10.12.03

Eating with the family

I don't say this very often, but we had dinner at my parents' last night. As I was telling everybody that would listen this past week, I've had a sudden hankering for my mom's cooking, possibly triggered by a conversation over lunch when we came to the conclusion that nothing quite every tastes like your mom's cooking, even if she's a mediocre cook (which, I hasten to add, my mom is not; the genes clearly skipped a generation with me).

Well, the conversation-over-lunch generated enough of a craving that I matched schedules with T, then called rather sheepisly to invite ourselves over to the dinner on Tuesday night. Despite my sudden bout of nostalgia, when Mom asked me what I wanted her to make, the only thing I could come up with (and that I'd mentioned at the conversation-over-lunch) was soya sauce chicken. Sometimes, it's the simple things that matter.

And now I know just how wise (some might say tricksy, but my parents aren't that deliberate) my parents are. They've never mandated regular meals with them, mostly because they harbour some kind of illusion that twentysomething and thirtysomething working adults are kept fanatically busy at work --- which is not too far from the truth some days but on average, it's not like T and I have no life except for work.

Anyhow, our family knows of a couple who, after marriage, had dinner with one pair of in-laws three nights of the week and dinner with the other side of the family on three other nights (leaving only one night unspoken for all week). I don't know if they still keep this up, but that sort of regimen is completely alien to me. My mom concurred when we were talking about it. Okay, we agreed that having home-cooked dinners six nights a week was, in and of itself, not a bad idea. But the scheduling of it boggles my mind. I spent enough of my pre-working life being scheduled for school, piano, church and more school. We don't even have a pet now, despite all the cat talk two months ago, because we're not keen to be kept to its schedule.

But back to why my parents are wise. They call us for dinner sometimes, but it's not regular except for birthdays and Xmas. They also make room for our schedule if we've already made plans or have work commitments. In short, they mandate nothing.

All of which led to them last night being able to exult (if they wanted to; I'm not saying that they did) that the child-who-lives-away-from-home had specifically, and entirely of her own volition, required to please come home for dinner because she was dying for some of Mom's food, please.

In all honesty, I don't know that my parents gave that much thought to any strategies (if they even exist) for Building Healthy Relationships With Your Married Children. But I think it worked out pretty keen for them. Doesn't it sound way cooler for a parent to be able to say, "My kid asked to come home for dinner this week", than to acknowledge, "Yeah, we had them over for dinner on Friday, like we do every week"? It's definitely a notch above a certain National Eat Dinner With Your Family Day or whatever they call it.*

I guess I'm learning to be a parent from them after all.

Now that I've made a huge deal about last night's dinner, I've got to mention what Mom cooked: soya sauce chicken, as requested, fried fish, sauted broccoli and carrots, and yong tau foo. That last undermined somewhat the nostalgia of the meal, since Mom never really bought any pre-prepared Chinese foods (except for lap cheong, Chinese sausage) when I was a kid. But that just goes to show you can't go home again.

* I just did a quick search on Google; it's not just Singapore that had that silly Day but also Durham, North Carolina and, apparently, the National Pork Board instituted a National Eat Dinner Together Week.

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