After 12 years and three children, I believe I have finally mastered the family dinner in just 38 easy steps.
1. Race home from work. Speed just enough to make every green light but not enough to draw attention from local police.
2. Begin prepping chicken.
3. Realize you are out of salt. Use more pepper to make up for salt deficiency.
4. Place chicken, buns, cheese and grill tools outside for husband.
5. Take out carrots, cucumber and lettuce for salad.
6. Realize there is only ¼ of a cucumber left.
7. Curse husband for last night’s gin and tonics.
8. Find croutons in cabinet because crunch is similar to cucumber.
9. Prepare salad.
10. Pick up toddler from floor, where he threw himself after noticing a lettuce leaf out of the corner of his eye.
11. Begin bargaining with toddler. Three bites of salad equals one Popsicle.
12. Manage to get salad, chicken and milk to table, along with toddler.
13. Sit down and begin eating.
14. Get up and cut up chicken for toddler.
15. Get back up and retrieve additional ketchup for toddler. He ate original ketchup with spoon in advance of meal.
16. Ask husband how his day was.
17. Stop to reason with toddler that black specks on chicken are not pepper—they are tiny pieces of chocolate.
18. When screaming decibels make dog bark, get up and scrape pepper off chicken, along with cheese. He liked cheese yesterday. Today cheese is the devil.
19. Sit back down and take sip of wine.
20. Tell toddler that he is not, in fact, all done with his meal. Three bites of his bun dipped in a second helping of ketchup is not a well-balanced meal.
21. Explain that he will not get the originally promised Popsicle if he does not eat three bites of salad plus three bites of chicken.
22. Wait patiently for him to figure out on his fingers what six bites means.
23. Settle for five bites when he successfully holds up five fingers and says five. He is a genius and should not be held to the same standards as other children.
24. Explain that licking the chicken does not count as a bite.
25. Stare at your husband. Try desperately to remember if he actually told you how his day was.
26. Agree with toddler that two croutons and one carrot equal three bites of salad.
27. Grab wet napkin to clean up the carrot toddler chewed and promptly spit on dog’s fur.
28. Sit down and take a bite of chicken.
29. Get up to retrieve third helping of ketchup for toddler.
30. Shout empty threats at toddler. No Thomas the Train before bedtime if chicken is not consumed.
31. Hand toddler iPad to watch Thomas while he finishes chicken.
32. Take another bite of chicken, which you realize is now cold and, in fact, over-peppered.
33. Throw food away. Fill up wine glass.
34. Retrieve Popsicle for toddler. Two bites of chicken is basically the same as three.
35. Ask toddler to please put plate in sink.
36. Retrieve plate from garbage can and put in sink.
37. Find missing salt shaker in garbage.
38. Pat yourself on the back that another family meal is behind you. Only 7,143 more to go.