This is how it goes in my house:
“Kids, dinner’s ready, come to the table.”
Then with a little less patience “Kids! Please come to the table!”
Multiply this by pointlessly high number. Give up calling, start threatening and/ or physically lifting them into their seats.
Cue dinner responses:
Eldest: “What’s this? I don’t like this dinner. Why do we have to have a healthy dinner again today. We had a healthy dinner already yesterday”
Middle-child: “Ugh, I don’t like that thing. What is it? I can’t eat it”
Me: “But you’ve never had roast parsnips before – they’re lovely, like chips only sweeter. And it’s just one piece. Please will you try it?”
Middle-child: “No, I don’t want it on my plate”
Puts parsnip on my plate. I put it back on hers. She puts it back on mine. I put it back on hers (unsure if I am being a consistent parent or stooping to childishness)
Toddler, strapped into a booster seat: “Out! Out!”
Me: “But you haven’t eaten anything – will you eat some dinner?”
Toddler: “No. Out! Out!” Starts lifting pieces of food one by one and carefully placing them on the table beside his plate.
Middle-child disappears under the table. She calls for help. Her dad tries to pull her out. She gives out to him and says he should have known she didn’t really want help. Remarks on how funny everything looks upside down. Asks me why I’m standing – she is sure that I’m standing because my feet are on the floor. If I was sitting, my feet wouldn’t touch the floor apparently. Her plate is exactly as it was when we sat down, except for the parsnip which has now disappeared altogether.
Eldest: “Mum, I’m sorry, I know you made this lovely dinner for us, but I just amn’t a fan of parsnips, I just don’t love them.”
Me: “What about the lovely baked ham? You really liked the one we had at Christmas?”
Eldest: “It’s pig. I don’t really eat pig dinners. I’m not a fan”
She hops off chair and tries feeding the toddler some mash potato but accidentally pokes him with a fork. He cries, I give out to her, she cries, I apologise.
Middle-child: “Mum may I be excused?”
Me: “But you didn’t eat anything – this is it, no more food tonight, it’s bedtime now. Are you sure you don’t want anything?”
Middle-child: “I’m sure mum, I’m just not hungry”
Eldest: “I’m not hungry either, may I be excused? I promise I don’t want anything else to eat” Runs out of the room to play before I can answer.
Toddler, now free from his booster seat, climbs on my knee and insists on drinking my water and sticking his hands into my remaining (now cold) food. He cries when I take the water away from him so I give it back – he then pours it into my dinner.
My husband is very well-behaved – he doesn’t leave the table and eats all his dinner.
Eventually we give up. We clear the table and tell the kids it’s time for bed.
Eldest: “Mum, I’m hungry, can I just have a yogurt before bed?”
Middle-child: “Yes, me too – can I have a banana? And a drink?”
I just need to know two things:
I need to know that other families have “mealtimes” that are equally chaotic.
And I need to know that it gets better – that sometime in the future, insisting on family mealtime will pay off, and it will be a happy, relaxing, enjoyable experience where people actually eat the food and chat to one another and stay at the table for the entire meal.
Lie to me if you have to.