Sunday, 3 May 2009

Dinner, with menaces

Dinner time this evening was not our finest hour. This was no doubt exacerbated by the fact that again, I drank too much on a Saturday night and was feeling somewhat jaded, so when Boy#2 began a campaign of civil disobedience at the table it did not go down well.

My sons do eat, and eat well, although that is often as a result of insistence on my part rather than desire on theirs. Even so, I suppose that really I have nothing to complain about. Every now and again, however, the abject horror that they show when presented with my latest culinary offering (this evening's was chicken fajita's with rice) really pushes my buttons. 'Think of the starving children in Africa!' I want to scream at them, memories of similar pronouncements in my own childhood crowding in on me.

And as Boy #2 spits out yet another piece of chicken because he can't be bothered to chew it, or tries to distract me from the fact he still hasn't taken another mouthful by demanding a toy car / the loo / to sit on my lap / his brother's napkin ring to balance on his nose / his own napkin ring to wear as a crown / or a bracelet / the kitchen roll to park his truck inside / the kitchen roll to throw on the floor / the kitchen roll to use as a telescope / or a sword, I find myself losing my cool more than I might like, or - now that I type out a catalogue of his misdemeanours - than is strictly necessary.

It's my inner Critical Parent, you see. She sits behind me saying useful things like 'You're clearly not bringing them up properly. You would never have done that as a child. You would never have dared... You slaved away over that dinner for oh, at least 30 minutes, and just look at how they treat it - and by association, you - with contempt. Think of the Starving Children in Africa!'

But that's just it. My sons are 3 and 5 years old. They don't think of the Starving Children in Africa. They don't think about the fact that I made it, either; to them, it's just dinner, no more, no less. No subtext, no hidden agenda. Just - dinner. And they either like it, or they don't.

I suppose you can't blame them for trying to buck the system if they don't; deep down I admire their nerve and wish I had had as much spirit at their age as they show me everyday. So I tell my Critical Parent to butt out and go boil her head, pointing out that their behaviour says more about my sons as confident and balanced individuals than eating everything in abject grateful silence would ever do. Then I take a deep breath, put Boy #2 on the Naughty Chair, and try and keep a sense of perspective.

It is 'just dinner', after all...


  1. Oh we have just had the same dinner experience as you (not the fajitas, just the behaviour - theirs and mine). And I am going to start following your lead and bash ms CP over the head and chill-the-f-out about it a little more. It is so galling and the endless dinner table demands are irritating to the extreme - but you're right. It's just dinner. We've got bloody years before they have even a smidgeon of understanding and gratitude towards how hard we work for them every day. I find having a glass of wine while they refuse to eat etc etc can take the edge off!

  2. That's how I got addicted to having a glass of wine every night. My inner critical parent still gets incensed when the teenager (who used to eat everything as a toddler/preschooler) turns her nose up at food I've prepared.

  3. put on your new sunglasses. Then you won't be able to see what's going on quite so clearly, and even if you can, they'll still make you feel better.

  4. I think I might just have called his bluff and taken the meal away with the warning that there would be no alternatives or dessert/sweeties offered. Sometimes they just aren't hungry and the fuss that they can generate is far more entertaining than eating.

  5. Tee hee.. love Iota's comment.

    My new trick is to say to them that if they won't eat then I am going to my room, and I won't come down until they've eaten everything.

    It seems to work. I have two enormous pair of eyes staring up at me in stunned silence. Reverse psychology - why would Mummy go to her room just because we won't eat? - must be really really bad.

    Also, being up the duff seems to help.. I simply can't be bothered to fight them any more.

    BM x

  6. Liking the big picture thinking. I have the same issues/non-issue with my lad, who is four.

    I can remember him crying his way through a prawn cracker covered in stir fry, struggling to get out the words 'Itttttttsssss nnniiiiiiccccceeee ddddaaaddddddddyy'.

  7. ooooh god, these comments are hilarious (and your post). I havent even begun to think about stuff like that. It may be at 7 months my girls and I are at the last moment of peace and still being ultimate boss of their world for the time being.

    I do agree with the glass of wine trick, when you're on your own and the twin babies are too tired to eat, lots of cranky of wine does indeed take the edge off.

  8. ah yes, but think of the starving children in Africa...

    it is just dinner, but bloody annoying all the same when they won't eat it.

    I find anaesthetic works, in the form of two large glasses of red, and actually, I don't give a damn what they eat. some may call that lax, I call it non-critical parenting.



  9. I wold love to tell you that their palates will eventually open wide enough to make dinners enjoyable, BUT in my house the 13 year old has about two vegebtables that he will eat.
    I thought I had cracked it with the 5 year old as he used to eat literally anything you put in front of him, but he is now narrowing it down I swear, with every meal.
    My guilty little secret is that about 6 months ago I got a "girl" in who cooks a couple of meals a week for me. I can't tell you how much difference it has made, and after 16 years of food battles, I think I deserved a break.

  10. Nicola, 'galling and irritating' - I couldn't have put it better myself... And please don't think I'm successful at ignoring Mrs CP - I know what I should do, but doing it is something else entirely.

    Tracey, they'll never understand until their children do the same to them. Bloody annoying, but, I fear, true.

    Iota, I would have, but I don't have them yet (that's tomorrow's treat. You don't think I would try and do something as important as shopping for sunglasses with my children in tow, do you?)

    Sharon, good advice. Except it would be playing straight into his hands. The naughty chair is really the only thing that works...

    BM, interesting; although I fear if I tried that approach (the leaving, that is), I would get back 2 hours later to find them ensconced in front of the tv not having missed me at all. And the pregnancy approach is definitely not for me!

    SPD, classic! Reminds me of boy #1 who often, having been cajoled into trying something, will turn round with a shocked expression on his face and say "But I DO like it, Mummy!" No shxt, Sherlock...

    Screamish, 7 month old twins present their own problems. I can honestly say I prefer where I am now to when the boys were that age (if that's any consolation!)

    Pig, non-critical parenting is where it's at. I clearly don't drink enough wine, that's my problem.

    EPM, fantastic advice. Sadly not possible in our credit-crunched household right now, but I will write it on a post-it and get onto it as soon as we are more liquid!

  11. Hi :) Ahh dinner time, the best time of the day...NOT! I've been there so many times with my 3 year old. Great post!

  12. Your inner critical parent should be deeply impressed that your boys have napkin rings.

    Standards haven't completely slipped!

  13. Hi CB, thanks for commenting. And just think, one day we will look back fondly on these times spent sitting on our hands at the dinner table...

    Mud, what can I say? It's my husband's influence. He's far posher than I am... (Plus, boy #2 was refusing to wear a bib and it's the only way of reducing the laundry load by 3 t-shirts of his every day...)


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