Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Turducken time

“Dream big,” we tell our kids. “You can do whatever you want to with your life. Accept no limitations when it comes to following your passions.”

Yes, yes, we said all of those things and we meant them at the time. But we were talking to preschoolers or maybe third graders, and we meant that you could grow up to be a professional ball player or an astronaut or first in your class at medical school or U.S. president.

And if, even when we said it, we already suspected some of those possibilities would probably prove to be out of reach, we hid it well. Because that’s the message parents want to give their kids: assume no limitations, you have the potential to be and do anything.

But here I am, already wishing I could dial down that message just a little. Not because my child is headed for second rather than first in some hypothetical graduating class of doctors or because the Women’s NBA overlooked her as a draft pick, but because I really don’t see why – or how – Tim is going to make a turducken for his seventh grade advisory group on the second-to-last day of school.

Advisory is a weekly event in middle school in which kids are divided up into groups of ten, each one led by a teacher. The idea is generally to have a meaningful liaison with other kids and teachers outside of the curricular setting, so they do team-building activities, skits, competitions, and games throughout the year.

And Tim and his advisory buddy Reid thought the only fitting way to say farewell to the other eight members of their advisory was by cooking them a turkey dinner.

But not a normal Thanksgiving turkey dinner. That, I know how to do. That, I’ve done every Thanksgiving for the past twelve years. No, the boys offered to make a turducken. How Tim even knows the concept of turducken is unclear to me, but by the time he told me about the plan, he and Reid had already spent some time on the Internet comparing recipes and researching poultry prices. “Everyone in the group will donate toward the costs,” Tim assured me.

It sounded like a frankly preposterous idea to me. I’m quite familiar by this time in my parenting career with what generally happens when the kids take on a cooking – or more typically baking – project: I buy the groceries, I supervise the labor, and I clean up the kitchen afterwards.

Tim understands my misgivings but assures me that he and Reid will put in the necessary time and effort to get the job done. Unfortunately, none of us can quite picture just what this time and effort will look like, since none of us has ever cooked – or even eaten – a turducken before.

But as my friend Leigh said, when your son comes home from school and says he wants to make a turducken, how can you say no? How can you quash that particular dream just because you know you’ll be scraping grease off the stovetop for the next six months?

I didn’t exactly say yes, though. I very dubiously said that they could try. And I called the butcher at Whole Foods to order the three de-boned birds. “As small as possible, especially the turkey,” I told him. “It’s only for a group of ten, and they’ll have just a short time to eat between phys ed class and social studies.”

“I’ve never heard of a class project like that before,” he commented when I explained.

“Tell me about it,” I muttered.

Nonetheless, Tim and Reid are on deck and ready to bat. My feeling is that I won’t bail them out if failure or incompletion seems imminent, but I’ll coach them along until they quit.

But, of course, maybe they won’t quit. Maybe they will actually bring a roasted, carved turducken to school next Monday. (My father has already volunteered to do the carving, and if we reach that point in the project, I don’t mind lugging it up to Tim’s classroom.) Maybe the message I’ve been dutifully promoting all along – “You can do anything to which you set your mind!” – will turn out to be true in this case.

And if not, at least I gave the butcher at Whole Foods a memorable anecdote that he’ll probably be retelling at employee training days for years to come.

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