Thursday, March 27, 2014
is there any chicken?
Wednesday rolled by like any other wednesday. I picked River up from school and headed home to think about dinner. A friend had given us a very meaty freshly caught Australian salmon that Pete filleted and asked me to hunt through for bones - very fiddly work, but I wasn't complaining I was happy for FREE fresh fish.
Pete came up with the idea to turn the fillets into salmon patties made with mashed potato and fresh corn from our garden and beans from a local farmer. We also had an abundance of tomatoes from our garden that we made into bruschetta. A feast was set.
We've had salmon patties oh about a million times at least and they are usually well received eaten with a splodge of tomato sauce. On this very ordinary Wednesday night when the plates were placed on the table Sol looked down and with such hopefulness in his voice asked, "Is there any chicken?" (We had roast chicken the night before and meat is Sol's favorite). "No, there's no chicken. This is dinner tonight", replied Pete. This is about the point where dinner that night was turned on it's head and I had a very unwanted insight into what can happen in other households at meal times that has actually never happened to this degree in my house.
Sol burst into tears, big heart felt sobbing kind of tears. "I want some chicken" he wailed. Oh dear. My heart sank, my stomach flip flopped. I no longer felt like eating, for I knew that Sol's overwhelming emotional response was not going to be tolerated easily by Pete.
Sol pushed his plate away and came over to sit on my lap and cry some more and seek sympathy. Pete explained to Sol, "This is dinner tonight Sol you don't have to eat it if you don't want to but if you want to cry you will have to sit in your room." The crying and asking for something different to eat continued, "But I'm hungry!" he wailed.
Pete got up, extracted Sol from my lap and carried him calmly to his bedroom and told him to stay there until he finished crying. Sol being the determined character he is was not deterred and was back crying at the table within seconds.
I hadn't eaten a bite but dinner was over for me I felt so emotionally churned I couldn't eat. While I stand by our family rule that what is served at dinner is dinner and no alternatives are given, what I found difficult this night was the intensity of Sol's response. During the hour that this took place my mind was thinking about family's where this is a regular occurrence.
Ordinarily, even if the boys are not that thrilled with what we are having for dinner they will pick around the parts they don't particularly want, try bits and pieces or if they are really hungry they will actually endure eating the whole meal even if it is not their favorite. They have never been 'fussy' because they know it will not be tolerated and because we have explained to them that it is disrespectful to the good food we are fortunate to have and disrespectful to the care and time put in to make the meal. Plus they know that on another night they will get to have a dinner that is their favorite.
The main reason that Wednesday night dinner fell apart was because Sol was way over tired from having started kinder this term. Fifteen hours a week of being with 23 other four year olds, playing, making friends, finding his way in the crowd, listening to his teacher and then coming home and being expected to eat a not so favorite dinner well, it was all a bit too much. For everyone.
I shared the story with a friend and fellow kinder mum the next day and she said "Oh on the long kinder day we have egg and bacon rolls for dinner." Egg and bacon rolls she told me are her four year old's idea of comfort food. To my mind there seemed to be some merit to this approach.
The week after the Wednesday night dinner I thought about what my friend had said and I also thought about a poet I'd heard on the radio, a line in her poem rang in my head "Ice cream for dinner said no parent ever". Well, I decided in that moment that sometimes we parents (especially this parent) can take the whole eating well thing a little too seriously and there must be some lightness and playfulness too. So when River asked, "What's for dinner?" It gave me great joy to be able to say "Pancakes with mango and ice cream". Ok so they were buckwheat pancakes with coconut milk ice cream but it was fun and not at all what they expected me to say and I'm hoping that they will say, "Remember that time Mum let us have ice cream for dinner."
How do you handle tired children at dinner time? Do you ever eat breakfast for dinner?