Honestly, I don’t know why I even try. Probably because I read somewhere that families that sit down to dinner together regularly have fewer kids on drugs or on reality shows. In theory, and to people who don’t have small children, it sounds great: the whole family gathered ‘round the table enjoying a wholesome home-cooked meal. But in reality – or MY reality, anyway – it’s a little different.
I’m putting the finishing touches on the teriyaki-glazed tilapia, basting it with the sauce. “Mom, why are you painting food?” asks my 6yo. It’s actually not such a stretch because my kids do like fish, and they’re big fans of the Chinese restaurant we order from sometimes. But just in case, I reheat some mac & cheese on the side.
“I don’t LIKE this kind of mac & cheese!” wails my 3yo. I guess it’s not orange enough, or perhaps it’s that it’s not shaped like Spongebob. “Just eat the other stuff, then,” I tell him. He gobbles down the fish, but leaves the broccoli untouched. His brother polishes off his broccoli first, then pushes the fish around on his plate. He doesn’t touch the mac & cheese either. “I like the mac, but not the cheese,” he says. Of course.
The 3yo, who is physically incapable of sitting in a chair for longer than 30 seconds, jumps up from the table and begins sprinting around the house. “Come back and sit down!” I yell.
“M-o-o-om, I feel like I’m full,” whines the 6yo, who at breakfast can pack away 2 bowls of cereal, fruit, peanut butter on toast, and still say he’s hungry.
“Too bad, because I made Jello for dessert,” I tell him. He begins stuffing his cheeks with food, like a squirrel storing up nuts for winter. From the other room, Riley’s ear perk up. “Jello?” he calls hopefully. “Not until you finish your broccoli!” I shout.
They say music tames the savage beast, and on that note we’re listening to the smooth vocal stylings of Sade and Norah Jones on Pandora. “I don’t like this song,” huffs Miles. “Put on some rock music.” Anything ELSE anyone would like to complain about?! Also, he is now tipped back precariously on his chair, his filthy Hobbit feet ON the table. I would think he’d been raised in a barn if I hadn’t raised him myself.
If that’s not enough to make me lose my appetite, Riley calls to me mid-chew from the bathroom – which he ALWAYS does conveniently during meals – to come wipe him. Aaaand that’s a wrap. Dinner’s over.
As I am dishing out the Jello, which I’ve cut into whimsical shapes with cookie cutters, I notice the dark purple gelatinous goo looks remarkably like entrails. Blood Jello, anyone? Perfect for Halloween.
My husband walks through the door to a reheated meal, kids who have stripped naked and are sprinting around in anticipation of bath time, and a wife who is slumped over the food-smeared table clutching a big ol’ glass of wine.
Family dinners may contribute to happy, non-drug-addicted children, but they are pushing this mom one step closer to rehab every night. At least I wouldn’t have to cook there.
RANDOM FACT O’ THE DAY: I have been making Jello not as a nod to my childhood, when my mother made all sorts of creative Jello-based salads, but because C. came home with 2 dozen boxes of the stuff taped to a gigantic vodka bottle from a Christmas gift swap at the office last year. I really should have made Jello shots with it.