You’d think after ten years, I’d have figured out a better way. You’d think that I’d have learned how to motivate, how to cajole, or how to simply avoid the conflict altogether. But no. Ten years into this thing called parenting, dinner time can still be a battle.
Not every night, of course. The nights I serve up macaroni and cheese, chicken, or pizza, all is well and all manner of things shall be well. But the nights we’re broadening our palate, the nights my husband and I enjoy a grown-up meal or attempt some exotic recipe, these nights devolve into protestations, stalling, and outright depression. I can never guarantee precisely how it will all go down–which food will be the stumbling block or which child will stumble–but I have noticed a pattern.
It begins with quiet resistance, moving the food around on the plate, sad looks, and barely uttered sighs. Perhaps all the other portions are consumed, leaving behind the one offending pile of vegetables or curry. My husband and I will have finished by this point. We will be ready to clear the table or have dessert, ready to move on. But instead, we stay. We stay for round two. We stay to encourage, to confront, and eventually to demand. We set timers, appeal to their sense of gratitude, and promise no other food until morning. Sometimes this works; sometimes they take us up on the offer.
After ten years, I should know better. Yet, each time, I continue to be surprised.