I can't remember exactly how the conversation started. We were eating dinner together, my kids and I; S. was at an important dinner meeting for work. Maybe my son had asked about S.'s recent spate of late nights.
"But you don't work," he objected. "You just hang around here all day with N."
"VERY interesting," I said, trying not to reveal that he had pushed my biggest button. "That is one of the things that not even adults agree about. You've hit on a very sophisticated conversation. So: changing diapers, making meals, making snacks, entertaining your sister, teaching her things ... none of that is work?"
"Nope," he said, confidently, crossing his arms and shaking his head.
"Well then how do you define work?" I asked.
"Something you get paid to do," he replied.
"Huh," I said. "So when you rake leaves in the back yard, is that work?"
"How about when we ask you to make your bed?"
"Let me tell you something, Buster," I said, looking him square in the eye, "taking care of your sister during the day is quite possibly the hardest job I've ever had. And I've worked for some pretty challenging people." I paused. "So tell me this: what if I took N. to day care, and the person there did all of the things for her during the day that I do, and the only difference is that she gets paid. Is that work?"
"Yes," he said.
"Well," I said, thoughtfully. "I guess if what I do isn't work, if it's just for fun, and it's not hard, and it doesn't have value, then it won't matter if I stop, right?"
He looked at me quizzically.
"I mean, I'm not going to bother to bus your plate. Or run your bath tonight. Or do laundry."
"Whoopeee," he said, running into the living room, full of six year old glee, "no bath!"
I ran N's bath, and collected her from her booster seat. About two minutes later, my son came back into the kitchen, hopping around, with his shirt stuck on his head.
"Moooooooom," he called from under the folds of striped fabric, "help me, I'm stuuuuck."
"I'm not working," I said, amused that he was clearly going to take a bath anyway. "And I have to go tend to your sister."
Horrified silence. "But Mom, I'm stuck."
"You'll have to get yourself out. I love you, and I'm happy to help you, but I'm on strike until you recognize that I work." I make like I am going to head into the bathroom, where N. is calling for me and drinking the bathwater. sigh.
A beat. He calls after me.
"On strike? There's no such thing as being on strike."
"Sure there is. When you don't like your working conditions, you can strike to request better ones."
"You can't go on strike."
"Well, I'm not helping you take your shirt off."
I can see him chewing his lip, from under his shirt. Then: "okay, OKAY, you're WORKING."
"Right," I said, removing the entangled button from its hole. "And don't you forget it."
Southern Greens with a Kick
I made these with the new tsunami of kale and chard coming in our CSA share these days. Or rather, my crockpot made them. Because I wasn't working, right? Right.
2 bunches greens (collards, kale, mustard or turnip)
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 T. olive oil
4 -5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 turkey leg, or 2 ham hocks, or for a vegetarian version, use a T. or so of Spanish smoked paprika/pimenton and salt more liberally
2 -3 cups water
salt and pepper
Tear the greens into large pieces, wash under running water to clean well, drain. Preheat a heavy skillet with olive oil, add sliced onion and garlic; cook stirring frequently until onions begin to lightly brown, add minced jalapeño peppers.
Place the cooked onions in the bottom of the crockpot, add the drained greens, pimentor or turkey leg or ham hock, crushed red pepper and water. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until greens are tender. Remove meat from bones, discarding bone and fat. Shred the meat and return to pot, mixing well; adjust salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving of the greens with balsamic vinegar to taste.