My babies will always be babies to me. And I'm often accused of being a little uptight. (My response? Sure, I'm uptight, but nothing really horrible has ever happened to me. Because I'm careful! Too careful!) The idea of letting my babies use a stove, especially our gas stove, with its daring open flame, was unfathomable.
I always thought I would wait until my kids were ready, then give a lengthy instructional talk and demo, explaining every cooking safety precaution they would need to take, possibly including wearing a head-to-toe flameproof suit. But my oldest baby will be 15 in less than a week and he's been cooking for years, without my permission, and doing just fine.
He never thought to ask. (Apparently, I forgot to tell him how very, VERY dangerous cooking can be.) I came home one day, when he was 11 or 12. He had let himself in and was sitting in the kitchen enjoying the heck out of an enormous bowl of popcorn.
"Where did you get the popcorn?" I asked, assuming my husband had come home to get something and made it then.
"I made it." He was very matter of fact.
"But...but..." I sputtered, "How did you know how?"
"It's not that hard, Mom. I watched you."
True. Making popcorn on the stove is not difficult. And that kid is particularly self reliant, more than worthy of my trust. The popcorn incident happened a few years ago and we've let him use the stove ever since. After all, our mothers never dreamed of telling us when we were allowed to use the stove and we survived.
How else will he learn to cook? When he grows up and finds a partner, I want him to pick a good one, with high standards, so they don't end up moving back into our house. At the very least, that partner will probably expect him to have mastered basic adult skills, like cooking, doing his own laundry and using a vacuum. (He has learned to do all of those things on his own, no thanks to me.)
He specializes in breakfast foods and also makes a mean plate of nachos. Pancakes are a favorite, though he isn't perfect. Recently, while babysitting his six year old brother, he decided to make a pancake supper. His little brother was more than happy to inform us that the first round was burned. I resisted the urge to freak out. (This was no small feat.) After all, we've all burnt a pancake or three, right? That's how you learn.
How old were your children when you let them use the stove? And how much instruction do you offer? Do you require flameproof suits or throw caution to the wind?