Each afternoon around 4 pm I find myself wondering what my spouse, my mother, my locavore friends, the kids’ pediatrician and the nutrition police would think if I fed the kids mac and cheese again for dinner.
And would it make any difference if it was organic mac and cheese made with organic butter and organic soy milk? What if I threw in some organic carrots and the super-green-powdered-broccoli-and-spirulina-containing juice that they actually love? And would I ruin all of the afore-mentioned organic goodness by serving the children microwaved not-chicken nuggets along with the mac and cheese?
Because seriously, we have a food situation around here. Since having children, we have moved away from being vegetarians and into the realm of being carb-atarians. Or maybe beige-atarians, for whom the dietary rainbow runs from bagel white to pumpernickel brown. You can name any grain or grain-containing item you like and I’ve served it in the last month. Thank God no one around here seems to have any gluten issues.
For the last couple of years (read: since children), dinner has had the potential of being a battle zone each and every night. Which frustrates me, because I started my parenting journey with principles like this one: We were all to sit down together for a healthy evening meal and eat a variety of colorful and fresh foods each night.
Then the first child came along. The one who wouldn’t wean and who spent the first two years of his life growing at a miraculous rate solely on breast milk, blueberries, cheerios and toast. Just when he started eating a little bit outside his comfort zone, Baby 2 arrived. With significant food allergies. And what evolved from that was the preparation of three separate meals each night: grown-up food for Daddy, kid food for the toddler, and hypo-allergenic food for baby and me.
Luckily, Baby 2 grew out of most of her allergies. But that difficult time has left a difficult legacy, one that includes my cooking two separate meals at least 4 nights a week. It’s stupid, and yet I continue to do it. Why? Because if I don’t, our house becomes “A Christmas Story” at dinnertime, in which I don a saccharine sweet voice in order to cajole my grumpy youngest child into sticking her face into her food to “show us how the piggies eat.”
OK, maybe it hasn’t quite gotten that bad, but it’s still not pretty. Dinner involves all manner of bribery, sticker charts, races, threats, timers, leaving the difficult child sitting at the table by herself, loss of media time, loss of bedtime stories, toys taken away…you get the picture. We have tried everything. The older child turned a corner about a year ago. But the younger one is holding out. And boy is she stubborn.
I have to admit that I am heartened that Randy and his aversion to dinner were featured in “A Christmas Story.” If something can make it into a major motion picture, then I am not alone. But I always thought dinner problems were the result of bad parenting. And, as with many harsh realities that I have wrestled with since actually parenting, I have come to realize that it’s not that black and white. Sure, I could probably improve. But some people (and I won’t mention any names, but they are cute and about 4 years old) have a stubborn streak the size of Texas and are willing to starve on principle. A good quality for Ghandi. A bad one at a family meal.
So, here I am. It’s almost 5 now. I can hear the low-blood-sugar-grumpies coming on. I’m tired and I don’t have the fight in me today. So mac and cheese it is. Tonight, with a side of organic scrambled eggs and plenty of that yummy green juice that’s held the scurvy off this long. I will fight the dinner wars another day….