Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

No More Cooking for Corde


I love my daughter, I really do.  I love giving her the freedom to cook what she wants whenever she wants to.  She loves having the ability to have what she wants instead of making her eat whatever I’m willing to make at the time.  She can eat on her schedule too, which is a huge benefit to her.  She loved it so much that she’d constantly tell me I wasn’t allowed to do anything to help her.

That being said, I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for me to strip another freedom from her.  I don’t want to do it, but I don’t have a choice.  She can’t be trusted in the kitchen anymore.  She’s hitting that point of just doing whatever she wants without a care.  It’s bad enough that I can’t trust her to be outside by herself anymore, so I’ve taken away that freedom.  Now I have to take away the freedom of cooking too?  She is not happy with me in the least.

This wasn’t exactly a “one thing goes wrong” snap decisions.  I don’t do that with Corde.  This is something that’s been developed over time, much like her recently lost freedom of going outside.  That one I still feel bad about, but I can’t have her running around wherever she wants unattended if I have to wander the whole trailer park to find her.  If there’s an emergency and I need her to come home I need to know where she’ll be at.  If she forgets to come home when it’s time to come in, I need to know where to find her.  It’s too hard to dress Sander (he’s still obsessed with not wearing pants and has started going so far as stripping everything), and the baby all packed up only to drag them all over the neighborhood looking for Corde and Beekee.  Sadly, there have been a few occasions where Beekee was the easy one to find because he either was inside all day or stayed in the yard like he should have.  Between running off without telling me not coming in when it’s clearly dark out, and deliberately hiding from me so she won’t have to come in I can’t trust her to be outside on her own.  She’s shown me she’s not ready for that responsibility.  On top of that, management let us all know that there have been a few drunk driving incidents in the neighborhood, one of which took out one of the trailer’s front porch.  That being said, I don’t want my kids out after dark, or even twilight where visibility is low.  Given safety is a concern by management, I can’t blame them for wanting us to keep a tighter leash on our kids.

So you might be wondering what happened with the whole cooking thing.  The first time she set the pot to boil and walked away to do something else.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but she completely forgot about the pot.  We got on her a couple of times to check her water and she claimed she did, but my guess is she didn’t.  I thought the water was taking an awful long time to boil, so I went to check it myself.  The water had boiled down to almost nothing (though there wasn’t much in there in the first place).  When I asked her about it she confessed that she didn’t check.  I know I walk away from the kitchen when I’m just setting a pot to boil, and I don’t have a problem if she does too.  However, letting a pot boil away to nothing isn’t exactly good for the pot and it certainly isn’t productive for cooking.  How can you cook with boiling water if there is no water?

The next time she was making Ramen.  She had  to have it.  She was starving.  I didn’t think anything of it.  She’d made Ramen several times before.  I didn’t feel the need to sit over her like a hawk while she was cooking.  I could trust her, right?  I was pretty confident in her skills and her lack of need of help.  I checked the water anyway before she went to add the noodles.  She makes it the way Oz taught her, which involves making the noodles like regular pasta, then draining most of the water.  She added the noodles and I left her to it.  Oz and I left her to do her thing while we were trying to figure out something to watch together.  Neither of us saw her sneak into the room and fall asleep behind us.  I just thought it seemed like it had been a bit too long and I hadn’t heard any noise in the kitchen, so I was going to check things out.  She should be done by now.  I nearly tripped over Corde in the process of getting into the kitchen.  Sure enough, the noodles were overcooked.  We talked to Corde about the dangers of falling asleep while you’re cooking and the risks of starting a fire.  It was frustrating, but we figured she was tired.  It was a lesson learned.

After that she was making one of those pasta side things and did nearly the same thing.  She’d mixed everything up with the noodles and left the kitchen.  I told her with things like that you can leave the kitchen long enough to go to the bathroom, go get your drink, something quick, but the food needs to be supervised because it’s easy for the noodles at the bottom of the pot to burn.  Our neighbor stopped by while Corde was cooking, so Oz and I stepped outside to talk to him for a minute and when we came in Corde had run off to play with her brothers.  Sure enough, the pasta on the bottom of the pot had burned.  I thought that was my fault for stepping outside, but, again, she’d made them several times before and I thought she could handle stirring the pot for a couple minutes while no one was standing over her.

