Grilling a Delicious Dinner with Your Daughter

Our kids, all of them are growing up (supposedly). Some days Wife and I question this, other days children tell us they are ready to try something they’ve never tried before.

The Oppressed recently told us she was ready to try something new. She wanted to cook dinner. Our youngest daughter picked a challenging night to try cooking dinner. We were having steak.

It’s August. It’s summer. That means we throw steaks on the grill. That means teaching The Oppressed how to work the grill and cook the steaks. If that was all we needed to be worried about, we would still have our hands full. Like other meals, we weren’t just having steak. We were also having baked potatoes and broccoli.

The Oppressed made it abundantly clear to me that she, and nobody else, would cook dinner. She would allow advice and answers to questions if she had any, but this was her gig, and she (and nobody else) would be doing the cooking.

Potatoes and Broccoli

We began with heating the oven for the potatoes and the broccoli. After that, we pulled the steaks out of the refrigerator to take the chill off. The potatoes were easy. We just needed to poke them with a knife and put them in the oven.

The broccoli required a little more effort and ingredients. We originally intended to use olive oil, salt, and pepper. Unfortunately, some of the children saw The Oppressed going to work and immediately decided their input was needed when it came to what to add to the broccoli.

Soon the spice drawer was emptied out and multiple cherubs were trying to add other seasonings and flavors to the dish. One child made it past me while I was telling people we didn’t need so much input or spices. The child that did make it through added garlic.

Steaks on the Grill

With broccoli and potatoes in the oven (we decided to cook everything and reheat the broccoli later), it was time to focus on the steak. I went outside to turn on the grill while The Oppressed went to work and seasoned the steaks. When I returned to the house, The Oppressed demanded to know where I went and let me know how upset she was that I had turned on the grill. She reminded me she was doing everything.

My daughter seasoning the steaks.

I tried to explain to her that the grill had to be warmed up before putting the meat on. This didn’t matter, of course. I should have told her it was time to turn on the grill before applying the seasonings. What’s done was done, and I told her I would be mindful of that the next time. She had informed me there would be a next time, but we’ll get to that later.

Steaks on the grill.

We get to the grill. I run back into the house to grab a beer because I’m grilling and it’s a rule to have a beer while grilling. The Oppressed allows me to put the steaks on the grill, as they are big, and she is struggling a little with the tongs. That’s all I can do, though.

Pouring a Beer

A beer is poured by me, not the boy. The Boy emerges and lets me know he’s upset that I poured a beer without telling him. He wanted to pour the beer for me.

A rather heavy pour of beer.

Daddy sips on his beer, reflecting on how The Boy has been let down. I turn a steak over to see if it’s done on one side. The Oppressed demands to know what I’m doing if she is the one who’s cooking dinner. I surrender the fork to my daughter, who gives me a suspicious look and focuses on the grill, checking on the meat.

I let The Boy know I’m ready for another beer. He forgives me for my previous transgression and proceeds to open the beer and pour. He is still learning this art, and there is more foam than beer. I give it a couple of minutes for the head to die down a little.

Dinner is served.

Steaks are done by the time the second beer is finished. They are brought in by The Oppressed and her father. I begin to set the table until my daughter pushes me away. She reminds me she is the one preparing dinner. I tell her forks on the left, knives on the right. The Oppressed puts a finger to her lips and say, “Sshh!” Everyone sits down at the table, set by The Oppressed. Dinner passes with the entire family.

Pork on the Grill

The Oppressed was so proud of herself, she decided to prepare dinner the next night. I would be allowed to help a little, but this was her job, and she would be the one to do it.

The next night’s menu was pork. I went to the store to buy some marinade and prepared the meat. Beer was taken out for The Boy to pour. He poured it. Big head. I turned the grill on and gave it a minute to warm up while the head tamed down.

There was a slight challenge when I opened the grill to put down the pork. The fire was out. This was a small problem, and the children and I closed up the containers of marinating pork and went inside. The Boy wanted to carry my beer. I told him I would do it.

One night was grilling. Another night was cooking on the stove top. Two different methods of cooking that required different sets of skills and attention. I watched The Oppressed watch the meat and the clock. I told her when to turn the meat. She had a little trouble handling the utensils. I attempted to step in and assist, but she put up her hand, informing me she had a handle on things. I backed away and sipped my tasty beverage while she continued cooking.

