For us, eating together is a priority. It's not just all those stats about how your raise smarter kids with better attitudes towards food when you eat as a family. It's that dinner time is the only time we have together every day when everyone is sitting - and the TV is off. It's that short break between throwing the food together and the blur of homework/baths/bedtime. It's when I should hear about everyone's day, see everyone's faces. It's time to be a family.
But it never quite works out that way.
Tuesday, I worked from home. There was no school. I had seen a recipe for chicken pot pie in some magazine, and although I'm a longtime vegetarian now, I remembered how much I loved it as a kid. So I figured I'd make it for my family. I had ordered groceries online (FreshDirect delivers to our neighborhood now. Woot!) so I included chicken legs and crescent roll dough in the order. I put the chicken and other ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning. I rolled out dough for the crust. I actually PLANNED a meal. I can't remember the last time I PLANNED a meal!!
So we sat down to dinner.
- I don't think Oz (typically developing middle child, age 6) took one bite - if that - before rejecting the meal.
- Ig. (age 4, PDD-NOS) looked at plate, shoved across the table, screamed "NO!" and demanded pasta.
- B, (9, Aspergers) must have seen the look on my face, compensated for everyone else's rudeness, and declared this his favorite meal ever. He ate his and everyone else's.
Did I think this was going to be different from any other meal? When I make fish sticks (which take 5 minutes) I'll get this reaction if they're the wrong shape!
All we want is this peaceful 20 minutes with our family every night, but it rarely happens. Usually it's Ig's doing - he either doesn't like the entree, doesn't like where he's sitting, or has some inappropriate toy with him at the table. This will always result in Ig screaming, throwing something, hitting someone, or whipping something with his blanket. On the worst nights, my husband will lose it and scream at him, and will put Ig in time out. Ig does not like time out, and will usually scream or kick the chair for the full 4 minutes.
While Ig is the predictable and typical disrupter of meals, Oz often contributes by reacting and screaming at his brother. And Bryn will act as the third parent, saying things like "Oz, that's inappropriate!" And we ultimately descend into chaos.
The best nights are the ones when I give in and order pizza or make macaroni and cheese.Then, there are no fits or screams from Ig, unless I put his juice in the wrong cup or something.
But I don't want to give in every night. I want my kids to eat multi-colored foods. I want them to eat protein (although I'd be happy if they chose to go veg with their mama!), along with whole grains and bright-colored vegetables. This is what I try to serve them every night. And I want them to sit, enjoy their healthy meal, and tell me how school was.
Is it so much to ask? 20 peaceful minutes and a healthy meal?