The zombie test

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.

~ Proverbs 21: 31 –

I taught my daughter how to make a lasagna today. We worked together, browning meat, layering cheese, spooning out sauce, wrapping the whole kit and caboodle in foil, and popping it in the oven.

It’s my secret recipe. It has served me well over the years. It’s not complex but it’s good. Both my wife and my daughter love it. As I write this the girl has been back and forth several times wondering when it’s going to be ready.

My daughter and I have worked side-by-side like this since she was pretty small. We’ve changed bike tires, fixed stuff around the house, built chicken houses out of kits, constructed roosts for the same birds, built raised beds, planted gardens, done some minor landscaping, camped, fished and  spent many hours mowing and trimming the yard.

This year she was old enough to help me with the Christmas lights and despite her mother’s trepidation, we crawled up on the roof and did our job. It wasn’t all work; we spent some time sitting companionably on the very top of our house staring out over our neighborhood like we were giants. We were both careful. My daughter was a little scared but overcame her fear and nobody died. It was a good day.

In all of these endeavors she is nearly always helpful and far more often than not, comes up with a better, smarter, easier way to finish the project or do the job.

It’s not unusual for her to say something like, “Dad, wouldn’t it be (better, easier, smarter, safer) for us to do it like this?” Most times she’s right.

She’s a typical kid, so she doesn’t always want to work, can’t say as I blame her. Yesterday she walked into the kitchen heading to her room and asked her mother to bring her a drink. Seriously, like it would be easier for her mother to get up and bring her a drink than do it herself. I was dumbfounded and doing what any good father would do growled, “Get your own drink.”

But, generally speaking, once she’s actually working with me, I’m always happy to have my daughter’s help and her companionship and her insight.

She’s managed to get a few over on me over the years. The chickens were her idea.

She was going to get up every morning and care for them before school. Last winter, as I trudged out to the coop through nearly a foot of snow after spending a fitful night wondering if the birds were going to freeze to death, I looked back at the  house, imagined my daughter still snug in her bed and thought to myself as my ears began to freeze, “I’m a giant sucker.”

Granted, she helped me insulate the coop and helped me wire a lizard light to the place so the birds would be at least a little bit warmer on really cold nights. Still, I was in the  cold and she was snoozing. Yes, giant sucker.

Overall though, I am pretty proud of how she’s turning out. I’m raising a kid who is pretty competent.

She’s a good friend and just as importantly was wise enough to surrounded herself with equally good friends. She’s kind. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s generally patient. When faced with a problem she can more often than not solve it on her own. If she can’t, she seems to have the knack for asking the right person for help and accepting that help. She didn’t learn that from me, that’s all her mom. I’m horrible about asking anybody for anything.

I have this is my imaginary test for competence. Want to hear it?

I think of a dangerous situation, say, I’m stuck in a car that’s tumbled down a ravine, or I’m lost in the woods, or we’re at the house and there’s a huge flood or a crazy guy is chasing me through a Wal-Mart with an axe.

Then I ask myself, if I could keep my daughter in a force field so she wouldn’t get hurt, would I rather have her there or not? Would I trust her to help me stay alive or would she be more of a hindrance or a downright liability?

Nearly every time, my answer is I’d want her help. Most adults I know wouldn’t make that cut.

The girl just popped out of her room, hungry and ready for a late lunch. As we cut into the lasagna we confirmed we had left a layer of noodles out. So, our lasagna is really, mostly, a big pile of sauce, meat and cheese.

Unlike me, my daughter took this mistake in stride.

“Nobody cares about the noodles anyway,” she said with authority as she shoveled steaming lasagna onto her plate.

I am serious about this competence test though. I think it’s much more important than other measures we parents put out on Facebook   – a more substantive benchmark than a report card or a trophy. It’s one I seriously doubt I would have passed at her age. I’m pretty sure my father figured I was generally useless. I likely was.

But I’m serious. If I was somewhere and was cold, scared, or in danger, and I could somehow manage to have my daughter there to help without her being cold, scared or in danger, I’d want her with me. She’d likely save my life.

I admit it that sometimes, when I’m with a group of people and their children, I wonder to myself, how well we’d survive in a show like, say The Walking Dead. Most times, I think it wouldn’t end well. We’d likely die quickly and in a myriad of horrible ways.

Yes, if I really consider it,  when the zombies come, I could do a lot worse than having my daughter to back me up.  All in all I’d have to say she’s pretty competent. Now, if only I could only get her to clean the litter box without asking 50 times.

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