It was 8:30 on a Tuesday night. I was working at the coast, covering a tropical storm when I got the call.
"Mom, I'm hungry. I need you to get me something to eat," my daughter pleaded.
I list all of the food available in the refrigerator, including leftovers. I suggest the possibility that her sister, who drives, might take her somewhere nearby to get takeout.
But, I explain quite firmly, that there is nothing I can do from four hours away. I cannot magically appear in the kitchen to make her dinner. Her father was at a meeting, and she had just returned from dance. While I sympathized with her plight, I also wondered aloud how she would navigate life without learning the simple survival skill of feeding herself.
I don't remember the exact age when it happened, but there came a certain moment in my childhood when the cereal bowl no longer appeared on the kitchen table in the morning. It became my job to make myself breakfast. It was around that same time that if I were hungry on a Saturday at noon, I learned to make myself a sandwich. Sure, my mom made dinner most nights, but if your sports or activities' schedule fell outside the norm of the family meal, you were on your own. My mother's theory - as long as there was food in the refrigerator, no one was going to starve.
Somewhere along the way, our generation made children believe that they would be served three meals a day through their 18th birthday. And then, in college, they would be served three meals a day in their college cafeterias. In some ways, this idea is as silly as continuing to dress our children until they are 18.
"Honey, I've laid out your clothes for tomorrow next to your car keys," the mother calls to her teenage daughter.
Clearly, we would never dress our children beyond double digits, yet, we continue to make meals for perfectly capable human beings. The way I see it, its our job to make sure food is always available, and yes, when possible, to make a family meal.
But, in a busy family where both parents work, it's not always possible to have a meal on the table every single night. Occasionally, someone is going to have to microwave some leftovers or make a sandwich. It's not even about learning to cook, it's about learning to be self-sufficient. It's our job as parents to teach our children self-sufficiency in every aspect of their lives. Otherwise, their road to adulthood will be a very rocky one.
"I thought you were going to order me a pizza," my daughter said incredulously an hour later.
I reminded her that she told me very pointedly she did not want a pizza. She told me I should have known that she really did want one after all. So now, in addition to being able to magically time travel from the coast to my kitchen, I'm also supposed to be a mind reader. I ended up ordering a pizza, and then canceling it when her father rode in on a white horse with Chick-fil-A.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.