No, no, no… Enchilada Good!

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I don’t know how many Pittsburgh, PA households smell like Mexican food around dinner time. Chipotle and Taco Bell don’t count.

However, yesterday, when I came home from work and entered the kitchen, my nose was welcomed with a warm mixture of food smells. Melting cheese, flour tortillas, cilantro, onion and red sauce. “Enchiladas?” I asked with an earnest smile. My wife nodded.

Before leaving California, my wife spoke with my mother and grandmother about family recipes. It was very sweet to see my wife talk with the women in my family, learning and writing recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Even more so, I believe my wife is the first person to actually write down the recipes.

And as far as my wife’s culinary skills to recreate Cardenas recipes, they are spot-on!

When I sit down for dinner, it’s not just the idea that the best Mexican food in Pittsburgh is in our kitchen, but also the idea that it’s a feeling of home and family that has been passed on. The smells and tastes are tangible memories of people who have impressed wisdom and influence on your life. Furthermore, my son gets to enjoy traditional Mexican food despite living in Pennsylvania.

Moral of the Story: As much as parents and extended family, preschool teachers have the profound opportunity to imprint their own ideals on young children.

“No, no, no, no, no,” said a girl to a boy. The boy was attempting to sit in her seat. “No, no, no,” with a  stop hand in front of the boy’s face.

“That sounds familiar,” I thought. Took me a second. My assistant, watching the kids but unaware of my quizzical appearance, turned to me with a wry smile. “That sounds like you,” my assistant said. Lightbulb! That was me! I say that. And the pace, intonation, and body language was an interpretation of my own mannerisms.

Another time, one my students scolded here family at their home table. As the family was getting ready to eat dinner, my student halted everything, claiming there were no napkins on the table. Stunned and dumbfounded, the father passed around napkins, folding and placing them besides the play, then placing a fork on top. When all was set, my student nodded her head in approval. The next day, the parents told me what happened. There was no doubt where my student got that idea. It was in our classroom, a routine that happens three times a day.

Copying language and meal arrangements may sound like little things to impress upon children. I’ll even throw in Cardenas Enchiladas. But, what about the bigger things? What about morals, character, and decision-making? Are kids copying those as well?

Yes! Absolutely. Young children are sponges for absorbing behaviors from adults. And it doesn’t matter who the adult is, as long as they are adults who are present and interact in the child’s life. If early childhood teachers understand that their influence on children stretch well beyond preschool graduation and extend passed letters and colors, then we might take our time with young children into a new realm of responsibility. What would it be like to become accountable for our own behavior knowing that there are small eyes watching and waiting to copy them?

Life isn’t just a warm pan of enchiladas. Although that would be awesome! When I sit down at the table, with my two-year-old son waiting to eat, I’m not just passing on family recipes to him, but morals, character, and right and wrong. He’s getting older, and he’ll start looking at mommy and daddy on how to operate in our world; foods to eat, how to greet people, and what you can and cannot do. And, in his future, there may be a preschool teacher acting as a third influence in his life.

I want that third influence to be a good one. No, no, no, no… not just good, but Cardenas Enchilada good.

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