Dinner hour at chez Smith is my dirty little secret. My children are great. They’re funny. They’re cute for the most part. But they suck at eating.
If I were into those vision boards, here’s what my mealtime one would look like:
So pretty. A variety of foods… heavy on the veggies… cute dinnerware… napkins and silverware. Here’s what it ACTUALLY looks like:
Most of the stuff comes out of the freezer: chicken nuggets, pizza snacks, the veggie is often sweet potato fries, and they love that Kashi cereal which I figure has at last some nutrition to it. But it’s baaaaaad.
B.C. (before children), I figured I’d just cook my kids whatever and expose them to stuff and they’d be these wonderfully well-rounded eaters. And then we had Eleanor. As a baby, when she was ready for solids, we added 5 grains of cereal to her milk and she gagged like we’d just set up a challenge from Fear Factor for her. This distaste for anything unfamiliar remains; no jelly- so PB & J is out, no ketchup, and no veggies other than broccoli (wha?!).
I had diligently read the fact that it takes ten times before a child develops a taste for something, so I kept on introducing things. Over and over. And into the garbage they went.
Obviously I’m the one calling the shots and making these awful meals, so I shouldn’t put the blame on my poor innocent (but extremely bloody picky) children. Here’s the thing. I actually love cooking. I can do it. I have cook books. We entertain. I go through waves of motivation for the kids’ meals and everything is met with refusal. I know, I know… give it to ’em ten times. But that’s a lot of dang cooking! There are fits Pinterest trawling in which I gather lots of potential recipes. Heroically I present my sweet mini meatloaves and gouda polenta, and 10 minutes later both kids are chanting for snacks. Maybe if the only things I served were new and unusual, they would have to give in to my mealtime bidding…
Mealtime for us is a well choreographed dance of toaster oven and microwave timing. As I said, I always try to introduce a little twist, but Eleanor will spit it out, and Oliver just dumps his plate. Or systematically drops his food bite by bite for Frank (the dog).
I tell myself that one day the fog will lift, and I will be able to get something fresh and interesting on the table. I mentioned this mealtime quandry to a friend and she suggested I serve Mark and my leftovers from the night before. Which would be great, if our dinner had been something other than cheese and crackers or peanut butter and crackers. (We alternate to keep things interesting.) Incidentally, the kids would eat both of these things. With popsicles.
I’m not quite at the place of guilt with mealtime, but I am quietly embarrassed by how monotonous and mediocre the kids’ food has become.
I am in awe of any of you out there who consistently plan, organize, and serve a glorious well-rounded supper every night. If I couldn’t pull it off in the city with a bodega 1/2 a block away, I am completely stumped by how we’ll crack out of this frozen brown processed rut when I am required to brave the wild frontier.
Until I feel a little more settled out here in the ‘burbs (because of COURSE I’ll blame these pathetic meals on the move) we’ll make do, but one day I hope to figure out a way to integrate cooking/ meal prepping into my routine. That day may be when the kids go away for college, but I’ll get there.