Let’s talk about my least favorite part of parenting:
If your household is like mine, the third meal of the day (following 32 snacks) is an absolute shit show.
It doesn’t matter how far in advance I prep dinner. Somehow, just scooping food from a crockpot onto a plate becomes a harrowing ordeal with children.
After a long ass day, I’ve gotta muster energy to prepare food for ungrateful children that likely won’t eat it. AND then, worse yet, we have to “eat” WITH them.
Quick PSA for non-parents: being in the same room with children who are having a meal is basically a glimpse into hell. I’m not a doctor, but I bet if I WedMD’d it I’d find that over 90 percent of headaches are caused by enduring mealtime with kids. It’s probably the root of dementia too.
I think to myself why don’t I just throw some dry cereal at them and wait to eat (and maybe even enjoy) my meal in peace after the kids are snug in their beds? But then I remember that families that eat dinner together are healthier mentally and emotionally according to various research studies, so I force everyone to sit down at the table and spend the next 20 minutes yelling “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it!” while simultaneously watching the clock inch towards bedtime.
Need a better picture of how family mealtime goes down? Here’s an accurate account of dinner with my family – Richard, Owen, Carmendy, and Winnie.
Dinner begins with lukewarm food. It’s already been on the table for 15 minutes, but one kid is still watching YouTube and the other is busy losing her mind because I told her to sit in a booster seat. I’ve spent the past 30 minutes listening to these same children desperately cry for food, claiming that their stomachs are going to eat themselves at any moment and that starvation is imminent. But now that I’ve raced and sweated through dinner prep like a frigging crazed Iron Chef on speed, no one gives a f@#k.
Me: Dinner’s ready! Come eat!
Me: Come eat it while it—
Children: BUT I’M NOT DONE—
Children: Ok, give me a couuuupple minutes. Almost done!
ten minutes later
Thanks to some ninja moves, everyone is settled into a seat at the dining table. Baby Winnie is miraculously sleeping.
Parenting pro tip: Stick to wine to get through the meal, because beer will be piss warm by the time you have a chance to chug it.
Richard and I spend the next ten minutes cutting and plating the children’s food to their liking, and wrestling a bib on Carmendy. As the kids finally pick up their forks, I attempt to sit back down in my chair.
Just as my ass is about to hit the seat, the shit show really begins. Literally.
Owen: I have to poop.
Carmendy: Me too! Me too, Mommy!
After the bowels are cleared out, hands are washed and bibs are back on, the fun continues.
Carmendy: Daddy, I need more juice.
Owen: This is too hot. My tongue is BURNING.
Me: It can’t be hot. It’s been sitting out for like 30 minutes.
Owen: I can’t eat it! It’s like fire! My mouth is on FIRE.
Carmendy: JUUUICCEE. Juice! Juice! Juice! Juice?
Richard gives in and pours some juice. I spend five minutes blowing Owen’s cold food.
We then make the mistake of attempting adult conversation.
Me: How was your da-
Carmendy: MOMMY NO
Me: Mommy is trying to talk to Daddy. What do you wa-
Carmendy: I need a fork.
Me: You have a fork.
Carmendy: I need a different fork. This one is purple. I don’t like purple.
Me: Ok, fine, I’ll get it in a minute. Richard, how was your da-
Carmendy: NOOO now, MOM-ME!!!
Owen: What’s this green thing?
Me: It’s seasoning.
Owen: Is it spicy?
Owen: Is it celery?
Me: No. (It is.)
Owen: Is it peppers?
Me: Just eat it.
Owen: I don’t like it.
Me: Then don’t eat it.
He grabs my hand and spits his mouthful of food into my palm. A piece of me dies inside.
I take Owen’s plate and carefully remove all evidence of green specimens.
Carmendy: I dropped my fork! My fork!!
I pick up her fork.
Me: Do you want your food cut smaller?
I begin cutting her food into bits.
Carmendy: NOOOOO. I DON’T WANT IT CUT. NOO.
Trying to avoid a tantrum and salvage my sanity, I remove the cut food from her plate and replace it with uncut food. Her whimpering eventually subsides. Then the baby starts to cry.
Me: Owen, sit still. Your butt belongs on the chair. Can you please not move for 2 minutes?? You’re going to make a mess or get hurt.
Owen: I am sitting! I’m not moving. (falls out of chair and spills half his plate of food)
Me: What did I tell you?? SIT DOWN.
Baby Winnie continues fussing. I pick her up and try to eat while holding a squirming infant.
Owen: I need a tissue. That spicy green thing gave me boogies.
Richard: Use your napkin.
Owen: It’s dirty. (Richard checks napkin; there is a microscopic speck of food smeared on it.)
Richard: Use your sleeve.
Owen: EWWW. No.
Richard: Fine, I’ll get a tissue.
Richard fetches a tissue, and hands it to Owen.
Owen: I don’t need a tissue anymore.
Richard, through gritted teeth: FINE. Just leave it next to you in case you need it later.
Owen: But I don’t want it near my plate.
Me: More wine, Richard?
Owen: I want more food. Can I have more?
Carmendy: I don’t want this. I want something else. I don’t want this. Mommy, I want that! (points to my food…which is the same food on her plate)
There are three kinds of kids: those that eat nothing, those that eat only what’s on their mom’s plate, and those that eat more than four adults combined.
Owen: More! That’s not enough.
Me: You ate three hot dogs. That IS enough.
Owen: But I need to eat more food to make me grow bigger so that I can cut with knives and use scissors.
Me: Fine, eat Carmendy’s.
Carmendy appears to be done eating, as she smears soggy crumbs through her hair and throws bits of rejected food at the dog. She pretty much only ate a pile of grated cheese (probably because of the 32 snacks earlier), but whatever.
Me: Are you done, Carmendy?
Owen: Okay! Gimme that, Carmie.
Carmendy: NOOOOO. NOT done. It’s mine. MINE. No, no, OWEN. MINE. I’m NOT done yet.
Tantrum ensues. Richard and I scarf down some food without tasting it while the children whine, moan and scream.
Owen: Can I get down now? I’m full. Can I watch YouTube?
Me: Sure, watch whatever the f#@k you want as long as I can’t hear your voice. (spoken in my head, of course)
Thank you, Jesus, for screen time.
(Pretty sure an engineer invented the iPad after thinking “I can’t f@#king do this anymore” while sitting with small children through dinner.)
Carmendy: I’m done too! I’m full too.
Me: Really? That grated cheese filled you up?
Carmendy: YES. I’m full.
Me: You better not ask for dessert, because that’s it. No more food until tomorrow. Got it?
Richard wipes the children down and releases them from dinner prison.
Five minutes later…
Carmendy: I’m hungry. What can I have for dessert?