An Open Letter to My Son: I Know How to Boil Water

Dear Son,

I’m so proud of you this week as you’ve started your 2nd year of college, living in your own place with friends. I know it’s going to be an amazing experience for you.

I was quite worried when we left you in your new house, because I wasn’t sure if I had fully prepared you, particularly in the area of cooking and kitchen prep.

I’m not sure why, perhaps I was more focused on getting you to clean your room all these years. (which I’m not sure I was successful at either…) So, I took you shopping on moving day and gave you ideas for easy meals while trying to hold back my tears. I filled your fridge with easy prep food that I hoped you’d learn to make. Then, I stocked your freezer with the baked goods I’d prepared for you with a mother’s love earlier that week.

I hugged you good-bye through my tears and told you to call me if you needed any help in the kitchen and I would be there for you. I had a restless sleep that night, tossing and turning. Legitimately concerned for you, because you like food. And I wondered if you’d be able to turn any of those items into an edible meal.

Maybe you’d just eat chips for the whole year.

Or learn 48 ways to make Kraft Dinner.

My dreams were full of angst and worry.

But I had to have faith in you.

I believed in you. 

If what everyone told me was right, you’d be fine. 

The next day, I saw a post on Instagram that made my heart leap. There you were, making pasta for the first time. I almost called you to see if I could help, but I thought that I needed to let you soar on your own. Soon, a lovely picture followed of a beautifully set table, with napkins and plates and an impressive dish of pasta.

You did it. 

You were going to be ok.

I was basking in pride at your accomplishment.

Then, your father sauntered upstairs.

He said a phrase that pierced straight through my heart. I don’t want to assume he was being smug (but let’s assume he was.)

“Noah called me for some help to make dinner.”

Now maybe I was already emotional from leaving you at school, and a crazy long day of moving and driving, and the other general stresses of life. But those words, sent me crying into my pillow for 30 minutes.

Deep sobs, repeating the phrase, “No one needs me for anything. I’m useless.”

(In hindsight, perhaps a little over-dramatic.)

Listen, I’m aware of the fact that I’m not known for my culinary skills. I’ll never make it onto MasterChef Canada or win a pie contest. Heck, most of the time I stare into the fridge and wonder what magic I’m going to use to make dinner. I’ve noticed that no one asks me for a favorite meal, and your sister has said I’m better at liquids.

But guess what?



“Dad’s Italian” is what you said, when I tearfully texted my feelings of betrayal. Yah. He’s Italian. I taught HIM how to boil water. I’m pretty sure he never saw the inside of the kitchen until we got married.

I don’t want to get into a big gender war or anything. I know men can cook, I’m glad you feel like you can call your Dad for anything. I’ll forgive him for being the favorite eventually.

But I carried you in my womb for 9 months. I gave birth to you, and you were a big baby. I’ve devoted my life to being the best mom that I could be. Just last week, you spilled an entire large-sized Tim Horton’s coffee behind the couch at the cottage and I kept my yelling at a reasonable decibel.


So the next time you’re preparing a rather basic meal, feel free to give me a call. Dad’s going to live off the energy of this victory for a long time. Only contact him if your wifi goes down, you have to start a lawnmower, you require a money transfer or have no interest in receiving any Christmas gifts from me.

I can help you with sliceable cookies, salad in a bag, and I’m super good at coffee and peanut butter toast.

I’ve got your back.

I know how to boil water.






This article originally appeared at

Shelly Calcagno
Shelly loves to write, speak, blogs regularly and has published a children's book, Tini's Tangles. Shelly has written and produced several animated series for children, as well as family and children’s curriculum. Shelly previously co-hosted on 100 Huntley Street – Canada’s longest running daytime talk show where she produced lifestyle and faith segments.  She currently is a Family Ministry Pastor in the Niagara Region of Canada. Shelly loves being creative and taking on DIY projects, especially if they involve mason jars and chalkboard paint! Shelly is married and has two awesome teenagers. You can find her writing at

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