Sunday, April 19, 2009

Adventures in Dinnertime Eating

Dinner is often an adventure at our house. Dan and I put lots of energy in doing dinner the right way- a sit down family dinner at the dining room table, featuring homemade foods and engaged conversation between all of the family members. No television. No take out. No distractions.

Except, of course, for the children.

We fight a constant battle here to get them to the table, to sit on their bottoms, eat what's on their plate and use their best manners. Those are the rules and the expectations and they are spelled out very clearly several times per week.

But what actually happens is the girls ask, "What's for dinner?" and unless the answer is spaghetti and meatballs, much grousing and carrying on ensues. The girls are starch junkies, gobbling up the rice or pasta or couscous I've prepared and shunning most meats. How much do I have to eat? they cry. The veggies are hit or miss... some are just more popular than others. Broccoli goes down well. Jenna loves green beans. Carrots are a hit. Peas... not so much.
So in an attempt to throw in some education about WHY their cruel, mean and unreasonable mother practically FORCES them to ingest more than three bites of brown rice, I have started explaining in very simple terms what each food does: meat helps you grow big and strong, veggies have lots of good vitamins that keep you healthy and the starches... well, the starches give you quick energy and fill you up. I know that at 3 and 7 they could really care less but I do think it starts them on a good path to understanding why we eat what we do and having a good relationship with food.
Add onto all of this education/ expectation reminding/ manipulating portion sizes/ serving and cutting of food the fact that all of us are sort of trying to talk at once-usually to Mommy- and there's a bit of chaos going on until we get into our groove.
So we were doing our regular thing tonight: Michaela was trying to "claim" the rest of the pasta in the pot while trying to see exactly how much chicken she HAD to eat, Jenna is verbally evaluating each item on her plate, and Dan is telling me about the Bible Study he attended this morning at church. He and I are talking, Michaela is interrupting, I am keeping an eye on how much she is eating and Jenna interjects with, "What does pasta do?"
"It fills you up," Dan says.
Jenna is quiet and continues munching.
We keep talking.
"What does filthy mean?" Jenna suddenly asks.
"It means very, very dirty," I answer, thinking that I must have used this word with her earlier when she was playing 'digging' out in the front yard today.
Michaela lunges for more pasta, I push toward her three more pieces of chicken she needs to eat, and Dan continues about The Church and how Peter was called The Rock.
"I want to be dirty!" Jenna says enthusiastically, again out of the blue, as she shoves a huge spoonful of pasta into her mouth. We all stop and look at her, puzzled, and then Dan and I realize at the same time that she thinks Dan has said that the pasta makes you filthy, not fills you up.
We all laughed and laughed and laughed.
And I guess for all the chaos and the negotiating and the teaching and the limit setting, that is really what dinnertime is all about.
Being together.
Eating good food.
Growing together as a family... both physically and emotionally.

Good stuff.


Mark, Carrie, and Luke Winterhoff said...

Great, great post! Tell Jenna that "I want to be filthy too!"
From one pasta junkie to another, thank her for making me laugh tonight, and for reminding us all about the true meaning of family dinner! Love, Carrie

Anonymous said...

I can't even imagine how much negotiating we are going to have to do when we have 2 kids to feed dinner too!!! Some nights, Abbie totally amazes us, and we are nuts to think that it is actually going to happen two nights in a row....or if we give her the same thing she ate the night before! But you are is about being together as a family, no matter how you look at it!