Dinner time is a daily 30-minute window when I am compelled to straight-up punch my kids in the face. If only they knew the effort I put into meals, they would never sit at my table and frown, gag, whimper or otherwise bitch ($0.25) about my food, because my food is fucking ($0.25) delicious. I’m not serving them tripe soup or calf’s liver, people. I watch The Food Network, like, twenty-four-seven and I’m bringing that magic right back to my kitchen. Every. Damn. Night.
Meatballs. I make Ah-Maaaaaay-Zing meatballs and I’m not even eye-talian. I make homemade marinara with fresh tomatoes and red wine. I save my Parmesan nubs and send them swimming in my spaghetti sauce. But my daughter will only eat a meatball if it’s sandwiched between a pillowy Hawaiian dinner roll. My other daughter won’t even touch a meatball, she just wants buttered noodles which I refuse to give her just on principle. But pop open a can of Chef Boyardee and they inhale it, use their hands as napkins, and thank me for my efforts.
Chinese food. That’s right, I make homemade Chinese food and I’m not even Chinese. In fact, I’m not Asian at all. As a family of seven, we don’t eat much beef because it’s expensive. So when I get my hands on a steak that isn’t enough to feed the whole family, I food process that shit ($0.25) into meat paste, coat it in flour and fry it. Then I add a garlic-ginger-soy sauce, broccoli, and serve it over rice. Healthy? Kinda-sorta-not really. Delicious? Oh hells yes, dawg. But they prefer the mystery meat stirfry from 88 China in the strip mall down the street. I don’t know about you but when a restaurant is that lazy about its name, I’m skeptical about its fare.
Fish. I make amazing fish and I’m not even a walrus. It’s a sometimes food in my house which means that sometimes they’ll eat it and sometimes they won’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, but I keep making it because I like it and if they won’t eat it, then their arbitrary stomachs can go to bed kvetching.
The list is endless. Ribs. Chicken. Cheeseburgers. Potato salad. You know how labor intensive potato salad is. Other than the teenager, my kids will have nothing to do with a potato. They would have been the three survivors of the great Potato Famine of 1845. That is, if Ireland had PB&J and frozen waffles in 1845.
I have these little trays for my kids and I put whatever swill I’ve made for dinner in the various compartments. The instant the trays are on the table, the grumbling begins.
“What’s for dessert?” my oldest daughter will ask. And ask. And ask. Sometimes I don’t answer because I’m busy making plates for the rest of the family or – GASP – getting my own damn food. More often I don’t answer because I know what’s next: negotiations.
“Mommy, if I eat two bites of this, do I still get dessert?”
“You don’t have to eat any of it but if you want dessert, you have to eat all of it” I mutter.
And then the five year old will ask the exact same question but alter the wording slightly.
“Mommy, can I just eat three bites of this?”
“Sure. You absolutely can do that” I say, matter-of-fact.
“Do I still get dessert?” she responds with a hopeful upward inflection.
“No. No, you sure don’t,” I reply. I’m struggling to veil my sarcasm.
And then the four-year old repeats the exact same #%()*!#% question. Almost as if he hadn’t been sitting RIGHT THERE AT THE TABLE for the previous two exchanges eight seconds earlier.
“Mommy, If I eat two bites of this, do I get dessert?”
Now and then, they get creative and try to negotiate for something else.
“If I just eat three bites, can I still have a dance party?” The dance party is an after-dinner tradition where I plug my iPhone into the stereo and blast some mad tunes while the kids dance themselves stupid.
At this point, my patience bank is empty. Who are we kidding? By six o’clock at night, my patience ran out an hour ago when I was fending off “starving” children pawing at me like zombies in search of brains, while making dinner with a toddler getting out every measuring cup and banging it on the floor. I’m not fooling anyone. I’ve been running on sarcasm and alcohol for the last hour and I’m allllll out of sarcasm.
I bury my face in my hands and rub my forehead, which is my husband’s cue to take over before I have a nervous breakdown from the ninth consecutive night of doing my broken record routine on the circumstances under which you get dessert in this fucking ($0.25) house.
Meanwhile, the teenager is unconsciously practicing his drumline routine by tapping the bejesus out of the kitchen table and staring off into space, and the baby is alternating between fraying our nerves by screaming at the top of his lungs at random intervals and launching chunks of food off his tray. The middle three are stalling in hopes that if they wait me out, I’ll cave and make them an alternate dinner.
I’d sooner stick a ladle up my ass ($0.25).
Eventually, we set the timer and inform the kids that they have five minutes to finish their dinner. They usually react with shock and feigned confusion, as though we haven’t been through this exact same routine for six months straight. At this point, I issue my edict:
“Understand this: if you do not eat every last bite of that food, you will not have dessert, you will not have a dance party and you will go straight to bed.”
Some nights they make it, others they don’t. It’s no skin of my ass ($0.25) either way. The dessert is only an incentive to get them to eat dinner and If they don’t get any, it’s that much more dessert for me, bitches ($0.25). And on nights when we go through this entire rigmarole and they still don’t eat their dinner, those are the nights when I need it the most.
Total owed to the swear jar for this post: $1.75.