I do believe that every parent has thought at some point that they must be doing something wrong- that the tornado of insanity descending on those of us with small children throughout a 24 hour period cannot be normal. But, maybe I should face the possibility that it is just me and that everyone else skips about their days with ease, order and structure.
I’ve lost count of how many mealtime madness posts I have written. I keep thinking we will find some sort of magic key that unlocks the secret door to enjoyable dining, but I feel no closer to this treasure than I did two and a half years ago when baby number one started eating something other than what naturally dispensed from me, with no preparation, no mess and no clean up. Man, those were the days.
I have shared many meals with other families and have noticed the rules that are in place for their toddlers. Rules that seem to be understood and followed. Rules that I had every intention of setting and fiercely holding to myself.
-We sit at the table until everyone is finished.
-We try everything on our plate.
-We eat something green at every meal
-We eat what is served
-We don’t throw food on the floor
-We don’t throw cups of liquid at our sibling
-We don’t use pasta sauce as finger-paint on the table.
You know, the basics.
But, once baby number two came along, I lost the ability, time and focus to enforce matters such as broccoli eating onto my 16 month old, while simultaneously breast-feeding at the table and attempting to steal a few morsels off my own plate to keep from passing out after day’s worth of no sustenance for myself.
I am tempted to say that these meals during which I have noted the stellar behavior of my friends’ children and the contrasting atrocity of my own, have been with single-child families. But I am fully aware that I am possibly making excuses for being a shitty parent who has lost all control, and that perhaps there are plenty of parents with children 16 months apart or closer, who have managed to maintain some modicum of pleasantness during the evening meal.
So, I ask all of you Saintly ones for help.
Our children are complete, unruly little maniacs at dinner time, and should you show up at 5:30 pm, I might contemplate selling them to you for a small price. I cannot think of another parenting woe that compares to this one. Sleep deprivation- HUGE.
Still, dinner time takes the cake.
I was at a baby shower yesterday, quietly listening while a mother of a six month old spoke very knowingly about her ideas of food and nutrition for her daughter.
“We only give such and such.”
“We believe such and such.”
“We only do such and such.”
I wanted to blurt out,
“Here is my number. Get back to me when she is over one and if you add another kid to the mix”
But I shhhed my mouth by stuffing it with three too many scones and
escaped to the bathroom to allow my eyes the rolling they were twitching to hold back.
I too, had very lofty plans. And perhaps I’m just pissed that regardless of hours, days, months, and years of boundless effort and energy, they are simply not in action.
I exclusively breastfed, and when solids were introduced, I started with homemade vegetable purees. I spent hours preparing my own nutrient-rich baby food. Never has a plate been set before my children that lacks rich, vibrant color.
But, sadly I am on the brink of giving up. I spend weekends preparing food and concocting meals that I believe will excite my children, only to have them pushed away, thrown, or just plain refused.
So I can’t blame it on basic nature of inborn character.
The meal they will eat? Breakfast. By breakfast time, they are so hungry there is barely a peep for half an hour. Waffles, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt…all in one meal. It’s a morning buffet at the Motherfog house.
Lunch? Maybe a piece of cheese and a cracker.
Dinner- forget about it.
(the obvious seems that they have too many calories in the a. m., but we have tinkered with this scenario with no positive results and feel that at least one meal should be complete.)
But, please believe me when I say that dinner is something on which we have placed great importance. In Los Angeles, my husband rolled back his hours in order to facilitate a sit down family meal. And yet, here we are, in the thick of Hurricane Hugo every evening at 5:30 pm.
I do believe that we all wonder from time to time if we have missed some sort of mark with this parenting fiasco, only to have the truth be told that there is no mistake; parenting is chaotic, messy and disorganized by nature, especially during toddler years. But, something tells me that with this particular issue, we have indeed missed the mark in our house.
Yes, with children so close in age we did sacrifice the ability to focus heavily on certain matters. For my own emotional and physical health, I had to loosen the laces on my perfectionistic standards. But have we really ruined our children’s chances of ever becoming healthy, respectful diners by having them 16 months apart? Surely not. We are not the first to enter the eye of the storm and we won’t be the last.
So, what is it? What are we missing?
Bat-shit and hungry