last year, we grow lots of kale and a bit of collard greens over the winter. This is the second year we've harvested, blanched, and frozen the whole crop before planting the spring garden. Last year, N. wanted to help me with the greens, and his self-assigned task was swirling the blanched greens in an ice bath. This year he wanted to take on a bigger role in the process. In addition to cooling the greens, he filled the freezer bags with chopped greens and weighed them repeatedly on the kitchen scale till each bag weighed precisely 8 ounces, then carefully squeezed excess air out of the bags and sealed them closed. After I labeled all the packages, he insisted on putting them in the freezer without assistance. Throughout the whole process, it felt more like I was assisting him than the other way around!
It seems funny to chart N.'s growth and development through his participation in the annual freezing of greens, but I was struck by how very much older he seemed this year as he took charge of parts of the process. Although it would have been easier, faster, and less messy to do the whole task myself, taking advantage of N..'s desire to participate gave him opportunities to practice thinking about fractions and multiplication as we talked about the various components of 16 ounces, to be engaged in the production and preservation of his own food, to follow precisely a multi-step process, to take a responsible role without being asked or required to. As I ceded more steps of the process to N., I was also able to be more conversationally engaged with him, which helped me maintain my patience as the whole process inevitably slowed down in a 5-year-old's hands. Being truly present in our conversation made the process more intellectually rich for both of us. So, the moral of the story is that greens are delicious, easy to grow, and good for you in lots of ways!