Monday, March 11, 2013

In my continued effort to dress myself down for being a human being...Family Dinner

I'm not alone in wanting more family dinners with my kids right? I mean, I'm not alone in being guilty of making separate meals for them and allowing them to eat them at the coffee table in the living room while watching a movie, so that we can eat like civilized people at 8 after they've gone to bed. It's not like they want what we're having anyway. And it's not like these bills, laundry, school lunches, emails, and stinky bathrooms are going to take care of themselves. We DO sit down for family dinner several nights a week, but I find that it requires so much effort on my part, that most nights, though I know the benefits, and enjoy it immensely in the moment, it just doesn't happen.

Family dinner requires thinking ahead so that there are the proper ingredients to make a meal that your whole family will eat. A meal that your whole family will eat. I've already lost myself, and I'm guessing a lot of you.

In our house, we have me, who likes:
 tacos, indian food, pizza, thai noodles sushi, cheese plates, pancakes, nuts in everything, and wine

Nipper Knapp who likes:
sushi, salmon, cheeseburgers, indian food, pizza, pancakes, is allergic to nuts, and IPA

Jack who likes:
quesadillas, toast, fruit, pizza, chicken nuggets, pancakes, and goldfish crackers

Charlie who likes:
Oatmeal, turkey meatballs, scrambled eggs, pancakes, pizza, and all fruit.

Please note neither of my children will eat pasta or soup or vegetables. LORD GIVE ME STRENGTH. If someone comments and tells me to melt cheese on broccoli, I can't promise I won't wreck the place.

The boys and I out for pancakes last week. Out for pancakes because our kitchen had no bacon. 

You see where this is going right? If we could all live on pizza and pancakes we would. Actually some weeks we do. Thank god for Nipper and his green smoothies (me=hypocrite I KNOW) or none of us would ever poop ever.

Yesterday at Trader Joes, I found myself with a shopping cart filled with snacks and wine. No real ingredients for meals. $176 of NOT food. It's not all junk, I count fruit and yogurt, and the stuff for smoothies as a snack, but still, nothing to make a meal. A friend told me she grocery shops once a week. ONCE. Huh? One of us goes almost every day. I was freaking out about this the other day, and Nipper Knapp said "meh, it's very French to shop every day". Uhm, yeah, if I was riding my bicyclette to the boulangerie maybe. But I'm driving le prius to Trader Joes every day for stuff like apple crushers and ouefs. Merde.

I can't lie, I was never a foodie. I didn't scour the local farmers market looking for escarole (which I still not sure is a fish or a lettuce). I was never able to whip together gourmet meals from what was in the kitchen. But I did enjoy food of all kinds, and I enjoyed trying new recipes. I miss Thai food. I miss curry. I miss tapas night with garlic, and stinky cheese. There used to be some variety in our diet, and there used to be some adventure. There used to be time, and mental space for thinking about food. I don't want to blame the kids. It's not their fault. It's mine, right? I could have forced them to eat the things I love. I could have left the bowl of Phat see ew in front of them at every meal until they learned to like it, but I'm not that mom. So now they eat kid food and I'm afraid they always will.

I'm always envious of people who are amazing cooks. People who's kitchens are the true center of their homes, and whose kids bok choy. I have been thinking about having a breakfast nook built in our kitchen. Kitchen renovation will solve all my problems! (that was the sound of Nipper fainting) It would give us extra kitchen storage, and a cozy place to sit, do homework, nosh. I have this fantasy of my boys sitting there reading books and coloring while I make some Barefoot Contessa style feast that they both love. We sit and we eat, and the boys say the darndest things. We laugh and carefully note them, remembering to write them in their baby books, so we can all laugh about them later. When I confessed this daydream to another mom recently, she replied laughingly "oh I know, it's all so Leave it to Beaver!"

But is it? Is it an absurd and outdated notion that I want to enjoy food with my family, to teach them to enjoy each others company? Is it really all just going to be meals on the go, and faces in screens? I know, I'm starting to sound like such a MOM, and one of those whoowhoo people that want to touch your chakras, but dudes. My boys are still so little and it's only going to go faster. Soon they'll want to have dinner at a friends house, or in their room, or none at all because they have after-school activities, or are fasting for political prisoners somewhere (I have high hopes for their evolution). So I've got to get to it now.
one sausage, one veg, and one everything for us! 

