As the author of “The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Visual GF/CF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills,” I frequently write about cooking with your children as a wonderful way to connect and communicate and build social experiences for our children who are struggling to create relationships. When I started cooking with my son George, 9, when he was four years old and we had just started the gf/cf diet, my daughter June was 18 months old and she wanted to be part of the cooking process with us. Many afternoons, George would stand on a step stool mixing batter with me and June would sit right on the countertop, taking turns dumping in ingredients and stirring with her brother. Cooking together gave me hope that despite George’s social deficits, he and his sister would be able to build a loving, reciprocal relationship.
Flash forward five years: as a family, we have been working hard on George’s healing process and have seen amazing developmental growth. We have a long way to go and are on a committed path and George and his sister do have a loving, playful relationship. And we still have those shared experiences of mixing up a trail mix or chopping up veggies for dinner, but I have also learned along the way how vital it is for me to make space for each of my kids on their own, giving each one of them mom’s attention for some time during the week.
As busy parents, we are pulled in so many directions and as parents who are supporting children who have special needs, we carry extra weight along the way. And yet, making time to step away from the therapeutic needs of my son and just be with my daughter has helped our family to find an important balance, which I have come to find is essential for the healing process.
On Saturday mornings, June takes ballet class and I always take her while my husband and George work on his therapy program. June loves dance and wakes up at 7am ready to go to class—even though it begins at 10am. The joyful experience of helping my daughter dress in her leotards, find her ballet bag and run into class smiling with her friends lifts my spirit and energizes me. I get to watch her routines at the end of class and see her pride.
I know that June counts on this Mommy time as much as I do. We return home, sometimes after doing a few errands, and make lunch with Daddy and George. In the afternoon, we might do something together as a family or she might have a playdate, which will give George and me a chance to try a new recipe together.
It is a simple ritual, but the intentional choices about how I spend time with my children has helped each one of them to feel just how much their mom loves being with them.