“Real question. Real answer. Are you trying to tick me off?” I said, looking deeply into the eyes of my husband. He had just spent 50 minutes prepping dinner, a task that’s pretty much exclusively mine.
I was excited to see him when he got home, and even more excited when he greeted me with, “Is there anything I can do to help with dinner tonight?” I knew the question was strategically asked to find out about dinner without stressing me out, but I decided to take him up on it. I set him up with everything he needed and kept it simple: chicken legs and veggies, coated with olive oil and a pre-made shake-on seasoning. Fifteen minutes—tops—to prep.
I stepped outside to give the dog a quick haircut while he began the cooking. When I came in, 50 minutes later, I was shocked that he was still in the kitchen. I didn’t want to say anything critical, but as I looked around I noticed that he had only just finished the veggie portion of the meal. Fifty minutes and he hadn’t even opened the package of chicken legs! How is this possible? I know he’s slow in the kitchen, but really?! It was too much. I started asking questions…
Come to find out, he had spent his 50 minutes cleaning the potatoes and cutting every single little eye out of them. He cut up two potatoes and there were about 20 eyes in the sink. There were not that many eyes in these potatoes. He must have been cutting out every little teensy tiny mark! That’s not realistic cooking in this house. There’s no time for that detail! He also chopped the potatoes and carrots into baby bite-sized pieces. Totally unnecessary.
I was frustrated. He often jokes about “setting the bar low” so that my expectations of him aren’t high, so that’s why I asked him if he intentionally took so long to help me with dinner. I thought maybe he did it on purpose so I wouldn’t ask for his help again.
As he hurried out the door, I was left dealing with disappointment. Not only was he late for the next step in his day, but I still had to finish making dinner. As I sliced open the package of chicken, I started thinking about whether or not I should teach him to cook more efficiently or just accept that it’s not his strength.
Then, I reflected on how things went down during the times I’ve offered to help him. He taught me to use a screw gun, to pound nails, and to hang drywall. But he is always with me the whole time and never pushes me beyond my limit. He encourages me to try out new things and learn new skills, but he stops pushing when I make it clear that it’s enough. Yes, I will hang drywall with you, but I have screwed in 3 screws, know it’s not my strength, and don’t want to do it anymore. Thank you, very much. He doesn’t make me feel bad about it. He notices my successful attempts and brags about them to others.
Well, that’s not what I did. I left him with the tools (in this case, ingredients), walked away, and then made him feel bad because his attempt wasn’t good enough. I didn’t “let him have it” or anything, but he knew I was disappointed and frustrated about his inability to help me with this dinner.
So if he ever offers to help again, and I’m brave enough to take him up on it, I’m going to do things differently. Based on the “treat others as you’d like to be treated” principle, I’m going to try to stay with him in the kitchen, encourage him along, and teach him a little bit of what I know, so we can be successful together. He does that for me, and I want to do that for him too.
Photography Credit: Flickr/ Matt Webb Zahn
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