Newly single parent faces trial by fire
By Jim DeBrosse
Today marks the debut of staff writer Jim DeBrosse's column on parenting, based on his experiences raising three children as a single dad. The column will appear every other Monday.
I think I first fully realized the terrible onus that is single parenthood on the day I set fire to the stir-fry.
It happened not long after my separation when I, a typical male raised during the preliberation era of the 1960s, was forced to acquire some basic culinary skills. It was either that or subject the three children now in my custody to daily transfat infusions at the local Burger Death.
I'd come home from a hard day at work to relieve the baby sitter, who informed me that my then-7-year-old son had not completed his homework and had decided instead to roam the neighborhood with his cohorts, sharpening his young social skills.
I set that issue aside for the moment because it was already 6 o'clock, my two girls (ages 5 and 9) were hungr,y and I was totally psyched for making my first stir-fry ever.
I poured olive oil into the wok until the bottom was covered about a quarter-inch thick, set the heat on high and then started to chop up onions and garlic to add to the oil. I got out the soy sauce and fresh ginger and opened the bag of stir-fry vegetables I had bought on the way home. The chicken breasts, I trimmed into thin strips to add to the oil.
This is a cinch, I told myself. I'd watched my ex do it a million times.
My son by then had returned home, loudly proclaiming his hunger and his inalienable right to be fed on demand. To preserve some peace in the kitchen, I did what any sensible modern single parent would do -- I set the kids up in front of the TV with a Disney video.
Everything was on course now for dinner -- the onions and garlic were sizzling in the oil, the chicken and veggies ready to go. All I had to do was throw everything into the wok, sprinkle lots of soy sauce over it, grate the fresh ginger, add pepper and salt to taste and let the whole mess simmer under the lid for 15 minutes or so.
That's when the fight erupted in the living room. I arrived just in time to witness a throw pillow, whose ownership apparently had been in dispute, explode into a cloudburst of stuffing between my son and older daughter.
I emitted a feral-like growl, then chased all three kids to their rooms, all the while imparting tender words of fatherly wisdom.
When I returned to the kitchen, the wok was engulfed in three-foot flames.
"Everybody out of the house!" I screamed as I went searching for the fire extinguisher. I began opening and slamming cabinet doors in staccato-like fashion until, at last, I found it behind a wall of dry, dirty sponges underneath the sink.
I pulled the pin, then froze: I hadn't the foggiest idea how to operate the thing. "Pull the trigger!" my son yelled. He was standing in the kitchen entrance with his sisters huddled behind. "I told you get out of the house!" "Pull the trigger!" I did, and let loose with a dense cloud of white powder. By the time I eased off the trigger, the flames were gone but my oven range looked like an Alpine mountaintop. We ended up, of course, at McDonald's that night -- one more victory for fast-food corporate America.
But I did not give up on my quest to serve healthy evening meals at home. Study after study has shown it's the single most important thing any parent can do to ensure family closeness, school success and a family life free of french fries and super-sized children.
Only remember, olive oil has a low flash point (medium high heat is your max). And learn how to use a fire extinguisher!
Copyright, 2006, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.
DATE: February 6, 2006
PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)