Tags: Food & Home, Parenting
Mealtimes: Those special occasions when your children make an extra effort to make you question every parenting decision you’ve ever made. Maybe we should make them finish every bite on their plate. Maybe we should have fed them nothing but vegetables when they were babies. Maybe we should just give up and let them eat Cheerios for dinner. Maybe we should let them eat mashed potatoes with their fingers.
Oh. Wait. It is supposed to be a time for family conversation, relaxation, and a chance to teach social graces and manners.
Well, we haven’t had a food fight around here. Yet. So we have that going for us.
However, our children have a tendency to eat without use of plates. Like, the plate will be on the table, but their food will not be anywhere near the plate. They will take the food off the plate, put it on the table, cut it (maybe), pick it up (with their fingers), and put it in their mouths.
I’m not sure where they learned to do this or how they’ve managed not to UN-learn it based on the many times a day they hear us tell them to “please use a plate.”
But we have made progress. It wasn’t until Samantha was six years old- I’ll never forget the day- that I no longer had to remind her to “take a bite.” I think she thought mealtime was just… I don’t know… a chance to smear spaghetti sauce on her face. And plate. And the table. And her clothes.
My children think their pants and the seat cushion make a nice napkin, the chair is superfluous (why sit?), it’s normal to lick the dessert plate, and that, if they have used their silverware at all to put any food whatsoever into their mouths, it is perfectly ok to use said silverware as a serving spoon.
I shriek every time they do this. Or sigh. Or calmly remind them about manners. And germs. They know. I know they know because when we are brave enough to go out to eat, they actually remember how to use silverware and plates and chairs and serving spoons and napkins and even—gasp—“please” and “thank you.”
“If you don’t start behaving, your mother is going to end up in the nut house,” my husband is fond of threatening our children during mealtimes.
Ashley likes to ask questions like, “Is that a real place?”
Once, my husband was cutting up the mango on his own plate, and she asked if she could have it. He gave it to her. She already had half a mango in her hand, and there was no more mango. He started cutting up a radish on his plate. “Oh, can I have that?” The fruits and vegetables looked more appealing as he sliced. Pretty soon she had his entire salad on her plate, and he had nothing left to eat.
Seeing the look of exasperation on my face, she asked if I was going to go to the “peanut house.”
Yes. That. Definitely.
I sometimes think to myself, “Why am I trying so hard? Why don’t I just turn on the TV and let them bring a sandwich to the couch? Why do I insist on having a family meal at every meal every day?”
I guess it’s because I love them, and I know that no one wins if I give up.