We would love for you to join us for dinner.
This invitation is reserved for only the closest and most understanding of friends. It has nothing to do with reserving our prestigious company for a select worthy few. I’m too tired to be pretentious. I would love to entertain a recently met acquaintance with ordered-in fare, or host a relaxing meal of many courses with any number of guests. But expecting anyone to endure the hell that we know as dinner around here is, quite simply, an act of cruelty.
“What’s that?” my son asks indignantly.
“It’s a carrot,” I reply, calmly.
“I don’t like it!”
“How do you know? You’ve never tried it before.” Well, not since it was spoon fed to him in pureed form.
Clearly disgusted, he carefully removes the offending carrot from his plate with a fork and deposits it on the table. “I know I don’t like it.”
I take care of children for a living so I know that some kids need to see the same food several times before they’ll try it. My son has seen plenty of carrots over his almost seven years of life. At this point, I’d be happy if he just touched one. Maybe even sat close to one. That moment isn’t happening today.
He used to be really good at this eating thing. As a baby, the list of vegetables he would consume was brag worthy. Peas, squash, carrots, corn, beans… the list was long once. Then one day he decided he would be strictly grain fed and the long list of vegetables vanished. Meat… what’s that? The list of fruit started to dwindle down to a handful of things-that-are-red. Anything green was declared The Enemy.
“You don’t have to like it. You just have to try it.”
This phrase will guarantee a display that includes loud wailing while stomping circles around the table. It would be easier to just ask him to amputate an appendage.
“If that little carrot is making you this upset, you don’t even have to eat dinner. You can have a good breakfast tomorrow.”
More wailing. More stomping. More circling.
“Why don’t you get ready for bed while the rest of us eat our dinner.”
The wailing trails off as he stomps up the stairs, his footsteps echoing through the ceiling into his room. Slam! For a short while, it’s quiet… until the thwump of toys start bouncing off the bedroom door.
What a lovely meal. We really must do this again sometime.
Welcome to our table, where dinner means either someone is leaving hungry or the rest of the family is eating one of the items on a very limited and tiresome menu.
For the past five years, I have begged for suggestions from more experienced parents. I have sought advice through books and the Internet. The result is a list of rules that govern our table. None of it has been successful. We are a family that dreads gathering around food.
We are mealtime hostages.