Drinking a beer. This was really the only thing I was allowed to do while my daughter cooked.

We all sat down to dinner. Pork, french fries, and corn. Again, everyone raved about the efforts of The Oppressed. She had been wanting to make dinner for everyone for a long time and finally got to do it. After two successful meals, I think everyone is looking forward to her next effort.

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A Father and Daughter Take a Little Day Trip

The Oppressed spent a weekend at my parents one time. It was originally meant as a girls’ weekend with a cousin who was close to her age. Unfortunately, the cousin wasn’t feeling well; so, it was just The Oppressed with her grandparents. It was a great time for her because she was getting the chance to spend time with her grandparents. My parents liked it for the same reason. Wife and I said to each other, “One down, five more to go.”

We met each other halfway between my house and my parents’ house. We had an early dinner together and then parted ways. The Oppressed kept in touch with me and Wife during the weekend, letting me know what they were doing.

We were also making plans for picking her up on Sunday and bringing her home. The Oppressed had been wanting to go to Newbury Comics for a long time, but we hadn’t been able to fit it into our schedule. Sunday seemed like the perfect day to go. We were taking a long drive, anyway. It would allow us to get something to eat, hit Newbury Comics, and talk about the weekend she had at her grandparents’. A road trip seemed like the perfect way to cover all of these things. As usual, things did not turn out as we planned.

Newbury Comics

We left my parents’ house in the middle of the afternoon. It was a Sunday, meaning that stores were going to close early. Needless to say, time was of the essence.

I haven’t lived in the area in a long time, but I still have a good idea of where things are. Still, we were on a schedule, and I didn’t want to waste any time and take the chance of taking too long and getting there after they closed. On top of that, getting to Newbury Comics sooner meant getting something to eat sooner, which meant we could take our time and not worry about having to rush things.

Exterior shot of a strip mall on a cloudy day with cars driving by.
No Newbury Comics.

I used my phone to find the closest store to us. It wasn’t too far from us, which meant my plan was unfolding in grand fashion. I plug the address into my GPS and we begin our first leg of our journey home. During the road trip, we talked about what her mom, her siblings, and I did during the weekend. We talked about the things she did during the weekend. It was a great weekend for her and a great ride for the both of us. While we ride and drive, I tell her to keep an eye open for a place she might like to stop at for dinner.

We see a ray of light shining down upon us as the interior is filled with heavenly sounds of a choir of angels.

The GPS leads us to the parking lot of a strip mall. I must say, I am a little disheartened at what I see, or I should say what I don’t see. There is no Newbury Comics. The Oppressed and I look at each other. It looks like we made this short drive for nothing. I do notice a storefront that may have been a former home to Newbury Comics. I suggest we stop inside and see what’s there.

Inside a store with shelves of books. Vinyl records are on the floor.
Books and music as far as the eye can see. That’s the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” to the left.

We open the doors and what do we see? A ray of light shining down upon us as the interior is filled with heavenly sounds of a choir of angels. We see shelves upon shelves of books against the wall. Not far from the books are DVDs. In the middle of the floor are racks of CDs. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

The Oppressed and I walk around the music section of the store. She is interested in finding something from Queen and something from the Beatles (bless her heart). There are plenty of things to look at, not just in the music section. However, we have other things to do, like find something to eat and get back home where Wife is trapped with five other children. I ask The Oppressed where she would like to eat on this particular afternoon. She and I both noticed we passed a certain place not far from where we ended up purchasing our CDs. I’m not going to tell you the name of the place. You’ll find out why as we go along.

What’s for Dinner

The Oppressed and I agree to check out this particular place. I remind her that there are other places nearby for dining out, and we can even continue our road trip home and continue to look for another place to eat. This nice place appears to pass inspection with her, and we decide to enter and dine.

A tween girl looking back at a mounted flatscreen showing an NHL hockey game.
Dinner and hockey. The day keeps getting better.

There is a nice man who greets us upon entering. I’m going to call him “Rick”. Rick pulls two menus and leads us to our table. Upon sitting, we order drinks. Rick leaves to get our drinks. The Oppressed and I continue to talk about the weekend. There are plenty of things on the menu that look good and we’re both hungry. We start with an appetizer and continue to look at the entrĂ©es. A little more chatting. Soon, Rick returns with our appetizer, and we place our orders for dinner.

A tween girl posing with her wrap and french fries.
Ready to eat dinner.

