My Little Helper

Deirdre was helping me make supper today. She thinks she’s very grown-up, so naturally she has to do everything the big kids do. This includes washing and drying dishes, doing laundry, drawing pictures, stretching out her arms and saying “Ohhhh…Dear!” like Titi does…you name it. This particular time, I was getting ready to make Cheddar Tuna Pie. Deirdre had just got up from a nap, and just been put down by Mom. She was about to make a fuss, but then I said, “Deirdre, do you want to watch me make supper?” Her face lit up. “Hupper,” she repeated, and suddenly she did want to come to me. She knew what that word meant!

“First we have to get these cans,” I told her, and Deirdre watched as I leaned down to get some cheddar cheese soup cans. All the while I made supper, I explained to her what I was doing, and sometimes why as well. She listens carefully and watches my every move very intently, and reminds me to do something if she thinks I forgot. Then whenever I say anything, she repeats it very importantly. If I make any kind of exclamation, she repeats it with exaggerated emphasis. If I say, “Oh no,” Deirdre cries, “Oh, no-o!” as if the most wonderful thing in the world just happened.

“Here, you can have this one,” I said, and handed her a can to put on the table. Then we had to open them all up. “Splort!” I said as I opened up one of the lids and the gooey yellow liquid showed through. “Spwort!” Deirdre echoed behind me happily. It’s great fun to say words like that, you know!

Deirdre knew just what I should do with the cans. “Dump it, ‘hat kind (that kind, meaning that one),” she said, turning around on her chair to point to the pan on the stove. “That’s right, we’re going to dump it in there, but not yet. First we have to get the milk,” I told her. (“Miwt,” Deirdre repeated.)

I got up onto a chair to get a can of condensed milk, and she came toddling back and forth to get the can I handed to her and then put it on the table. But the second can was missing, so we had to go ask Mom about it. Deirdre was eager to do everything I said. I explained we had to go ask Mommy, so she exclaimed, “Mommy!” and then sat on my hip quietly while I was talking to Mom upstairs. As long as it was part of the expected protocol, she was contented; it’s only when we start doing things that aren’t part of the plan that she gets impatient.

Deirdre stood on a chair next to me, watching intently as I stirred the milk into the cheese mixture, seeming to think it was quite fascinating. “Yummy, yummy, yummy,” I said absentmindedly as I stirred it. “Do you think it’s yummy, Deirdre?”

“Yummy,” she said. We often have conversations like this. We go back and forth between two opposites until Deirdre decides for sure which it is. “Or do you think it’s yucky?”

“Yat-ey,” she affirmed.

“Is it yummy or yucky?”

“Yummy,” she clarified. “Yummy!”

She was quite sure of it now. “I think it’s yucky,” I said, but she still insisted it was yummy. “Okay, do you want to try some of it?” I asked, holding out some on my finger, but now all of a sudden she drew back cautiously. Wait a minute, she was just carrying on a conversation, not talking about real life! She took a little taste. “Yummy,” she still said vaguely at first. “It’s yummy? Do you want some more?” But then suddenly she registered the taste, and she shrank back.

“No. No. Yat-ey!

It wasn’t really that bad, but it was still funny. I laughed and said, “I told you so!”

At one point, she started hurrying off toward the den, repeating something to herself that sounded like, “Go, get it, warsh, go, go!”

“What?” I asked her.

She turned around and looked at me earnestly. “Warsh, go-go!” I could only figure out maybe she was saying she was going to get “Go-go” (Jo-Jo), her doll, so she could watch. But she forgot all about it when I asked her if she wanted to do something else.

Deirdre was very interested in the process of opening tuna cans and squeezing out their juice, which we did next, and took charge of commanding me how to do it. She kept up a running commentary that consisted of: “O-ten (open), that kind. O-ten, this kind. O-ten, o-ten, o-ten. Squeeze it. O-ten that kind.” All of this while she was shoving the cans in my direction, giving me my order of what I was supposed to do with it! The last can she reserved for herself, and cried, beaming, “DER-dwe, ‘at!” (The “‘at” was supposed to be “that”, meaning “that” one was hers. Usually Deirdre is pretty good with her usages of “this” and “that one,” but not that time.)

At first she waited patiently while I opened and squeezed the can, because I told her it was too hard for her. But then she got fed up with how slow I was going, and grabbed the can opener to do it herself. She lifted it up and put it on the can, just like I did, concentrating hard, quite confident she could do it. But nothing happened. “Hard,” she told me, putting it down. “I told you so!” I sing-songed at her.

All while I opened the tuna cans (which takes forever, in case you’re wondering) she kept on talking in a long string of one-syllable words that I didn’t bother to figure out. Mom came downstairs holding something, and Deirdre cried goofily, “Ooh–Mommy!–get it!” (Translation: “Oh, Mommy’s got something!”)

“Uh-oh, I ran out of room,” I said to Deirdre, as the cup I was filling up with tuna juice filled up. I went to get another cup, a little blue one, which, Deirdre informed me, was “Der-dwe’s cup.” She couldn’t understand why I was squeezing the juice into that cup, instead of the big one like I was supposed to. She tried to get me to dump the little cup into the big one. “Dump it, right there, that kind,” she said, she said, pointing at the big cup, to make it quite clear where it was supposed to go. “Deirdre, it’s full,” I explained. “Full,” she repeated with satisfaction, and stopped pestering me.

Deirdre scooped out some of the tuna fish out of the can into the cheese mixture herself; I figured it wouldn’t matter if she spilled a little. She worked at it very studiously, scooping out tiny bits of tuna fish and shaking them off the fork into the pan while I grabbed cans and emptied them. After that, there was only one thing to do, of course. “‘Tir it,” (stir it) she ordered me.

“No, we have to get the celery flakes first,” I said. “Cew-wy fwates,” said my echo, and toddled after me into the den to get them. It was hard for me to figure out which one was celery flakes, and I told her, “Go ask Mommy–no, Titi, if that’s celery flakes.” Sure enough, when I came into the kitchen, I could see Deirdre toddling off into the dining room to ask Titi. But then suddenly she noticed the movie in the other room, and in spite of herself, without quite meaning to, her feet started carrying her that direction. I yanked her back where she was supposed to go, and she held up the bag to Titi half-heartedly, not quite remembering what she was supposed to say.

It was celery flakes, as far as Titi could tell, so I went off to finish supper. But Deirdre wanted to watch the movie now, and I didn?t get her back as my helper till awhile later, when I was rolling out the crust for the tuna pie. “Oh Deirdre!…Deirdre!” I called to her, and went to fetch her, because she wanted to watch me do that. She was sitting mesmerized on Collin’s lap, as she recounted to me as I carried her into the kitchen. (“Collin, lap,” she said.) All of the little kids came into the kitchen a little later, since the movie had ended, and they began to have snack. Then Deirdre decided having snack was now much more fun than helping make supper. It’s always fun when she does, though!