There are people who wax poetically about the beauty of gathering their clan and sitting together at a table, enjoying the bounty of the earth.
And there are people who admit that it, mostly, sucks to sit down and eat dinner with children under the age of ten. As my friend Steph admitted: ‘it’s not fun…at all.’
Which pretty much sums up how I feel about dinner time these days.
The Gort is going through a phase where he announces his intense dislike of absolutely any meal I’ve prepared: before he’s even taken a bite.
If I serve him cheese and crackers, he will not utter a word of complaint. Ditto for hummus and pita bread. Or salmon and potatoes. But pretty much anything else will be met with: ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’ll try it, and if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you.’
To his credit, I can almost always convince him to eat three bites of whatever ‘disgusting’ food I’ve set on his plate. Which is fine by me. As long as he tries the food I feel a modicum of success.
I cannot give the same credit to my Hen.
He’s picked up on his brother’s new habit, so everything I set before him is immediately pushed aside with an ‘I don like dis!’ The only time he doesn’t make this comment is if it’s a muffin or cake or candy.
Otherwise it’s huff and puff and push the plate away.
To make matters worse, he won’t try the food at all. Nine times out of ten, when he does take a bite of a particular food, he realizes that it doesn’t taste quite as awful as he imagined and eats a few more.
But it’s nearly impossible to get him to take a bite.
Which means instead of life-affirming dialogue, I basically have steam coming out of my ears most meals. With a side of bad attitude.
At the beginning of last week, I tried using a bath as bribe. ‘If you don’t eat a bite, you can’t have a bath.’ Because the kid loves to take a bath. It didn’t work at all. He ended up howling in his crib about wanting to take a bath, resolute in his refusal to even sniff the food, much less taste it.
And then we got to Sunday. I’d made stuffed shells with tomato sauce. I hadn’t even pulled the pan from the oven and both boys had already told me they didn’t like it. Seeing the food on the table didn’t improve their opinion, either.
But the Gort ate his portion and patiently stayed at the table. The Hen refused to try it. ‘Take one bite,’ I ordered-pleaded. He shook his head and barked ‘no’. And then his dad decided to take it one step further.
He buckled the kid in his booster seat and said: ‘you’re not getting out until you take a bite.’
A move that might work on most kids. But I’m quite confident that the Hen is the most stubborn child on the planet. I mean, he has gone to bed without any food whatsoever more nights than I can count. Simply because he refused to even try whatever was in front of him.
So we sat. And we waited. And the Hen refused to budge. Finally I scooped up some of the sauce and told him it was tomato soup. Because he does actually like tomato soup. (And cake and muffins and candy.)
And then he opened his mouth.
‘Dis yummy’ he pronounced.
And he polished off a shell. And another. And would have eaten a third if his brother hadn’t announced a movie showing in the basement.
One meal down. Five thousand to go.