I was looking through some old online photo albums last week, and I was struck by how many photos there are of Stella and Oliver cooking away with me at our kitchen counter. We've always kept a piano bench pressed up against the counter, which someone usually pulls out and sits at when eating there. It was my father's father's piano bench, something I grapple with keeping vs. getting rid of. It's not our style, and I would've loved to have some sweet, civilized stools here instead.
But, as awkward and un-aesthetically pleasing as the bench is right there, it has been a fantastic way to share cooking with the kids. It is the perfect height for a toddler to stand at, and now that Stella is six she can still kneel there comfortably and work. I sometimes wonder what I would've done if we had been in a different kitchen during these years. The kids and I get to work eye to eye and face to face, and they are completely out of my way but still right there with me. It's been really great. As soon as I get the eggs out of the refrigerator in the morning Oliver is up on the bench and begging me to let him stir them.
Working on chopping the hearts of palm.
We've only had one accident (so far). When Stella was around three years old, she toppled off the edge of the bench and briefly dislocated her elbow, which amazingly we were able to fix with instructions over the phone from the pediatrician. At not even two and a half years old, Oliver already knows to get in the middle of the bench, and I keep a good eye on him.
Snackin'. Damn, mommy looked good.
The piano bench has made it so effortless and natural for one kid or the other (or both) to sidle up to the bar and help with the cooking, which has been just wonderful for all of us. I don't know how I would've managed without it. But it ain't pretty!