The next time I was smart.  I realized she needed supervision, but I was in the middle of feeding the baby.  I told her to clear off the counter and set the pot with all her ingredients on hand, but not to add them until I got there.  I’d be over as soon as I was done feeding the baby.  Did she listen?  Nope.  She already had all the ingredients added and the pot on the hotplate before I’d gotten there.  Unfortunately, she also didn’t clear off the counter and there was a towel resting against the hot plate.  Again I got on her about fire safety while cooking, probably a little more harshly than necessary, but that was a huge fire risk.  If I assumed she’d wait for me and took my sweet time feeding the baby there could have been a fire.  I’m just glad I took a sense of urgency, knowing she wanted to cook, and as soon as Luca was done nursing I put the half-asleep boy down and went into the kitchen.  I’m glad I didn’t wait until he’d completely fallen asleep or took the time to put him in the Baby Hawke.  Every second I delayed was one more second closer to a house fire.  The whole thing could have been avoided if she waited like I asked her to.

Then there was the mac and cheese incident.  The mac and cheese was done when again, the neighbor came to the door.  I left it on the cool heating element of the hot plate.  The cool burner was still warm enough to keep the food warm if we took more than a minute or two, but it wasn’t hot enough to burn the food.  Next thing I know Corde’s poking her head into the conversation and showing me a burned cheese packet from the mac and cheese.  “Mom, this is burned and I have no idea how.”  If course, I knew how.  It had the burn lines that matched either the bottom of the pot or the top of the heating element.  I didn’t care to investigate to find out which one it was.  I knew exactly what had caused it, given the cheese packet was set well away from the hot plate.  She’d been messing around with something up there and burned the cheese package in the process.  I took a deep breath and realized I couldn’t even leave the kitchen unattended when there was food in there because Corde would be messing with something.  I understand she’s curious about the whole process, but I’ve told her before that the kitchen is not a place to play.  Hot plates are notorious for starting fires.  She could burn herself.  She could get seriously hurt.  As it turns out she did burn herself in the process, which she told me after I talked to her about why you don’t burn things in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping she learned that lesson.

Things had been in order.  I’d managed to keep an eye on her every single time she’s cooked.  We’re not exactly hovering over her, but we’re not far off either.  We know she has the skill and the ability to be unsupervised while cooking, but she’s not ready for the responsibility.  She’s made that dreadfully apparent.  Every time we give her an inch in the kitchen, things go horribly wrong.  I’m not worried about it.  Everyone makes mistakes.  More importantly, we wouldn’t know if we could trust her to do it on her own if we didn’t give her a chance.  The simple solution is just to supervise.  I can handle that.

So tonight when Corde asked to make some instant potatoes and throw some corn in like I’ve done for them before, I thought nothing of it.  I told her she needed to wait a bit because I had a few things I had to do first.  While she was waiting she should do some of the dishes because I hadn’t gotten to the dishes yet and she needed a mixing spoon and a plate to eat off of.  We don’t exactly have more than one meal’s worth of plates, so that limits us a lot.  I walked off to do what I needed to do.

Corde had gone in and out of the kitchen a couple of times, but I didn’t think to ask her what she was doing.  It’s normal for her to go in there to fill her water bottle, scrounge for a snack while waiting, or do any number of other things.  Sometimes she just likes to look at her artwork in there or passes through to the dining room to look at her games, art books, or whatever else.  It would never dawn on me in a million years to bother her about what she was doing because I know it annoys her and makes her feel like I can’t trust her to be alone for five minutes.  She wants so badly to be trusted, so I’ve stopped asking.  When she wants to share something she’ll come tell me about it, show me, or ask questions.

Next thing I know I hear Corde saying, “Mom, the potatoes won’t do anything but look like apple sauce and I don’t know what to do.”  I tried to keep my cool as I walked out to the kitchen to find out what she was talking about.  I had a sneaking suspicion and I was right.  Not only had she started cooking without me, but she clearly forgot all the rules we’ve made about cooking.  Instead of blowing up at her I tried to keep my cool and find out how to fix the problem.  I asked her how much water she used.  “I used half the pot because I didn’t know how much I was supposed to use.”  Dear god!  Half the pot?  That’s about four or five cups of water!  The instructions called for one cup of water!  No wonder the potatoes were little more than potato flavored water.  I was really tempted to dump the whole thing out and call it a loss, but I can’t bear the thought of wasting food.  I started the long process of trying to boil down the potatoes to get them to thicken up, which hasn’t been working the best.  As I write this I’ve been getting up between each paragraph to check and stir it.  It’s about the consistency of soup, which is better than it was, but it’s still bland and pretty nasty.  I don’t know if I can salvage this, but I’m certainly going to try.

