On Graphing and Peanut Butter Chicken

I wish parenthood came with a manual. I really do. And I feel like I got an even shorter stick since I’m trying to figure this out in the middle of my stepdaughters’ formative years. I met the girls when they were 10 and almost 12. A year and a half later, I’m still trying to figure out my role as step-mom. Especially with Mae.

Mae is hard! She’s thirteen and at that point of trying to find her independence but still needing a hand. I’ve been reading books–books!–on the subject. It hasn’t made anything easier.

So over the weekend, the girls visited. Saturday morning was a lazy one (except for Brandon who has to work every Saturday). We girls watched Cake Boss and Master Chef Junior until it was homework/housework time. I think that was the inspiration behind Mae asking me later if they could make dinner for their dad and I.

Oh boy! I thought to myself, quickly weighing whether this would be a good learning opportunity for them, while answering, “Well, we don’t have a lot in the cupboards, but if you can find a recipe that matches what we have, we can shop for the rest.”

They plotted, heads bent over a cookbook or two or three. But they wouldn’t tell me what they were making and Mae insisted that I did not help her. Okay then. After a quick trip to the grocery store, I settled down at the table. We have an open floor plan so it was easy to keep an eye on things without being too nosy. In hindsight I should have been nosier although I did manage to avoid an explosion on our gas range.

Jade wanted some help with dessert so I moseyed over. The fact that I only have 1/2 and 1/4-sized teaspoons really helped that earlier lesson on fractions take a practical turn. Anyhow, I noticed there was some blackening of chicken going on.

“Stop looking!” Mae squealed.

“Okay, okay…” I retreated back to the table.

Dinner was finally ready and presented with flourish: blackened chicken, blackened red bell peppers, and heavily roasted (burnt) onions over white rice. With peanut butter sauce. Yes, I just said peanut butter sauce. Chunky, if you must know.

Brandon and I jawed through it. The flavor actually kind of grew on me. But as a person growing up in a Japanese American household, I have never, EVER eaten peanut butter and rice at the same time. I’m sure some ancient relative of mine turned over in their grave.

So how do you guide a almost-big person who doesn’t want to be guided? Especially as a step-parent? Seriously, I’m asking! Previous to this meal, I had always supervised and she’d done fine so I thought… Well, anyways.

One thing I am learning is that paybacks have to be much more sneaky when you become a parent. The next day Mae wanted her dad to help with math. Brandon is a math whiz. He’s like my walking, talking calculator. Unfortunately, my calculator isn’t a graphing one which was half of Mae’s homework. So she got to sit with me for like an hour while we painstakingly went through her work. I’m sure she was annoyed with me going over every little detail, but hey, I ate peanut butter chicken.


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