What We Learned from a Missing Frying Pan

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | April 24, 2013

Many years ago my favorite non-stick frying pan disappeared from its usual place in the kitchen and I could not find it for the life of me. For more than a week I looked everywhere: in the oven, in the pantry, under the island, in the cabinets, under the sink and even in the refrigerator. It was nowhere to be found— poof—gone! Could someone have thrown it in the trash by mistake?

What could a frying pan possibly teach us?

When my husband puts things away it is a challenge to find things because many things will not be found where they belong. He has put a wooden cutting board in the oven; another time it was mixer blades in a pencil cup. He has been known to take a bowl (pot, plate or cup) and use it to mix fertilizer and grass seed or to hold a handful of hardware. I had asked him and he thought I was picking on him saying, “I’m not very handy but I’m not a moron!”

Chelsey and Katie were nine and six respectively and both cooked a little— scrambled eggs, grilled cheese— so I asked them if they had seen it.

“Have I seen a pan? Um, uh, no! What would I want with a pan?” Chelsey said, looking a little too defensive.

Katie immediately looked around for her sister, “No Mom, I don’t think I know anything about that pan!”

The two had guilt written all over their faces— so guilty it was funny to me, but I tried not to laugh, I needed to look mad. I crossed my arms and told them to spill the beans, “So what did y’all do with my frying pan?”

The two had guilt written all over their faces— so guilty it was funny to me.

Katie started telling the story and Chelsey embellished and went downstairs to get the missing frying pan. They had both been hungry and I was busy volunteering on the Helpline so they took it upon themselves to fix a snack of grilled cheese sandwiches. Chelsey put a little margarine on the bread, added cheese and then put it together in the pan. She turned the burner on and adjusted the flame. Katie got two plates then poured Chelsey a glass of seltzer and juice for herself. When the grilled cheese sandwiches were browned, Chelsey lifted the pan to slide them on the plates and that is when the “terrible happening happened!”

Chelsey accidentally let the hot frying pan touch the plastic bread bag and it immediately melted and stuck to the bottom of the pan. They were horrified; they were not quite sure what to do. If they told me, I could have gotten real mad so they decided to take care of the problem in secret. The two sneaked the pan downstairs and had been working on it a little at a time— scratching and scraping— all week in their spare time, trying to get the plastic bag off the pan. They were hoping I would not notice it was gone.

No, I didn’t get mad and I didn’t punish them but it did make me stop and think about what transpired. I had to have some serious discussions with Chelsey and Katie (and myself) on a few important things, anger being one of them.

What did we learn from the missing frying pan?

(1) Never fear. I didn’t ever want my girls to be that afraid to come to me— ever. I might get upset but I would always love them.

(2) Delaying could be dangerous and/or expensive. I knew fixing any problem is easier and less expensive if we know about it as early as possible. A late library book or a fender bender is better taken care of as soon right away; own up to it and take responsibility for it. The longer you wait, the more it will cost and the madder I’ll be.

(3) Family is important. I love how Chelsey and Katie worked together to solve a problem. It might not seem like much now but as they got older I translated that to mean they would be there for each other when needed.

(4) Look for humor. There are very few instances with kids where there is no humor to be found. Humor lightens the mood and restores comfort.

(5) Anger’s presence. Anger (sometimes known as the Animal) has a concrete manifestation at my house and in my life. I do not welcome it and I am not proud of it but it is part of me. I did not cause it any more than I caused the moon to rise. I am not proud or ashamed of my anger but I will be working on controlling my anger as long as I live.

(6) Frying Pans. Always have more than one. Better yet, keep a new one in its package because everyone eventually burns a bread bag at some point in time.

Chelsey and Katie were very happy I didn’t “blow up,” at least that day, and we had a few good laughs. I got the pan back and I got most of the plastic off but it smelled awful when we tried to use it so I threw it away and bought a new one. Oh, if only all children’s problems were solved so easily. There were bigger, scarier things to worry about.

Here are a few questions for you:

  • Have you known anyone with anger or rage so strong it frightened people— or yourself?
  • How do you deal with your own anger?
  • What do you do when you get angry with your children?
  • How could you help someone stay calm?
  • How can you safely give an anger-prone person bad news?

Quick Tips for Anger

  • Stop in your tracks and back away.
  • Take a deep breath inward to the count of two (slowly) and then breathe out to the count of four (same pace).
  • Ask yourself if your anger is rational. Think of pros and cons.
  • Postpone any reaction for fifteen minutes.
  • Drink a full glass of water.
  • Try to think of something funny about the situation.
  • Walk around the block.
  • Squeeze a tennis ball.
  • Pound nails into a board.
  • Picture your child as a baby; remember how cute they were.
  • Go in the bathroom and splash warm water in your face.
  • Get perspective on the situation.
  • Put off disciplining a child for 24 hours.
  • Call a helpline to vent.

Please share your expertise with everyone in our group. What works for you?

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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