He asked me twice in the morning.
“Dad, are you my best friend?”
The first time, I thought it was Andrew being goofy. He had asked this while passing through the kitchen on his way to something else besides food.
I answered off the cuff, “Of course, I’m your best friend. Who else would make an extra apple tart just for you?”
I didn’t give it more thought until about twenty minutes later. I was still in the kitchen, standing at the sink peeling apples. He came flying through again, only this time he stopped and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“So dad, you’re my best friend?” he asked in a lighthearted, carefree way that belied the seriousness of the question.
In fact, he asked in such a way that I thought if I said, “Yes” again, the next question would be with a petition, as in “Well, if you’re my best friend, wouldn’t you want to buy me something?”
I just said, “Yep, I am your best friend,” and waited for the request to follow.
“And I’m your best friend?” came the unexpected second question.
A hundred worries suddenly rushed through my mind. Is he asking because he is having trouble making friends? Is he lonely? Have I not given him enough time lately? But, deep down, I knew what he really was asking.
I would have looked at him and made him see how much I meant what I was about to say, but he had left my side and was rummaging for snack options.
I chose my words carefully, “I’ve got the best of both worlds. You’re my son and I’m your father. And, you are also my best friend,” I told him.
“Cool,” he said and was off to another part of the house and I was left to peel endless apples for multiple Mother’s Day tarts and think about what had just happened.
It’s true what they say, “Big things come in small packages.”
This small moment felt big.
I’ve spent a good portion of the last six years with Andrew telling him that I was his dad and not his friend. I never said it to be mean, but to define the role that I needed to play in his life. He didn’t need a friend. He needed a dad, and I was very clear on what that meant for us. I have seen first hand what happens when parents want to be their child’s best friend and it’s never good.
In one of life’s most interesting twists, it is when a child is screaming, throwing a tantrum, and raging with all their might against a set boundary that they are, in fact, really trying to say, “Please, don’t let me do this. I’m not ready to make this decision on my own. Please, be my parent. Please, make me feel safe.”
Andrew has thrown man tantrums over the last six years. He has tested me at every turn. He needed to. After an early childhood of adults who failed him, the world had become a scary place. There was a reason why, until recently, Andrew slept with his Nerf guns by his bed at night. Like I said, for Andrew the world was a scary place.
Fences keep cows and horses safe. Leashes keep our dogs from getting hit by cars. Boundaries and rules (that are enforced) teach children the world is safe and eventually allows them to grow into adulthood with confidence and courage. A good safe nest is what you need to eventually fly.
That’s why Andrew’s question was so important. He’s starting to feel like he can fly. I have often told Andrew that we are just father and son for now, but that someday we will be father, son, and best friends. Obviously, he was listening.
That’s also why I chose my words so carefully. The truth is that Andrew cannot be my best friend quite yet. He is closer than ever before. I can see it around the corner, but not quite yet. Andrew still has a few years to go before he’s ready for that complete evolution.
Becoming an adult is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, but without proper guidance… Let’s just say that Icarus would have benefited from a little more supervision and guidance.
But my little Icarus is getting darn close to flying, and he knows that when he does our relationship will fundamentally change.
Still for now, he lets me keep the tether on. He moans when I tell him to do his homework or practice his clarinet, but he still does it. There are moments when he tugs harder than I like, but more and more, when I know it’s safe, I will just let go of the leash all together and hope that I’ve done a good enough job at this parenting thing.
Lately, when I do release control, he makes the right choices, takes a beautiful flight of independence, and comes back to rest by my side, content to be led a bit more and happy that someone is still there to catch him if his wings are still a bit too wet for full flight.
So are we best friends? Well, there’s no one I would rather spend my time with than Andrew. But he still needs a dad more than a friend. For that I’m very grateful, because the very moment when we become best friends will be the moment when we have to say goodbye and he will take off on the adventure of a lifetime.Thursday night is sushi night
In this hectic time of our lives there are few things that we can count on. Our sushi night is one of them. Even our foray into “veganism” for Lent was negotiated with Thursday nights remaining constant. It has become the one night each week that I actually get Andrew into the kitchen and we cook together. And we do it on Thursday because that’s when our local Farmer’s Market happens and we get Sushi grade Ahi, Yellow Tail, and Salmon for less than $15 per pound.
Sushi is Andrew’s favorite food and it was the first food that he discovered on his own. We were at a local shopping mall’s food court with another family, and their older daughter gave Andrew a piece of her sushi; Andrew was hooked….hook, line, and sinker. That year for Christmas he bought “me” a how-to-make sushi cookbook and all the equipment we needed for success. Sushi rolls are not hard to make, but with a little practice they are so simple that you can turn out enough rolls to feed a kid with a Samori’s appetite in less than twenty minutes, if you don’t count the rice cooking time.
This recipe is based on one that I found in BonAppetit some time ago. It has evolved from something that I do by hand to a quick swirl in the food processor. It works equally well with Ahi, Yellowtail, Salmon, and Opah. For a very easy and excellent vegan version, substitute extra firm tofu that has been well drained.
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white if you don’t have rice vinegar on hand)
1 pound fresh Ahi, Yellowtail, Salmon, Opah (or tofu for vegan option), cut into small dice
Dried Nori sheets for sushi rolls (that’s the green seaweed paper)
1-1/2 cups cooked short-grain rice, cooled. (I have Andrew cook it when he gets home from school so it’s ready to go when I get home)
Avocado slices (optional)
4 tablespoons sushi seasoning from a bottle or follow recipe below.
Recipe for sushi seasoning:
4 tablespoons rice vinegar, seasoned
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For Sushi seasoning
Bring ingredients to a simmer, stir, take off the heat and cool.
Cook the rice according to instructions or use the sushi setting on a rice cooker. When the rice is finished, transfer to a large bowl, toss with the sushi seasoning and let cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, place the first five ingredients and chop finely. With the motor running add the oils and vinegar in a steady stream and process until well blended. Alternatively, this can be done by hand in a mortar and pestle. If using, start with sesame seeds, then add garlic and salt, then jalepenos, and finally ginger. Transfer to a bowl and add the liquid ingredients in a slow stream and whisk together.The mortar and pestle is traditional, but the food processor gets the job done quick on a week night.
Dice the fish and toss with the sauce.The seasoning is strong and will work well with firm tofu for a vegan alternative
Place a Nori sheet on your bamboo sushi mat (we cover ours with plastic wrap for easy clean up) and using a sushi rice paddle spread a thin layer of rice across the sheet. Make sure that you have smashed a little rice at the far edge of your Nori sheet as that will act as a paste and help seal the roll when you are finished rolling.We saw this done at our favorite sushi bar and Andrew decided to try it at home to great suc
Shiny side up Use a thinner layer than I did here. I do it to fill up Andrew and save on fish! Notice the little bits at the top to be used as “glue.”
Place about 3 tablespoons of the fish mixture across the bottom edge closest to you. Lay a scallion slice, a cucumber slice, and avocado if using.This is Andrew’s version: Use half the amount of fish or it will squeeze out the sides Andrew’s proud of his creation, but it won’t fly. Use just 3 T of fish or so and lay a touch of avocado, scallion, and cucumber across it width wise or you will have a mess.
Gently roll the bamboo mat and sushi away from you into the first turn. Gently, but firmly, massage the roll into a tight cylinder. Continue to roll and massage until you have a tight roll. Slice the roll into 1/2 inch pieces and serve with a little soy sauce and wasabi if desired.Roll a little and massage lightly across it to keep it tight repeat to you come to the end. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.
Don’t worry that your first attempts will be a bit messy. This is easy to get the hang of and very quickly you will be a sushi pro.