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Living in Fear of Onions

Chopping green onions on a cutting board on the kitchen counter at 6:23 in the evening should be a thing you do, an activity you jump on with sweet relish in your blood, right? You chop green onions, you toss them into the hot wok or the sizzling pan, and you let a bit of the afternoon fade away, you know?

Not me though.

Plop me down within, say, 50 miles of a rabbit hole, and I fall in the damn thing every time.

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Clop-clop-clop-clop-clop: I was chopping away when my 2-year-old son, Henry, came waltzing into the kitchen.

"Daddeee?"

"Yeah, man?" I answered. Clop-clop-clop-clop-clop-clop. "What's up?"

"Whatcha doooeen?"

Clop-clop-clop.

"I'm chopping onions, dude, so I can make dinner for mommy and me."

He looked up at me from his lane down there where dogs see eye-to-eye. He looked serious. I could feel his natural desire to live a little rising up off his scalp like street-grate steam.

I waited.

He delivered.

"Can I try cwutt onions?"

A hundred times a day the universe offers us massive opportunity on a silver platter, but most of the time we are too stupid or lazy or just plain nuts to be able to recognize it. We get the chance to breathe and dance in the goddamn dew of life or just hang still and die on the friggin' vine, and guess which one we usually pick?

Henry handed me a magic wand unexpectedly, and I just accepted it so I could snap it in half.

Why the hell would I do something like that?

We end up frightened in the face of love.

It happens fast when it happens, you see. People like me, raised in a house where my mom was always telling me about the very worst that could happen in every single possible situation, just like her mom taught her, we end up frightened in the face of love.

Me: Mom can I ride my bike until dark tonight?

Mom: If you crash your bike into the neighbors front window and the glass breaks and a sliver falls into their baby's mouth and slices open her heart and she dies, we'll lose our house when they sue us and then where will we live? In the storm pipe at the park?

Years of that sort of thing have only recently come back to really haunt me. Now that I have two kids and I want to be the best dad I can be, of course my mind is all tripped out from the overprotective unrealistic Cream of Crap I had jammed into my face from the time I was old enough to walk (and trip on some ice and land on someone's snow shovel which would sever my jugular and kill me slowly on a snow day from school gone horribly f-ing wrong.)

I'm no expert on anything, but I know enough to realize that you and me and these kids, we live inside moments, the next one already passing us by.

I looked down at Henry and instead of scooching him up on his stool and guiding his soft little fist into mine, curving it around the knife handle, helping it slide down through the green faded stalks of onion that his mom and I would be eating in 20 minutes. Instead of letting him be in on something so simple yet so awesome to a young boy that he couldn't even imagine anywhere in his beautiful young mind, I unloaded a bucketful of lame down onto his head.

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"No, buddy," I said, without even stopping the chop, "Knives are really dangerous!"

I was on a roll, my adrenaline fed by the trepidation of generations of my family who had worried themselves to the point of accomplishing little outside of basic existence/reproduction/taxes. "Promise me you won't ever take any knives out of the drawers, OK? Because knives are SO sharp and little boys and girls can get very very hurt by their sharp blades, OK?"

Even as I was dolloping these plump condescending words out of my gob and down onto his face like pancake batter, I realized what an idiot I was being.

But I couldn't stop myself, I guess.

Carved into my bones was the graffiti of a worried mama, words of warning and caution just rolled off of my fat tongue as if I was born to spout them.

"Now, go in the playroom so you don't get spattered by the hot oil, little man. Daddy is getting ready to cook the onions."

Henry wandered off, away from his best buddy who was just two eyeballs sticking out of a deep old rabbit hole.

By the time the onions hissed down in the oil, I knew that I had made one of the worst mistakes of my life. And worse yet, I knew that I was making them on a daily basis.

I've been substituting fear for living, treating safety as a god.

I've been living life like it was a lawnmower blade, kid, and I'm sorry.

Go get the freaking onions out of the fridge.

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