Dinner is finished, and we both need to use the restroom before leaving. We’re both in the restroom for a long time. We’re discussing this as we walk back to the car.

“Good Lord,” I said. “What did I eat?”

“I don’t know,” The Oppressed answers, “But I had the same thing happen to me.”

“I was not well.”

The Oppressed said, “I think they gave us food poisoning.”

And now you see why I didn’t want to tell you the specific name of where we ate. I assure my daughter we didn’t have food poisoning. We slide one of the new CDs into the stereo (Queen) and begin the final leg of our road trip home. Due to the detour to the store and the restaurant, we are taking a different route home then we usually take from my parents’ house. That’s alright, though. I don’t mind it, and neither does she.

Back Home

We get home just in time. Our tummies are hurting again. We go inside, say a quick, “hello” to Wife and the children, and race against time and our stomachs to the bathroom again. We both emerge from our respective bathrooms (I am continually thankful for having more than one bathroom in our home, and I don’t know how families survive in houses with just one bathroom.) and see Wife, who is in our room. She asks us about our day together. We tell her about everything we did.

We tell her about the road trip, about my parents and how they are, and we tell her about our shopping excursion, Queen, the Beatles, and dinner. Wife asks about dinner, considering we ran in different directions looking for a bathroom as soon as we walked in the house. I’m reminded of another time I had with The Oppressed and The Boy. On that day, the meal happened to be the highlight. You can read about that day here.

“Dad and I have food poisoning from the restaurant,” The Oppressed tells her.

I explain to Wife that we don’t have food poisoning. The Oppressed respectfully disagrees. We didn’t have any incidents after that evening, but my daughter has still reminded me that we got food poisoning from that restaurant. I have tried to explain otherwise, but have you ever tried to explain something to your kid?

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Child on the Go

“You know I can’t stand still.” – AC/DC

The chair is only in the room for decoration.

One of the complaints about baseball is that it takes too long to play. In Major League Baseball, steps have been taken to help speed things along. There were some people who didn’t like the batter stepping out of the box after each pitch. The pitcher would walk around the mound, blow on his hands, wipe sweat off his forehead, grab the resin bag, motion for the hot dog vendor to bring him something to eat, run to the bullpen to see if anyone wanted something. There were little things that were taking time away from the game itself.

I think of this as I tell you about my son, The Boy, who can take the simplest task and turn it into a union project that makes the Big Dig look like a quick run through a fast-food drive-thru. For my friends who do not live in Massachusetts, look up The Big Dig.

We’re still not sure what it is exactly that ails The Boy. It could be Ants in the Pants, hyperactivity, boredom. Pick something. We’re open to suggestions so we can identify it and treat it.

One of the Gaggle first noticed it about the boy. When the family sits down to dinner, it will be a matter of seconds before he is out of his seat, running around the table, playing with the cat. It has now reached the point where The Gaggle will watch the clock and let everyone know how long he was able to sit still.

This constant need for movement and inability to stay in one place is not just limited to the dinner table. One of the underlying issues of The Homework Wars involves Boy Genius’ stroll around the bedroom after writing one word. After two words, he needs a snack. Three merits a bathroom break. Four? He’s tired and he needs to lie down on his bed.

Math involves the same. He does one problem and he needs the bathroom. Wait. I haven’t dressed yet. I need breakfast. (I made it for him two hours ago.) He wants to check on Kitty. He wants to see if Doggie is okay. He just needs to lie down on the floor because David had five apples and gave two to Omar. The mental stress of that calculation may have wiped him out. He needs a nap and maybe a snack. Maybe he just needs to use the bathroom. His room is upstairs. He needs the bathroom in the basement, of course.

As I patiently await him to complete the four-word sentence he merely needs to copy, he laments over his unfair lot in life. He throws himself on the bed and wails to anyone in the house who will hear. He slaves everyday on his work. He works so hard but his father doesn’t know it. He wishes he had a nice dad. Other dads don’t make their sons do this. I remind him every kid in his class has the same assignment as him. Of course, that doesn’t matter. His classmates have nice parents.

Time for another nap. Not in his bed, though. This time, he needs to go downstairs and lay down on the couch. One of the Gaggle, done with their work, is watching TV. The Boy thinks he’s no one will notice him under a blanket. He is found and he runs back upstairs. Hopefully is hiding in his room… At his table… in front of his work with a pencil in his hand. We all have our dreams.