Last week I had to make 2 pans of lasagna for the teachers at Jack's school. Only because I had volunteered for this, did I make one for us as well. I knew the kids wouldn't eat it, but if I was going to be in the kitchen, why not cook for us as well. This is part of the bad thinking that gets me into trouble. Why am I willing to cook for guests, but not for myself and my kids? Nipper Knapp and I got three dinners out of that lasagna, and even though they ate something else, 2 out of those 3 were attended by both kids. We laughed, told stories, played a round of "what is Charlie doing" wherein we all do exactly what Charlie is doing. It was mom heaven. And it doesn't happen enough.

I must find a way to make our brains think 7 days out, and force myself to cook a meal, and have them help, when what we want to do is anything but, because we are exhausted. I have to force myself to not be paralyzed by lack of will, fear of ingredients (is this the thing that will be on the list of things that will kill us all this week, and if so should I just feed everyone more goldfish, which will obviously kill us all), and the inevitable bad dinner, where it doesn't go over, and everyone is cranky, and no one sits for more than a minute.

And I have to remember that there's nothing wrong with all of this failing from time to time. Because frankly sometimes Mama wants to eat a bag of goldfish with a glass of wine in front of the tv instead of the organic quinoa and brussels sprouts feast that I sprang on them last week.

Is anyone out there feeling my pain? Or do the rest of you have a live in chef? You do. I knew it. 


  1. I love this post so so much, Marija! I feel this way ALL THE TIME. I am so tired of being admonished by other moms and family members that I am too accommodating by making the kids their own food. But I care more about the fact that they WILL actually eat than what they eat. I don't think it will last forever, but I do think it's what's gotta happen right now. I always put "be a better cook" on my list of new year's resolutions. And then I go right on buying pre-made TJs entrees and hope upon hope that my kids won't deem me a "terrible cook" to their future wives. I guess we have to focus on what we do bring to the table, right? We love them enough to keep dinner from becoming a battlefield. xoxo.

  2. I grew up a very picky eater (I know). So, once a week my mom would put out a smorgasboard of food on the table and we each got to take what we wanted (think bread, cheese, spreads, meats, fruit, leftovers...) and it was always a great meal.

    My friend who has 7 kids (5 boys, 2 girls) says that trying to do dinner is too much work (especially while breastfeeding) so she does breakfast as a family. It's a simpler menu and you can still got that family time before it gets too exhausting.

  3. Just. Exactly. I vacillate between making separate meals for the kids, declaring "I will no longer make separate meals for the kids," and something in between. Also, our preschool provides a healthy, full of variety hot lunch for a reasonable fee, and I often order the lunch for my 4 year old, but also send along a pb&j sandwich because he hardly EVER tries anything new. He usually gets mad at me when I order the hot lunch. But I keep doing it and hope that he tries one (JUST ONE, PLEASE!?!) bite. I read that book Bringing Up Bebe and it made it seem so simple, but so impossible.

  4. I just read this post while laying on the couch surfing fb while my son ate a dinner of pancakes, french toast sticks, and Fig Newmans - oh, and milk (organic of course) for protein - while sitting with a tray table watching an episide of Scooby Doo (the one with Batman and Robin in it where Batman is, in one scene, shockingly tights-less.) I am rubbing the head of my husband who lays here reading The New Yorker. My daughter is at the home of a friend whose mom feels the need to text me a pre-emptive apology for the "lame" dinner she has planned (pizza-organic of course). Sounds like bad parenting, perhaps, yet each one of us is very, very happy. Mrs. Cleaver would have done the same damn thing if she'd had the chance. Since she had fuck all else to do she made dinner a bfd. I get it, but I ain't gonna do it. We can bond as a family without the histrionics that inevitably accompany any attempt to introduce the youngest member of our family to food that was not previously frozen or pre-wrapped. My hillbilly ancestors would have thought all if this was a riot. "Just eat your damn flapjacks and be grateful!"

    1. I just love this comment, so, so much. Thank you flapjacks:) I found myself reading the ingredients on a box of crackers the other day and putting it back. Not because I saw something I didn't like, but because I couldn't remember what I was looking for that is bad. Besides my cart was already full of wine, and snacks (MOSTLY ORGANIC) and jesus christ if I'm eating a cracker, I'm going big. Cheez-its. Have you done the thing where you buy organic for the kids, and crap for yourself? I mean, we were born in the 70's. I figure I'm 12% DDT.

  5. ok, first i will do what i always do & preface this by saying we don't have kids. trevor & i have been using a meal planning system for the past several months called the fresh 20 though & it has been pretty great. you still have to actually do the grocery shopping & cooking part, but it's super cheap ($3-5 a month) and they give you 5 healthy, easy recipes that use the same 20 fresh (seasonal) ingredients for the week. in other words only one shopping trip for 20 items a week & no thinking about "what the hell is for dinner?". we have saved a shit ton of $$$ by not eating out as much and are eating so much healthier.