My least favorite times of the day are mealtimes.
Mealtimes at my house involve me preparing food one-handed with a toddler propped on my hip trying to grab everything I’m working with; my daughter scolding me for getting out dishes of the “wrong color” (ie, that don’t follow her intricate dish-color hierarchy); my son throwing food/spoons/bowls/plates on the floor, asking to get down, then asking to eat my food, which has gone cold in the course of dealing with all of the other issues.
Meals take forever, but not in a pleasant, multi-course French way. It’s one course and it’s interminable. When we’ve finally had enough of meal time, I do dishes with children hanging from my legs. Then we get about 30 minutes of free time before it’s time to start the whole thing over again. Unless the meal we’ve just given up on is dinner, in which case we get about ten minutes before it’s time to start the bedtime hassle.
I’ve come up with a few possible solutions to make the whole event more palatable:
1) Fast. Perhaps we only really need one meal a day. I will cook that meal and perhaps the children, by then, will be so hungry that they’ll actually eat the food and not care what color plate it’s on. I have a feeling this scenario would be unlikely as I’m not sure there’s a stage of hunger acute enough to cause my children to simply eat their meals with no talk-back. In addition, it increases the risk of hunger-induced meltdowns all day long.
2) Absolute uniformity. I will get rid of all colorful bowls, plates, cups, spoons, and forks. I will get unbreakable white dinnerware and child-sized silverware, one set for each child. If we have company, I’ll have them bring their own, but only if it’s identical to ours. If they don’t have dishes that match, they can eat from our dinner trough (see below).
For breakfast I’ll make my smoothie first. Perhaps I’ll even make it the night before so I’m not interrupted 17 times while trying to wash and cut the ingredients. The kids can have cereal or eggs. I will only cook eggs one way (scrambled) and if my daughter says they’re too brown or not brown enough, or if my son throws his bowl on the floor after the first bite, then they can wait until snack time (crackers and cheese).
For lunch the children will get peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat and whatever fruit was on sale at the store that week. I will have leftovers from dinner the night before because wheat does bad things to my digestive system and peanut butter gives me a migraine.
For dinner I will cook the same thing every night with enough leftovers for me because I like leftovers.
We had a next-door neighbor when I was growing up. While her husband was on cruise, she served boxed mac and cheese and canned peas to her kids every single night of the week. I thought that would be boring, but now I see the appeal. (Even then I saw the appeal when my mom would make things like Creamed Salmon Over Biscuits and Creamed Chipped Beef Over Toast and Eggs a la Goldenrod. Here are all three recipes: Make a white sauce. Add canned salmon/chipped beef/hardboiled eggs, and spoon it over white toast or box-mix biscuits, and you’re all set for supper.)
Since I can’t have box mac and cheese, I’m going with rice pasta with red sauce every single night for supper. At the beginning of the month, I’ll make gallons of sauce that I’ll store in the freezer (in this scenario I have a chest freezer and therefore have space for all of this sauce). I’ll cook fresh noodles each night, but that’s it.
Maybe one night a week we’ll change it up and have eggs. And if I want spinach in them, I’m darned well going to have spinach in them, no matter what my kids say.
Since we’re all eating the same thing, I’ll serve dinner in a trough. Simpler cleanup, and more of a sense of family what with the sharing and all.
Oh, who am I kidding? I’m not good with uniformity. I rebel against everything, including myself.
3) Exclusive Breastfeeding. There’s no research that shows an age at which human milk stops providing for all of the nutritional needs of a human child. It’s unlikely my daughter would want to go back to nursing, but I could rent a hospital-grade pump, pump every two hours to increase my supply, and then provide her with fresh milk at each meal and snack. My son could get his milk directly from the source, like he does now. Then I would just need to prepare food for myself and my husband. It would be like before we had kids (except for the lactation piece). I wonder how many calories I would need to consume to meet the total caloric needs of both of my children and myself?
4) Outsource. Perhaps I’ll just send my kids over to friends’ houses for every meal. If a friend says they aren’t available, I’ll simply leave my children on the doorstep. Their Oliver impressions will allow them to weasel their way in for some grub in no time.
And I can sit at home and eat white bean and kale minestrone and read.
This post was inspired by Topic #90 from The Daily Post: Pick something that annoys you and redesign it.