This was it, the last of it I can take.  She didn’t wait for me, which she knew she had to do.  She didn’t read the directions.  She may have just wasted food.  Our hot plate seems to be having issues with being used for long periods of time now.  I’m so frustrated and angry right now.  I would come up with some way it’s not her fault, but it’s completely her fault.  She knows what is expected of her.  She knows that cooking is a privilege and is a sign of how much we can trust her.  We let her do it because she follows the rules we’ve set in our kitchen, which are nothing more than rules for safety.  If you can’t cook safely on your own, cook safely under supervision.  We can’t afford to waste food, so when you don’t know what to do, ask.  These are simple things.  I really don’t mind helping her in the kitchen.  It’s kind of fun.  However, when she goes and does something like this something that proves that she’s not ready for cooking at all.  I’m starting to regret ever having taught her to cook because now I have nightmares of waking up in the middle of the night to the house on fire because Corde decided to cook in the middle of the night.  Obviously she thinks she doesn’t think she needs my help.

Of course, I asked her why she started cooking without me and she said she didn’t know.  I asked her why she didn’t read the directions. She said she didn’t know.  I asked her if this was what she did every other time we’ve made potatoes together, which admittedly isn’t much, but we did it together a couple of days ago.  She again said she didn’t know.  This “I don’t know” every time she does something she knows she’s not supposed to do is getting old.  I would have much preferred she say, “Because I thought I could do it on my own and didn’t want to bother you” or “I thought this was how we did it the last time” than “I don’t know”.   Every time she says “I don’t know” I just want to scream and tear my hair out.  I want to go back to the days of spanking her.  Nothing pushes my buttons like her muttering “I don’t know” because she doesn’t want to be bothered with giving us a real answer.

So, I’ve put my foot down.  Corde is having every freedom slowly stripped away from her because she lacks the responsibility required to have those rights.  When Luca is feeling less fussy I’ll give her another chance, but I don’t want to risk walking around the park with a screaming, unhappy baby to look for a child that’s probably hiding from me so I’ll have to turn over every stone in the park or hope Beekee stayed with her and will have the decency to give up their position.  If she does it again, then that’s it.  On cooking, I don’t know when she’ll get that privilege back.  I’m going to give it a week before I make up my mind on that.

It’s just so frustrating.  She I know regression happens, but I want to trust her, I really do.  I want to give her the freedom to do what she wants to do.  She’d earned the trust to start getting the freedoms she’s already had.  I don’t know why she’s doing this to herself.  It’s starting to make me crazy.  I know part of this is Maddy’s influence, but that can’t be all of it.  She’s got to see some benefit to letting Maddy have that kind of sway over her or she wouldn’t do it.  She’s got to understand that I want her to have the ability to do these things.  I want that trust.  It makes my life easier because she’s not always cranky with me about not letting her do things.  It makes her life easier because she doesn’t need to wait on me for everything.  We were making so much positive progress.  It’s so easy to blame Maddy for all of it.  A part of me wants to blame Maddy because that means there’s nothing else going on in that head of hers.  At the same time I know it’s not Maddy.  Maddy can’t control Corde’s urge to just go ahead and cook without waiting for me when she knows she needs to wait for me.  Maddy can’t tell Corde not to read the directions and just do it however she’d like when she’s not here.  That’s all Corde.

I know in the end we’ll get to the bottom of all of this.  I know we’ll figure it out.  I know I’ll eventually be able to trust Corde to go out with her friends without having to have me supervise.  I know she’ll be able to cook on her own at some point (or better be able to or she’d better have a good job and be able to afford eating out a lot when she’s grown and moved out).  These set-backs aren’t going to last forever.  It’s just frustrating to go through now.

And if you’ve read this far, thanks for reading.  I know this is long and drawn out, but it really says it all.  I just can’t wait until we get some sense of normal again.  Until then, I just need to keep reminding myself that this too shall pass.


