“What are you going to choose for dinner on your birthday? I need some time to get ingredients.”
No1: “Oh, um. Pork belly. No, nachos. Yeah, nachos, they’re my favourite.”
“Are you sure?”
No1: “Yeah, nachos. No, pork belly. Oh man, I can’t pick.”
“Why don’t you have both? You can pretty much put any meat on nachos.”
No1: “Really? That’d be awesome. Do that!”
We have a family tradition that the birthday person gets to pick what we eat for dinner that night. This tradition extends to the whole family, not just the children. We haven’t set any rules to the choices, but as we eat a home cooked meal around the table every night, then everyone assumes that as the standard. If someone is having trouble deciding, I point them towards the recipe books which sometimes leads to rather interesting and experimental choices.
I was chatting to another mum about this at school, and the conversation led into how traditions are great, but they are getting lost in the great parenting competition to give children the perfect childhood. When I talk about a family tradition, it is a private event within the family that we celebrate as a team. Not a grand public occasion designed to get media coverage, like the Perth family that spent $50,000 on their 3YO.
This child centric creation of the ‘perfect’ childhood is madness. As a society we seem to have moved away from the “parents as leaders” to the “family exists for the children” model, and I worry about this trend. I’m not the only one, and this TED talk covers the topic quite well. This need to create an idyllic childhood has caused an immense pressure on parents who now feel insecure about whether they are doing a good enough job, and who spend their waking hours working to provide this unattainable perfection. People used to laugh at the helicopter mum, hovering over her kid in the playground to stop them tripping over. But now, if you don’t hover, other parents do it for you.
“Are you sure he should be climbing up there?”
This anxiety about perfection has led to a wall of confusing (and often contradictory) advice to parents. Creating family traditions is only a tiny sub-section of this money-making book selling parenting advice. The idea has even caught the attention of social scientists, and Professor Burgess says “Whatever its biological inheritance from its parents and other ancestors, the child receives also from them a heritage of attitudes, sentiments, and ideals which may be termed the family tradition, or the family culture.”
Kept within context, having family traditions are wonderful. To create your own little rituals that give everyone a sense of belonging. Where it goes wrong is when it turns into a giant drama that creates hard work for parents, and saps the joy out of their lives, in order to ensure their precious snowflake has the full range of ultimate memories. This desire for the perfect childhood has given rise to expensive birthday parties for one year olds with professional photos, Pintrest worthy banners and of course a $200 cake for the cake smash photo. Yes, that’s right. You can’t possibly celebrate a birthday that the child is too young to remember without spending loads of money on the perfect photo. And it only gets worse as they kids get older, especially as you add the typical ins and outs of friendship negotiations. People taking it too far often feature on one of my favourite blogs, STFU Parents.
To do these things and spend all that money is to completely miss the point. A perfectly planned birthday party isn’t really making family traditions or memories. Neither is calling out some other kid because of some imagined slight against yours. Parenting is not a competition. It’s not about having a more perfectly perceived life than your peers.
Psychologist Nigel Latta says that modern parents are telling their children six lies:
- Life is fair.
- Everyone gets a turn.
- Everyone gets what they deserve.
- It’s not about winning (it’s about taking part).
- You’re special.
- Everyone gets a prize.
None of this sense of equality or perfection actually helps children. Many psychologists now recommend that children are allowed small failures to build resilience, and that allowing kids to take small risks when they are small will help them make decisions about big risks when they are big.
Does this mean we shouldn’t have family traditions at all? Of course not. Let’s just keep it all in perspective. Parenting doesn’t have to include big or expensive moments, and it doesn’t have to be about the parent working their butts off to create a perfect childhood at great personal cost. Everyone in the family is allowed to have normal ups and downs. And a family can enjoy a few small things that create a sense of belonging without being a great chore to the parents. It can be simple things like calling chores “team work”, or reading Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” every year in December; or eating dinner together every night; or the forgetful tooth fairy who has a tendency to take a few days to turn up with the cash. You are probably already doing them. It’s just a matter of recognizing that they are a tradition, and remembering to do them.
And it was no hardship to create pork belly nachos, as requested by No1 on his 10th birthday.
Pork Belly Nachos
- Pork belly
- 2 packets Doritos
- ½ jar of hot doritos sauce
- Tablespoon tomato paste
- grated cheese
- sour cream
- smoked paprika
- 3 avocados
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 red onion
4.30 pm – The roasted pork belly takes a couple of hours. Using a sharp knife, remove the skin from the pork belly but leave a fair amount of the fat on it. Slice up an onion and place it in the bottom of a roasting dish. Place the pork belly on top of the onion, with the skin(less) side up. Put into a really hot oven (the hottest setting you have) for ten minutes. This blasts the fat (and if you leave the skin on, makes crackling). Now turn the oven down to a very low heat, 160C, for a couple of hours. The fat in the pork belly should keep the whole thing moist, but if it starts to look a bit dry, you can put a cup of water in the bottom of the pan to create a bit of steam.
Depending on your day, you can either take a breather from the kitchen for about an hour, or you can prepare the rest of the dinner and take your breather later.
To make the guacamole, finely slice the avocado and place in a bowl. Squeeze some lemon over the top and sprinkle a bit of salt. Mash the whole thing together. If you like heat, you can also add some chopped chilli.
Finely dice the tomatoes and place into a sieve. The juices will run through, leaving just the tomatoes for your salsa. Add them to another bowl. Finely dice an onion and mix it through the tomatoes.
Spoon some sour cream into a third bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Mix together.
Grate some cheese.
6.15 pm – Take the pork out of the oven and slice it into small pieces. It should be pretty soft and fall apart as you slice it. Put the slices into a frying pan and add a scoop of tomato paste and half a jar of Doritos dip (I used the hot one, but it comes in medium and boring as well). Mix this all through until the sauce covers all the meat and is warmed.
To plate up, spread some chips around the outside of each plate and put a pile of the pork belly mixture into the middle. Sprinkle the top of the meat with cheese (which should melt). Add a big spoonful of tomato salsa on top, then layer on the guacamole. Finely top the whole thing with some sour cream.
6.30 pm – Dig in, fingers and all.
This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Chrystal at The Smallwood Parsonage.