Last night, my aunt visited us from out of town. For dinner I made what turned out to be a pretty tasty crock pot of goulash stew, served over egg noodles. It smelled great, was an attractive deep reddish color, boasting perfectly cooked potatoes and tender chunks of beef that fell apart on your fork.
You would have thought I’d put a plate of mud and sticks in front of my kids. “But Moooo-oooom, I don’t LIKE this!”. In the face of Grown Up Sludge Served As Food, my kids tend to forget about how to politely turn down a meal, even after years of lectures and threats. This is even more awesome when we have company.
“Fine. Mind your manners, try it first and if you still really don’t like it I’ll give you some bread and butter.”
“I did try it, I really did!”
Mmm hmm. If by “try” you mean brought the spoon up close to her mouth, cut her eyes sideways to see if I was looking and then dropped it all back to the bowl. Sure.
“What about just the noodles? You love noodles.”
The other monkey chimes in. “I did eat the noodles, mommy, look! I ate all of them!” Her plate is, surprise, still wiggly with pasta.
I sigh. I smile, tightly. “Ok. Be excused. Be hungry. Go.”
I have some rules about food, the main one being I don’t make special meals. You eat what I make or you just don’t eat. There is some very occasional flexibility on this for nights when I make something I’m pretty sure will not pass their lips. Then they get some quick toast or PB and J... AFTER they try the dreaded dinner first.
I say it does not get to me. I say that I will remain calm, they get what they get, this isn’t a restaurant, I’m not a waitress, there isn’t a menu, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But sometimes it totally does get to me. After several nights in a row of making nice, kid-friendly dinners from scratch only to have a couple of squirm worms wiggle away from untouched plates, I get angry. Sometimes I want to pelt my adorable little girls with goulash. I want to pick up every little piece of shredded chicken and mushed peas my son has thrown to the floor and toss them right back at him, one at a time. Flick, flick, SQUISH.
I do not do these things, of course. That would be immature. I get my vengeance in other, more petty, ways. Tonight for dinner we had leftovers, a.k.a. more goulash. Since I already knew they wouldn’t eat it, I went ahead and offered to make them some quick, blue box mac and cheese, saving the good stuff for the grown-ups.
But once they agreed, I deliberately mixed in a can of mushy peas and carrots, stirring them in so thoroughly there would be no way to eat around them. I sabotaged their dinner, straight up. The groans were profound and I LOVED IT.
Ok, yes, I realize this means that not just one but two different meals went uneaten tonight (except by Jack who sucked down two bowls of the tainted mac like it was manna from heaven). Regardless, I felt so much better. When their choices are (in their opinion) yuck and yuckier, I know I’ve done my job well.
In some families the saying goes, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Here, you eat what you get or you’re gonna get WORSE.