You don’t like any vegetables?”
Miyani: “I like collard greens.”
Collard greens? I’ve seen those on TV, but I’m not sure I could even pick them out in the grocery store, much less cook them! Plus, I’m pretty sure collard greens is something everybody has a different way of making, so I’d never make it the right way. And I bet any way that Miyani would like it cooked would be unhealthy! Uh-oh.
Me: “Ok. We’ll come back to vegetables. So, we’re also going to have salad. We’ll have lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers—”
Diamond: “I don’t like cucumbers!”
Miyani: “I do!”
You get the idea. No matter what I said, one girl liked it and the other didn’t. It was a discouraging start. We ended up sticking to the original plan and I just explained that sometimes we have to try a little bit of something, even if we don’t like it.
I spent the next week making final preparations, most of which consisted of a lot of prayer. I was so excited about the event that I had trouble going to sleep the night before. The day at work seemed to last forever, but finally I was able to leave and drive down to Atlanta.
I picked up the girls from their apartments, and we headed to my place. We chattered about the days off school they’d had because of weather, books they’re reading, and the fact that, no, Miss Amy is not going to teach Miyani how to drive on the highway! Miss Amy needs her car!
When we arrived, Diamond was so excited about being at my place, she insisted on closing her eyes as she stepped in so it would be a surprise. I don’t think I disappointed! I gave the ladies the grand tour and kept laughing at their comments.
“This is exactly like what I imagined your apartment to look like!”
“It’s so peaceful here!”
“Everything is so decorated!”
“Is it always decorated like this?”
“There’s a picture of your mom! And your dad! Do they ever come here?”
They were interested in everything. I showed them my room and my bulletin board where I have several of Miyani’s drawings on display. I showed them my keychain collection of goals I’ve accomplished and some of my childhood toys.
Then we got down to the business of cooking. Miyani was in charge of browning the meat and Diamond and I tackled making a tossed salad. Miyani had never heard of browning meat, but she took to the task quickly after a short demonstration.
Diamond and I washed the vegetables and I gave her a knife to start slicing the carrots. After a little coaching, she was on a roll and slicing like a pro. I complimented her and she said, “My mom never lets me do this. I don’t know why.” I fought down a small moment of panic when I realized I had given her a very sharp knife before asking how experienced she was. But I figured I had plenty of bandaids and the best way to learn is by doing. And then I handed her the cucumber to cut up, too.
As she sliced away, I popped a piece of cucumber in my mouth and crunched in satisfaction. “Mmmmm,” I said. “This is what you get to do when you’re the cook, and we’re the cooks!”
Diamond raised an eyebrow. “Can I try one, too?” she asked.
She tentatively put a cucumber slice in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Then both eyebrows shot up. “I do like cucumbers!” she exclaimed. “I don’t know why I said I didn’t!” I had to laugh.
In fact, there was a lot of giggling that went on as we sliced and diced, stirred and mixed. Miyani declared she was an Italian chef, so Diamond became an English chef and I was a French chef. We proceeded to narrate what we were doing in our respective accents. That is, until the giggles made it hard to understand!
There was also a lot of mess-making. Run-away carrot slices made a break for freedom across the kitchen floor and barbecued beef dribbled down the stove. But, the girls learned my favorite cooking adage: Good cooks make a mess! So each time some messy mishap occurred we laughed and declared what good cooks we must be! Diamond was fascinated by the designs on wash cloth, napkins, and paper towels we used to clean up our messes. “Miss Amy,” she said to me later. “Your house is like a dollhouse. Everything is decorated—even the paper towels!”
When our meal was ready, we sat down and put our napkins on our laps like proper ladies. I even let the girls light the candles so we could dine by candlelight. Wanting to make sure the girls were comfortable with this new dish, I was going to show them how to eat it with their hands. “Oh, no, Miss Amy,” Miyani chided. “We’re ladies. We have to eat it with a fork and knife.” I laughed again. Here I was so concerned about teaching these ladies proper table manners and they had shown me up! So, like ladies, we ate with forks and knives.
I was so pleased with the girls. They were polite, respectful, eager to please, and quick to help. I had envisioned a battle getting Miyani to try some of the corn, but she took a small helping without complaint and finished it all. Diamond even made sure to eat all of her barbecued beef, saying she didn’t want to be rude . Everybody helped clean up and did so cheerfully.
Next, it was time to bake brownies for dessert. More messes were made, but they were chocolate messes and a lot of fun to clean up! Diamond was excited to use a spatula that was also decorated!
I am using the book, Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh. It covers a range of topics teen and pre-teen girls may face such as, “Beautiful girls are worth more,” “I can’t overcome my sin,” “It’s not really sex,” “I need a boyfriend,” “God is not really involved in my life” and “Having a career outside the home is more valuable and fulfilling than being ‘just’ a wife and mom” to name a few. We covered the introduction and took a little quiz to see in what areas of our lives we may be believing unbiblical lies.
The evening ended with packaging up samples of our cooking for the girls to take home to their families. I drove them home and watched to make sure they got to their apartments safely.
It had been an incredibly fun time and I am still thanking God that everything went so smoothly and pleasantly. I was, however, pretty tired. How do you parent people do this all day every day?
Still, I am very much looking forward to next month and will pray, as I have been, that our times together will be glorifying to God and will cause us all to grow.
Now, what shall we cook in February? Hmmm…