“What’s for supper?” is probably one of the most asked (next to can we get a puppy?) questions in my house. The answer to this infamous question, however, almost always seems to elicit tears, tantrums and time outs. How could the answer to such a simple question cause such emotion? Girl drama? Sibling rivalry? Picky eaters? Bad cooking? I wish I knew.
Typically the conversation starts as soon as I pick the girls up from the sitter after work is. Someone will in ask the first question that leads to the turmoil: “Is Dad home tonight?” You may wonder how the presence of my husband could lead to the supper argument. Well, my husband currently works swing shift (hopefully not for much longer) and every other months works nights. So, there is a 50-50 chance that he won’t be home or won’t be home until after supper. If I answer “no” he’s not going to be home the conversation goes in one direction and in another if I answer “yes.”
Let’s travel the “no” path first. If dear old Dad has to work, the girls immediately want to go out to eat. Crying and whining will pursue if I answer that one in the negative. If I answer in the affirmative, there is short-lived cheering. Why? Because inevitably one of them wants to go to Wendy’s while the other wants Taco Bell? Can we compromise on Subway? No way? Why? Because she always gets her way? or She got to pick the place last time? Sigh. So we head home for Mom’s cooking. Something quick and simple like spaghetti or hamburgers are my usual go-to’s. If the kids have dance or choir or bible school or some other activity within 30-45 minutes of arriving home I typically end up with the processed food alternative like ramen noodles, mac & cheese, spaghetti’o’s or grilled cheese. The kids are happy and we’re out the door. I realize I should be a better meal planner, make meals ahead and freeze them or use the crock pot. That typically requires foresight though. It seems whenever I get in the groove to make a recipe or some other healthy, delicious meal I am lacking some key ingredient. I figure it is some cosmic sign I was not meant to be a chef.
My husband on the other hand is a great cook and actually enjoys cooking (imagine that?) So while I feel bad the girls eat processed foods some evenings, I figure half the time they are eating yummy, healthy food courtesy of their father. So why the fuss then? Here’s where the pickiness comes in. It doesn’t matter what he cooks the automatically don’t want to eat it. It is the weirdest phenomena. So let’s now go down the “Dad is already home path.” This means Dad is cooking supper. I hear an audible groan from the back set the second I confirm their culinary nightmare, that yes Dad is home. The oldest will start, ‘What’s for supper?”
“I don’t know,” is my usual response (and in most cases I really don’t.)
The youngest will start crying and moaning, “I don’t want what he’s fixing?”
“Me either,” the oldest will pout.
“You don’t even know what he’s fixing yet.” I try to reason with them.
“It doesn’t matter,” they both agree. They are determined to not like it. To be fair, my husband likes to try new recipes. He has French and Mexican cookbooks he goes to for recipes. Most recently he’s tried several new BBQ recipes (yum! yum!). Nine times out of ten the cuisine is excellent (except when I am trying to count those weight watcher points.) Yes, there was that time he was in his “Master and Commander” recipe phase (hard tack, lobscosse…), but we won’t go there.
We both want the girls to eat what’s fixed for them (there are lots of hungry children around the world, etc.). Here is where the showdown starts. The girls can be very stubborn about putting unknown food in their mouths and refuse to even taste a new dish. At least take “a no thank you bite” I encourage. The look at me as if I asked them to drink poison. The alternative is to let them have a peanut butter sandwich instead. This usually satisfies the youngest child, but throws the oldest into a tizzy. You see, she doesn’t want that either. I tell her she must not be hungry enough. She insists she’s starving. I then tell her this isn’t a restaurant and her father and I are not her short-order cooks. She’ll become exasperated, land in time out and eventually eat the peanut butter sandwich. The youngest on the other hand typically lands in time out, because she takes one bite out of said food and is “full” at least until ten minutes after the dishes are cleared and then she become hungry for ice cream or a cookie. Good times!
So my mommy inquiry tonight goes along these lines. I want my children to have a healthy relationship with food, to try new foods, eat healthfully and eat until they are full and only when they are hungry. So, do we force them to try something they might not like? Do we make them eat everything on their plates? Do we banish junk food and fast food? I just don’t know. Let me know what you think…