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...