Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dinner fights

Dinnertime routines ebb like the tide. Some months, the kids can't grab the food and pull it in fast enough. Other times, like now, they lap at their food, their appetite only tickling the edges of each dinner like lazy sea-foam lace. Consumption isn't the goal, only play--the pushing and batting at food until it's cold and inedible. It's infuriating especially because we're trying not to waste, but mostly it's just infuriating.

Last night it got the best of E. He got mad at them and he was stern. The monkeys were in their seats for almost an hour and the mountains of broccoli and chicken stood strong, intact. E let them know it wasn't okay. It was happening too often. He had told them enough times. Why couldn't they just eat the things on their plates that were all things they liked, anyway. Things were going to change around here, because he had enough.

I stood there and listened, agreeing, but feeling sympathetic. There have been plenty of times where I've had it too. Plenty of times where my temper has gone and I've gotten mad. Last night I just stood, feeling their embarrassment and trepidation about his tone. I knew that they were sensitive to it, and I knew it needed to be said. It choked me up a little, being caught on that fence.

An hour or two passed, and they marched silently through their homework and chores because they knew they'd screwed up. I snuggled with them in front of the tree and we sang Christmas songs. They brushed their teeth and put on cozies. They got in bed. I tucked them in and they petted Marms good night. Five minutes later, Addie was up.

She said I can't sleep Dad. It's too hard to sleep. Why, what was she worried about, we asked. Because I touched Marms and I'm worried I got the flea medicine on me and also I'm worried because when Daddy got mad, I got scared.

After a thorough washing of hands, E got her straightened out. Of course he was upset, they'd been doing this for some time and he wanted them to just eat their food and not be picky. Of course he loves them and he's sorry she was scared when he was stern. Of course it was okay and of course he loves her very much. Hugs exchanged, she headed back to bed in better spirits.

Five minutes later, Henry cries drifted out from their room. A squinty-eyed Hank with a red face emerged. Daddy, I'm so upset and what Addie said it made it worse. When she's sad it makes me worried.

E got him straightened out too. It just reminded me of how grateful I am for the type of kids we have. Though they might take a ridiculous amount of time to eat a dinner, they're good people. That's firmly established in their character already. Addie wants to do the right thing. She's a gentle soul. Henry wants to protect his sister, and he's very loving. Both of them want to please their parents. In the grand scheme of things, we're pretty lucky to fight our major battles at the dinner table.


  1. "like lazy sea-foam lace"...love it!

  2. Did they seriously march silently through their homework and chores? Because my kids never march silently through anything, and homework - maybe, if they feel like it; and chores - stopped in September. We should switch kids. That would totally freak them out!

  3. It's amazing how you made a good talking-to sound poetic. It's such a welcome distraction from the harsh legal writing! Thanks for sharing, and your kids sound adorable!

  4. Aw man. I wrote a long comment and now it's gone. I hate when that happens.

    OK, let me try to remember...

    First: your children are precious. Picturing them sulking into bed after their scolding is ... dare I say adorable? I can relate. I was a bad eater as a kid. A terrible eater. The dinner table arguments I had with my father are EPIC and forever burned into my mind. Being forced to eat was as bad as being forced not to eat. (At 18 I declared myself a vegetarian and told everyone to leave me alone.) Anyway, this is not to say that kids shouldn't clean their plates and eat well, etc., etc., it's just that many of my childhood memories of the dinner table are colored by food fights. (Not the literal kind.)

  5. Also: lazy sea foam lace is a wonderful simile. :)