The Struggletime of Dinnertime
by Jessica Shyba
Parenthood. As much as it’s a cornucopia of exciting firsts, daily laughs and new lessons, it’s also a jolting reminder of the movie Groundhog Day.
Each and every night I can expect the same merry-go-round of carefully crafted high points and soul shattering low points. All over what is the most consistent part of our day: Dinnertime.
Early on in my children’s lives, we established a family dinnertime. At least five out of seven nights of the week we sit down to eat supper together — a time of togetherness, gratitude and grace. I love cooking and knowing my kids are eating good, nutritional food while spending a few unadulterated moments together. No pencils, no puzzles, no screen time, no cell phones.
Unfortunately, the grace I desperately seek during that time is rarely found amongst a six year old, five year old and 22 month old.
Our second, Zoe, almost always sticks out her tongue at what is put in front of her. Not because she’s picky, but because she’s strong-willed, and sitting for any period of time on “my” watch is borrowed in her mind. My oldest, Jack, methodically eats his veggies, then starch, and finally, his favorite, the protein. He’s almost always silent unless he’s telling stories about his day (dream child). Beau, our nearly two-year-old, approaches every dinner with a running “YAY!!”, then proceeds to eat voraciously for 2.6 minutes and throw the rest on the floor and run away.
My ultimate goals for dinner were, every single night, thrown right down the disposal, along with my sweat and tears.
It was time we established some sort of routine that eliminated the constant chaos!
I began to invite the kids into the kitchen with me to cook. I put them to work chopping vegetables with butter knives, stirring or spreading anything outside 5 feet of the stove. They immediately respected the ritual of cooking (if even briefly), and will almost always eat whatever they participated in making for dinner. They learn to understand the task of making food, while also building self-confidence. They’re thrilled at their newfound capabilities. Bonus: I’ve found my somewhat picky eaters are far more likely to try a new food if they’ve helped prepare it in some way.
While logistically they can’t help me every single evening in the kitchen, I make it a point to include them at least a couple times a week. They love it, and I’ve found that “togetherness, gratitude, and grace” are much more of a reality during our dinners around the table.
The groundhog part of the day starts up around the pajama and teeth brushing parts of the evenings, but parenthood is a series of baby steps for everyone involved. I’m just happy to have found at least a temporary answer to our dinnertime struggles and will hopefully use these lessons in our other challenging moments.
Jessica Shyba is mother to three, and the very popular blogger behind Momma’s Gone City.
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