When Chickens Fly: the Dinnertime Cluster-F*ck

Cirque du Today10 Comments

Dinnertime is traditionally a fantastic, epic cluster-fuck in our house. First of all, we’ve given up on forcing our three boys to try anything new. Oh, once upon a time I busted my butt trying to introduce new items on a daily basis, but I always ended up bashing my head against the kitchen wall as they were turned down, time and time again. Rather than give myself a concussion, I decided long ago to only fix the boys what I was sure they would eat, and then make them eat all of it. This decision came with a price, as I have to steel myself to the eyebrow raises and commentary from onlookers from the older generation, whose kids “have always eaten whatever’s served or else they’ve gone hungry.”

I know they’re thinking I’m a push-over mom because I don’t force my kids to eat what they call “table food,” but look, Grandma Judgerson: my kids do eat plenty of vegetables and almost every fruit known to man; they just happen to only eat entrees consisting of breaded chicken and wiener-shaped meat products made from unspeakable animal parts! And, yes, they are also addicted to ONLY one brand of each of these entrees, and they won’t ever try, say, a Hebrew National hot dog or an, I don’t know, Tyson’s chicken chunk, but I can live with that too. I personally think it’s more abusive to make your kids starve rather than give in and let them eat dinosaur nuggets every night of their lives! And if you don’t agree, you can shut your pie hole before I shove an Oscar Meyer All Beef Extra Long hot dog straight up your wrinkly ass!

Anywho, what I really wanted to complain about is that even though things HAVE been much easier since I relented in the menu department, dinnertime is still a royal pain in the ass. I would say it stirs up roughly 40 percent of the marital arguments in our household, leads to 50 percent of the time-outs enjoyed by our youngsters, and drives me to drink 80 percent more wine than I did back before I had to eat meals with my kids. They are either not eating over their plates, which I don’t think is THAT big of a deal, but it makes my OCD husband, Todd, break out in cold sweats as he watches every crumb falling to the floor in slow motion while music from the shower scene in “Psycho” plays in his head; or they’re getting out of their seats and running around the table like puppies on crack; they’re fighting over who gets to sit next to Mommy (a compliment but a super annoying one); they’re burping and/or making fart noises (which reminds us we’re not instilling proper manners in our little hoodlums, which leads to parental finger-pointing and arguments); or they’re whining/crying/hyperventilating (depending on the night) about not wanting to finish the NON-TABLE FOOD items on their plates! And so the routine goes, every night. Seldom do we have a peaceful meal where no one is getting punished, no one is arguing about one parent being too hard on the kids and one parent not being hard enough, and no one is having a full-fledged panic attack about the peas that keep rolling onto the floor.

But last night, something new happened. The meal started off quietly enough, though the kids were arguing about not wanting to take a shower before bed, when suddenly my husband looked down at his leg.

“What was that?! Did someone just throw a chicken nugget under the table?” he sputtered, right before his mouth formed a perfect “O” of horror and disbelief. Seated directly across from him was our oldest, whose mouth was forming a perfect “O” too, as in “O Shit, I’m Busted!” The little a-hole was actually trying to dispose of his dinner by “stealthily” chucking it under the table, one nugget at a time. Realization dawning on him, Todd’s expression changed from puzzlement to “You Better Run, Boy,” and our son flew out of his seat, willingly sprinting to time-out in his room for the first time in his seven years.

“Can you believe that kid?” Todd asked me, still clutching his chest to ward off an OCD heart attack. Thoughtfully chewing my food, I suddenly found myself in the throes of a flashback. In it, I was a little girl again. An ornery one. One that had a hard time eating over her plate, and staying in her seat, and staying still in general.  One that, when forced to eat things she didn’t want to, would chew up every bite, then while pretending to take a swig of her milk, would promptly spit each bite back out of her mouth and into her glass. And one that would also wait until her mother left the room, then scrape the remainder of her meal behind the dining room hutch, only to be discovered in The Act and consequently spanked with her drawers around her ankles.

My son’s wails from upstairs shook me out of my disturbing stroll down memory lane, and I trudged upstairs to talk to him, accompanied by the realization that as torturous as dinnertime is for grown-ups, it ain’t exactly a picnic for kids either.

When Chickens Fly: the Dinnertime Cluster-F*ck

10 Comments on “When Chickens Fly: the Dinnertime Cluster-F*ck”

  1. Rachell S.

    Ah, dinner time! I used to put the dry roast pieces from Sunday dinner into my napkin and sneak them into the trash. The dog usually gave me away when he’d show unusual interest in the trashcan. I never wanted to put my daughter through that agony of being forced to eat what she didn’t like.

    Bread and Jam for Frances helped a lot! We read it nightly for quite a while. Good luck to you on your dinner adventures! Your writing makes me feel I am right there at your table!

  2. Ashley

    Rachell, I have never heard of that book – I will check it out. Thanks, as always, for the solidarity and for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. Margaret Caro

    You know what I think is the coolest thing? The fact that you have a family dinner every night. Something good is happening here…even though you might be a young widow if Todd doesn’t chill. Happy New Year!!!

    1. Ashley

      Happy New Year, Margaret! You’re right, at least we are sitting down in the same room together (well, mostly sitting down). Thanks for reading!

  4. Uncle Wiggly

    Laff riot – such a typical fam! Bro of one pal would eat nothing but hot dogs as a kid – he survived. I got busted at a vineyard dinner by the maid/cook of a family when I tossed the eggplant behind a topiary tree – after complimenting her on it! Rawk on sistah!

  5. Christina Dumas

    OMG…I think Mark is you in my relationship and I am Todd….although based on this post….I am not sure if I should be admitting that! -:) Truth is…everyone is a bi-product of their upcoming in some shape or form. I can admittedly say, that I was raised by a German father who placed crazy emphasis on sitting still while eating and having the utmost perfect table manners. We also did not get served breakfast in the AM’s until our bed’s were made, our morning clothes were on, out hair was groomed and rooms cleaned. At the time, I am sure I thought it was painful and ridiculous…however, now as a grown adult, I am happy that I enjoy cleaning, keeping an organized home and really take pride when it’s all done. I have held my own four kids to the same standards while getting the same lectures from my own husband about – who cares if they don’t make their bed…they are just going to sleep right back there that night and so what it they eat sloppy and food goes on the ground during dinner..that’s why we have a dog. Well, he was raised by a mom who told me when we were dating that she would go in his room every few months with large yard trash bags and say it was time to clean up- what??? So… we live today in a divided home with 2 kids supporting mommy here and her tidy lifestyle and two supporting what my husband calls “a more laid back” lifestyle-:) Cheers!

    1. Ashley

      Ha, Christina you will find a thread throughout this blog that indicates I am much more the slovenly male and Todd the organized, ahem, female. (He will love my saying that). I give huge high-fives to the organized peeps as long as they don’t try to convince me that their way is the ONLY way! I am glad to hear that there is a healthy democracy in your house!!! 😉

  6. Danielle

    I too have given in to giving my kids what they will eat. I always swore my kids would eat what we ate…well most nights they don’t even eat at the same time as us. While one child is getting better at trying things my menu choices are Mickey Mouse nuggets, peanut butter sandwich (no jelly), grilled cheese, Mac and cheese (not leftover though), pancakes, and bagels.

    1. Ashley

      Oh, wow, so nice to hear, Danielle!! I am sorry for their pickiness, but glad that my kids aren’t the only ones! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! 😀

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