Author: Fox

With four kids, who has time for much? We spend a lot of time together, which translates to a lot of knitting time for me when we hang out. We've been trying to get back to our unschooling roots. We watch a lot of videos, play a lot of games, and pay attention to the things we notice in our everyday life. It's been quite the big adventure!

4 thoughts on “No More Cooking for Corde

  1. I see that I Don’t Know has moved into your home. That invisible creature has the power to wreak havoc on your home and make you insane. There have been days I thought I’d be carried to the psychiatric ward crying, pulling at my hair, and repeatedly uttering the words, “I don’t know.” That answer is still like fingernails on a chalk board, only it’s been reduced to the letters of IDK. Get that in a text and see if your ears don’t blow off your body. Prince Charming has taken to using that response as a signal for me to stop asking questions, or as a way to avoid answering a question.

    Buttercup, on the other hand, when she says, “I don’t know,” doesn’t. She can’t make snap decisions, or answer questions on the fly–it’s the way her brain works. In the case of the potatoes, if that had been Buttercup and myself, I would have waited until everything settled, most likely before bed and then discussed what happened. At that time, she would have been able to tell me better what was going on in her mind.

    Could be your sweet little Corde is just finding where her boundaries–as well as yours. She’s getting to that age, and it’s growing pains. She needs to know her boundaries now before she’s a teen. Also, I’d lock up the hot plate at night.

    Lots of prayers.

    • Good point on the hotplate. It makes me happy I don’t have a working stove right now. I can’t imagine the hassle of trying to disconnect the stove every night.

      You’re right, Corde is probably trying to test her boundaries. I thought we were very clear on that one, but then again, Maddy has a lot less boundaries than she does, so maybe she’s figuring they’re both the same age and if Maddy can get away with it, maybe she can too. It’s the only reason I can think of for the start in this trend. She sees that Maddy can do whatever she wants whenever she wants to and gets away with it, even if she’s not supposed to. It was a lot easier when she had the most freedoms out of all her friends.

      As for “I don’t know” that’s always been Corde’s way of saying, “I know but you’ll never pry the answer out of me.” She learned from her dad that owning up to things and being honest only gets her in even more trouble. It’s better to frustrate him with not admitting to anything because the punishment is far less. After three and a half years I thought we’d gotten that out of her system. It seems like we had. Now it doesn’t matter how long after the moment I ask, she always has that same look, the one that used to say, “I just don’t want to tell you because I’m already in enough trouble.” No amount of telling her that she won’t be in trouble, we just want to know so we can prevent it from being an issue next time seems to counteract that. It’s so incredibly frustrating. I’m not looking forward to the teenage days and a future of IDK texts…

  2. We have the “I dont know’s” from my 4 year old. But its not only in situations where we are upset about something. We also get it when I ask her a question about something we are learning….when clearly she knows the answer. It drives me nuts. I know shes only 4 but the I DONT KNOW”S are really bugging me. I ask her even a simple question like how to spell her name and I get I DONT KNOW!. I have learned however that if I just wait a minute or two after she says I dont know then she has the time she needs to process what I have asked her and she most times will answer me. I also get a lot of “I dont like you” around here lately.
    Got any advice for dealing with that one? ive just been saying “well I love you” back to her but she still continues to say it almost all day long some days. Ive also told her it hurts my feelings when she says that, I understand your angry/upset with me but when you say you dont like me it makes me sad…..she usually rolls her eyes and walks away when i say that to her…lol

    • We’ve gotten a lot of that too when Corde was younger. Thankfully, it did eventually pass. I tried the “I love you” response. I tried telling her it hurt my feelings. Eventually I just got frustrated at the attitude and said, “Do you not like me? Or do you just don’t like what I’m saying/doing? There’s a difference.” She’d generally think about it and more often than not she said she didn’t like me BECAUSE I was doing or saying whatever it was. It took a while to even get that much out of her, but we finally did come to an understanding.

      Now I’ve got a more interesting one. I’ve got Beekee turning it around to say, “But I love you!” As if that’s an excuse to get away with things. It’s like he’s telling me I can’t say things he doesn’t want to hear because he loves me! Such a goofball. Kids are so interesting.

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