The Six Stages Of Dinner With Kids

by Hannah Mayer
Originally Published: 

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The majority of my day centers around feeding something. If I am not actively preparing food I am thinking about what I’m going to make, shopping for what I’m going to make, or cleaning up what I just made. And yet despite three meals and one healthy (relatively) snack every single day, my children are non-stop ravenous, insatiable beasts.

Until dinner, that is. That’s when their need for food comes to a screeching halt. The look on their faces when they come bursting into the dining room goes from euphoric to Santa’s dead when they see that I had the audacity to serve them chicken Parmesan.

“Aaaawww! What is THIS? I wanted McDonald’s!” They chime.

I fed them McDonald’s for dinner once. ONCE, like two years ago when I had the flu. Yet every night they have held onto some sort of delusional fantasy that those plain “cheeseburgers” will magically appear once again on their dinner plate.

So, like a fresh bout of grief, I work my way through the six stages of dinner with kids daily.

1. Pinterest. Everything starts here, with a false sense of security. Dinner? Pssshaw… I thought you said this was going to be hard. Look at all this dinner I got floating around here. Hey! Have a candied bacon cookie and put on this easy to make chevron scarf. Why not craft a gingerbread house and make some Easter eggs out of pureed cauliflower while we’re at it? You’re gonna be the queen of the world, honey, once I’m through with you.

By the time you finally look up from Pinterest you realize six years have passed and all your friends think you’re dead.

2. Grocery store. “Excuse me… do you know where saffron threads are?” “Where are your shallots?” *fifteen minutes later* “Me again… I actually meant scallops. Do you have scallops?” Grocery store people hate me. I would have an easier time finding my way home blindfolded from downtown Saigon than finding sun dried tomatoes. Because it makes sense to put them next to the olives rather than the other canned tomatoes WHO DECIDES THIS? And, bear in mind that my kids have an expiration time of about twenty minutes before they mutiny, so all shopping is done with a time bomb ticking in my ear.

3. Avoid death. Like many parents, we have nightly activities. Music lessons. Dance class. My second nap. So figuring out when to start dinner is a challenge in and of itself. Is it legal to brown ground beef while I run someone to Girl Scouts? Should I throw our wedding album in the van in case I get trapped in a conversation about leaf blowers? Which is worse… eating dinner at 8pm or rifling through ash to find your cat? Asking for a friend.

4. Infinite Sadness. I can count on one hand the number of times I have made something that came out even remotely close to the picture I found online, if the one hand I’m using to count has gotten caught in a meat grinder leaving me fingerless. I have come to the conclusion that I am secretly being filmed for an elaborate reality show and Pinterest is a big fake site. The country anxiously gathers around their televisions every Tuesday night wondering if this is the night my spirit is going to break as I yet again pull something out of the oven that looks like a dead possum:

I have a whole album like that.

5. Sounds of Agony. My kids react to meatloaf the same as if I tossed them a bloody, severed head. No regard for how long it took me to make it. No ‘nice try Mom’. Only pure disgust as they gaze at not McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Most people might take that personally but I really like meatloaf and my chewing drowns out their cries of protest.

6. Oscar Worthy Performance. Sometimes it’s my child making a dramatic run for the trash can after they eat a pea. Sometimes it’s me faking a smile, choking back reverb after I take a bite of what was marketed as “Weight Watchers teriyaki”. Most days, I let it all slide. No threats; no surrender to the packaged mac and cheese. By dinnertime I am done with feeding things and they can take it or leave it without a word from me. But every once in a while, if I’ve worked on something super hard, I need to pull out the big guns and it works almost every time. “Girls. Eat your dinner or Mommy is going to write about you in her blog.”

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