By Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub
Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form
I was raised by a single mother who pursued her education throughout my childhood. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on memories of when my mother was completing her Master’s degree online and we were navigating this reality in our home. Today, I share with you one memory that has always stuck with me.
I was 12 years old and it was Halloween eve. The basement of our duplex was my mother’s home office space on weekday evenings and when that door was shut, I knew it was writing time for her. We had a good system going and it was exciting feeling like I had “the house to myself” once in a while with check-ins & house rules to make sure everything was okay.
On this evening, she headed downstairs around 6pm to meet a major writing deadline for her thesis. I watched a bit of TV, walked our dog Sammy, and started getting ready for Halloween. One of my best friends down the street was coming by and we were going to have an evening filled with candy, movies and video games.
We usually ate dinner around 7:15 pm, and my friend was coming by at 8:30 pm. As I was working on the finishing touches of my costume, I would look at the clock occasionally: 7:30… 7:40… 7:45… 8:00. I was thinking… maybe she left something in the fridge. I didn’t want to bother her… this was not her usual time for doing schoolwork, but I knew she was working hard to get an assignment finished and submitted online. At just after 8pm I heard a startled noise and hurried steps of my mother rushing up the stairs. She swung open the door, looking flustered.
‘I FORGOT TO FEED YOU!’ She hollered. My mom loves Halloween and always prided herself in making sure that I was well fed, warm and safely prepared before heading out to enjoy the festivities.
She opened the kitchen cabinets and grabbed a can of soup… I remember it had one of those “pop” lids where you didn’t need a can opener. ‘I’ve got to finish up a few more things before your friend gets here, but I’m going to show you how to make dinner tonight – okay?’.
I never had to cook on the stove top before – I usually helped with prepping items or made toast in the morning. I felt so excited that she trusted me with this important task. She watched me open up the can, pour the soup in the pot, put the stovetop element on low and told me how the elements worked and why not to turn it on too high. Handing me a spoon, she said ‘I’ll be up again in 10 minutes! But watch the pot, and once it’s bubbling a bit you can turn off the element.’
We had about 20 minutes until I had to be ready. I remember that she left the door a bit open to make sure she could hear me. I completed my soup mission with success, making some toast along with it and happily munched away with just enough time to spare. She came back upstairs and helped me with the last few items of my costume. My friend arrived just at 8:30 pm, and my mother let me know when she would come by to pick me up later that evening.
It’s interesting that how in small moments like these, perspectives between a parent and child can be so different. My mother and I had talked about this very evening in one of our Zoom sessions a few weeks back. This memory was the first time one of my parents had trusted me to cook in the kitchen. Teaching me how to set things up safely and what to do if something seemed wrong was a really important teaching for me. For my mother, she felt as though she wasn’t there for me because of her studies. For myself, I felt like I was a part of the team.
Moments like these are bound to happen because families are naturally folded into the student parent experience – however this might look. In this case, it led to me being in charge of dinner once a week on those nights where my mother needed time to write. Nothing fancy, it was usually just a pot of soup, but it was a contribution to our home and a steppingstone to my love of cooking.
So, if you’re a student parent reading this – it’s okay if you’re having moments like these with your family during your studies! I can say with confidence that sometimes these moments happen for a reason so that homes become a space where we can help one another out and transform uncertain moments into opportunities to learn something new.
Eventually I learned new dishes over the years… but every time I see a can of soup with one of those “pop” lids… I smile fondly and think about that Halloween eve.