Blue and the Dood both love to cook. It’s something I have encouraged for all the right reasons – it can be very enjoyable (when I don’t have to do it), it’s creative, productive, it requires some organisation (usually a big ask) and they learn and practice countless skills as they whisk, fold and beat their way through our countless cookery books. They are actually both pretty good at it.
However, for better or worse, my children are also extremely competitive, in every sphere of life, and TV’s obsession with cookery competitions (Ordinary/Junior/Professional Masterchef, Come Dine With Me, The Great British Bake Off blah blah blah) has only whetted their already highly charged appetites to outdo each other in the kitchen and beyond.
Yesterday the Dood asked me if she could enter Junior Masterchef. I said it depended on the dates but as long as she was prepared to practice and knew that even if she didn’t win she was still a great cook, that was OK. That was my first mistake (or at least the first in this particular saga). It was fine with the Dood, who tripped off to print out the entry forms. But Blue (who was out running at the time) went completely off the rails when he came in and discovered the awful truth.
Why is SHE entering? She’s rubbish at cooking. I wanted to enter TWO YEARS ago! She’s just copying meeee. (So far so normal, then…) I’m gonna kill her. BOOOF (the back of Doodie’s head, I offer a sympathetic glance but don’t want to draw too much attention to this act of violence so signal for her to try and leave quietly. He follows…) You are crap Dood. You are a crap cook, a crap writer, a crap singer, a crap dancer. Aren’t I a better dancer than her, aren’t I Mum? Aren’t I? (By now he has really started to go, the twitching, the gestures, swearing, throwing things around)… And it was MY idea. BOOF (just the table this time) I hate her. She ALWAYS copies me. I’m gonna bang you up. BOOF (the door).
That was last night. Somehow I managed to calm him down in his room, talking about writing a book together, staying soft and playful, and doing a ‘Weather Report’ massage as he lay in bed eventually turned him into a right old pussy cat. But it all started off again this afternoon after school, in spite of football, in spite of friend Shrimp being at home with the Dood, in spite of it being the Wave’s birthday weekend – he wanted to bake bread and he wanted to show HER who could cook.
Thankfully, baking bread is a lovely, calming, therapeutic activity in itself and because Shrimp was over, the Dood stayed well away. Even more thankfully, the bread turned out bloody gorgeous and the Dood (who often becomes super-adult in these situations) told him it was the most delicious bread she had ever tasted.
Whatever she does, and whatever we do, the sibling rivalry persists. When they are both on full competitive throttle, she will whack, bite and kick him back with equal ferocity – in the blink of an eye they can become as they were when we first met them aged 3 – completely feral. That’s what happens when you don’t look after one child properly and then, nine months later, give birth to another one. That’s before all the abuse, neglect and being moved from pillar to post, let alone being adopted. Knowing all that doesn’t always make it easier to live with, but at least, if nothing else, they are learning to cook!